Done with cities, people, theme parks, hospitals? Then you want to play with Microsoft’s Zoo Tycoon 2 of course. That’s right, when all other management sims seem stagnant Microsoft is hoping that players will be keen to develop a Zoo.

It’s not a new idea of course, Microsoft’s original title has been around for some time and spawned a number of add-on packs, but Microsoft is hoping that the latest edition will be worthy to invest some time in.

So what do you get? Well you get to run a Zoo of course and all the excitement that comes with it. As you would expect, you can do just about anything as long as it’s within the zoo environment. Responsible for admissions, bank balances, welfare of the animals, welfare of the staff and even the welfare of the guests there is plenty to keep you busy.

When it comes to the animals you can feed, groom, release into the wild and even feed to other animals if that is your wish. Of course you can opt to put male and female animals in the same cage and reap the rewards of offspring or just keep the peace and make sure they have a big enough cage and the right environment.

Environments seem to be a lot easier to control thanks to the new engine and there are plenty of things you can do - trees, boulders, toys etc.

To make it a lot more interactive than the previous version, the game also allow you to get down to street level now. You can either view your zoo as a guest or zookeeper. Anything a zookeeper can do, so can you; so feeding, cleaning, and general chores such as interacting with the animals. The game also introduces a safari mode that allows you to take pictures and send them to friends.

To keep you entertained you can opt for freeform, campaign or scenario modes, the first allows you to do pretty much what you like and develop the zoo how you see fit. The other two are based around reaching certain goals. Challenges involve rescuing a dwindling zoo or getting the visitor stats up to a certain level. The campaign level sees you running through the tutorial and on to bigger things and for those who like an end in sight this is the best option.

Aside from the gaming, there is an interesting education element to Zoo Tycoon 2 in that you can actually learn quite a bit about animals, their environment and other details from the data cards. Learn what the animals need, and you get better results.

Verdict

If you like your sim-based games then Zoo Tycoon will fit nicely amongst them. The new guest level option brings a nice touch to the game and saves it from being yet another top down affair.

You'll either love it or hate it. If you're going off The Sims this, might breathe a new lease of life into your gaming, however at the heart of it, it's just another sim requiring you to spend all your life looking after the micro economics of it all. Enough already- or maybe you can bring your kids into the sim game cult.