In the first Zoo Tycoon, you had the ability to change the look of the exhibits to match that of the biome that the animals call home. In the sequel, this is still possible, but to a whole new level. With the terrain editor, you can actually change the shape and lay of the land for exhibits. Want the mountain lions to feel more at home? Make some high cliffs for them to look down at the visitors from. Build rolling desert hills for your camels. The possibilities for exhibit design are endless.
Another thing that will make exhibit design much easier is the inclusion of the "Zookeeper Recommendations" option. Selecting this option will bring up a list of things that are recommended for the species in question, such as the types of foliage, the type of shelter, or what kinds of recreational items they might like. This makes designing the perfect environment for your animals a snap, and gets rid of the unnecessary buying that was often involved with the first game to try and get the things that your animals actually wanted.
The gameplay is divided into three different game types. The Campaign mode allows you to choose from 20 different scenarios to start your zoo. As you build your zoo, you will be presented with a number of goals and accomplishments to complete. Your success in the campaign mode is based on how well you rise to these challenges. The Challenge mode forces you to take your zoo management skills to the next level, as you are faced with a series of scenarios that present you with a number of monetary and animal-related problems to solve as you build your zoo. These challenges are more difficult than those in the campaign mode, and will yield rewards that will help in the other two gameplay modes. Challenges are different every time you play the game, which adds to the replay value. The third gameplay mode is the Freeform mode. This mode is the sandbox of the game, giving you an unlimited amount of money to startup your zoo. Explore the different exhibits and animals. Find out exactly what makes a successful zoo tick without any monetary or time constraints. Time spent in this mode is the key to success in the Challenge and Campaign modes.
The new graphics engine in Zoo Tycoon 2 allow for animals to be more realistically realized this time around, with a seemingly endless supply of behaviors and animations, making for some very interesting photography opportunities. Guest reactions are much easier to read, especially in first-person mode. The game still uses the emoticon system to determine guest and animal needs, but it is much easier to see that the guests aren't enjoying a particular exhibit by just looking at their reactions to it. This adds a great deal to the realism of the game.
The sound in Zoo Tycoon 2 consists of a variety of sounds for each of the animals and animal exhibits. The guests speak in gibberish, make crowd sounds, and cheer for the animal exhibits, but that's the limit. There is no music in the game, except for the menus, unless you buy a "music rock", which projects "musak" into the crowds.
Overall, Zoo Tycoon 2 has a lot going for it. Those who liked the original will find a lot to like in this new game, and those new to the tycoon-type game will find this game easy to pick up and get into. Look for this game to bound onto the Macintosh scene later this month.