At first glance, it would be easy to mistake World of Zoo for a cuter version of Zoo Tycoon, but once you start playing the game, the different approach between the two zoo sims becomes obvious. While the Zoo Tycoon series tended to focus on the planning and management aspect, World of Zoo is more hands on with the animals.
THQ sent over a copy of the Wii version for review. Developed by Blue Fang, the same studio behind Zoo Tycoon, there was obviously more than a little knowledge available in terms of what works, what doesn’t and what’s been done before. While many kids obviously enjoyed the Zoo Tycoon experience, there was always a desire from many of them to get more interactive with the animals and that’s what World of Zoo delivers. The Wii is the perfect platform for this (it’s also available for the DS and PC), with the remotes allowing you to virtually “pet” the animals. Players can also give the animals various treats or toys or build a playground for them with a variety of tools, all the while gaining in rank and earning star tokens to unlock additional creatures. You do have some responsibilities -it’s important to make sure the animals are fed and happy (they have thought balloons that give you a pretty good idea of what they want) and the exhibits are kept clean- but that’s about as far as you’re required to go in terms of managing things.
The animals really react to the stimulation of toys and the play equipment and it can be entertaining to sit back and watch what they get up to; my boys would literally spend hours goofing around with the monkey exhibit. And the Poop Vac feature got a lot of laughs- they are seven, after all. There’s a nursery where the cuteness quotient can be ratcheted up and a camera to snap photos of those special moments. There’s also an option to customize animals via the Animal Creator, letting you unleash your own versions of existing animals, or create hybrids by combining bits and pieces of various different species. My daughter spends much of her time experimenting here, turning out animals that are artistically shaded. While the game sounds a tad unrealistic at times, the animals and their behaviors are reasonably representative of what they’re supposed to be and there are over 90 species available. There are also animal fact cards from National Geographic to add a few more points in favor of an educational experience.
My kids are probably squarely in the target demographic for this game (they’re 7-9 years of age and love animals) and to say that World of Zoo went over well is an understatement. Despite the substantial library of Wii games they have, guess which one they chose to take to Grandma’s after Christmas to demonstrate what her new Wii could do?
World of Zoo for Wii from THQ
Rated E for Everyone
Wired: Animal animations strike a nice balance between realism and cartoon, interacting with animals is fun while turning them loose on a playground is even better, Animal Creator tool lets kids use their imagination.
Tired: If you’re looking for a realistic zoo sim (one where a Tiger would maul you if you tried to pet it instead of purring), this probably isn’t the game for you.