Zoo Tycoon review

So here’s what Zoo Tycoon teaches you (and, more likely, your kids). First, it’s apparently acceptable to have a zoo without penguins. Second, zoos can only grow to a surprisingly limited size before you have to get rid of, say, a hippo to make way for a lizard. Finally, Zoo Tycoon makes it clear that there are far more varieties of antelope, bear, lion, giraffe, tiger, elephant, rhino, monkey and bird (except penguins) than you ever imagined. Which rather handily means Zoo Tycoon’s makers essentially only have to do a ‘respray’ job over the same core animal animations and graphics to radically boost the claimed critter count. Hmm…

This use of smoke and (admittedly engagingly pretty) mirrors to hide a fundamental lack of gameworld scope sadly defines the whole Zoo Tycoon experience after your first charming few hours. We’ve seen first-hand that even young children feel cheated when they’re suddenly informed that their beloved zoo creation can’t expand any more for no other reason than the game engine can’t handle it.  So what initially looks like a fun Xbox One technical showcase and a great family alternative to the usual first-person shooter aggression ends up leaving a sour taste in the mouth that even potential future DLC penguins won’t shift.

Zoo Tycoon, Frontier Games//Microsoft, Xbox One/Xbox 360, £50 Approx