A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zoo Tycoon is a zoo-management simulation game designed to be accessible to and entertaining for younger players. Kids will spend their time designing enclosures for animals, learning about their needs, and even interacting with them via the Kinect sensor (required to play). They'll also see some good role models in the game's silent but responsible zookeepers and witness the economics of a functioning zoo in action. There's no iffy content at all, though parents should note that kids can play cooperatively online with other players.
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What's it about?
A modern reboot of a classic simulation game, ZOO TYCOON puts players in control of a beautiful menagerie of exotic creatures. Your aim is to look after the zoo, keeping it functional, clean, and profitable while also researching ways to expand it, adding new animals and attractions, and spending some quality time with the creatures in your care. A series of comprehensive tutorials leads players through all facets of the simulation. Then, kids are free either to start building the zoo of their dreams in the virtually unlimited free-form mode or begin taking on specially designed scenarios in the career mode, where they'll be given specific tasks and objectives. You may be required to create a new attraction to please bored guests, research and build a breeding center to help propagate a species, deliver items from the main gate to a concession, or just go take some pictures of your favorite animals for a nature magazine. A cooperative online mode allows kids to play with up to three others to more quickly achieve goals.
Is it any good?
Zoo Tycoon is an unexpected gem among the initial crop of launch games for Xbox One (although it's also playable on Xbox 360). Not only does it look terrific -- the animals are so lifelike you'll want to reach into the game and pet them -- it's also a blast to play. Building enclosures, outfitting them with interactive pavilions, and airlifting in animals to populate them is a ton of fun. So, too, is running around the zoo at street level, where you can make faces for monkeys to copy (thanks to the power of Xbox One's next-generation Kinect, which recognizes facial expressions) or drive around in one of the zoo carts.
Even the business simulation stuff is easy to understand and well integrated into the adventure. Thanks to some smart voice commands that let you call up key pieces of information -- such as which animals need attention and which buildings need repairs -- on the map, you need never worry about getting stuck surfing around dull menus. Entertaining, educational, and a pleasure to behold, Zoo Tycoon is a must for animal-loving Xbox One families.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about animals. Which of the animals that appeared in the game were your favorites? Could you discern differences among varying breeds within the same species? Are there any animals you'd have liked to see in the game that weren't included?
Families also can discuss online safety. What sort of precautions do you take when playing a game online? What would you do if you encountered someone online who you believed was up to no good?
- Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Subjects: Math: money
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information
Creativity: making new creations
Collaboration: cooperation, teamwork
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: November 22, 2013
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptors
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.