reviews\ Oct 27, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania - PC - Review

If there’s one thing that kids and adults both love and have a lot of fun doing together, it’s going to Aquariums or sea animal shows in various theme parks throughout the United States. There’s always been something about the somewhat bizarre but fascinating world of undersea life, and Microsoft has captured it for home use to not only enjoy watching, but profiting by as well.


For those of you who may not have picked up the original yet, Zoo Tycoon is a game that places you into an entrepreneurial role similar to that of Sim Theme Park or Roller Coaster Tycoon. The object is to start with a piece of land and a certain amount of cash in your wallet, and use that to build a fantastic Zoo attraction which is not only fun for your guests, but provides a steady and large income as well. In order to do this, you must balance out attractions with such necessities as restrooms, food stands, and gift shops. There’s enough to give you a good start, but more gets unlocked as you progress. At this point comes the expansions …


Marine Mania is an expansion set that provides a fun element that was missing from the original, which are undersea and marine based creatures. Things such as sharks, dolphins, giant squids, and eels are available for you to put on display, and it’s your job to build the aquariums and viewing areas, as well as make sure that they have a suitable environment at all times including plant life, other creatures, and food. There are a handful of them up front, and a lot more of them to unlock as you build their enclosures and take good care of them. If you don’t, you lose more than just some unlocked animals and extras … since if their environment isn’t good, they won’t be happy. If they aren’t happy, your guests will notice … and it’s bye bye money, visitors, and potentially your Zoo fortune as well if it goes too long without being addressed.


As an added bonus, Marine Mania also includes the Dinosaur Digs expansion, which was available in stores a few months ago. As you can probably guess, this one allows you to build attractions similar to Jurassic Park and include a mixture of velociraptors, T- Rex’s, and an assortment of other dinosaurs for your guests to enjoy. Both the dinosaur Digs and Marine Mania expansions add not only new creatures, but some new decorations (Also important for a good aesthetic response to your Zoo), gift shops, and scenery to the original assortment found in the main game. They also add some neat new elements here and there as well, like rides and putt putt golf courses to make it more of a full attraction rather than just a basic zoo.


Running a zoo isn’t as hard as it may sound up front, and the game provides a neat little tutorial to help everyone get started if it happens to be your first time around the world of building animal attractions (Which can be skipped if it isn’t). Everything is very point and click, and the entire map … no matter how big or how small … can be rotated a full 360 degrees to make sure that you are getting a full view of how your creation is coming along. Things that may sound tedious, like building electrified fences for dinosaurs, consist of one type of fence piece only. Multiple parts can be put down at once by holding the mouse button down … which not only speeds up the building process to let you focus on caring for your animals, but also ensures that fences or railings are even so that there are no problems when you go to add water or insert creatures into the enclosure. Adding foliage, decorations, or shelter to the habitat is a simple point and click process as well. Adults should have no problems getting right into it, and just about any younger gamer can pick it up and hop in after a little bit of help from Mom, Dad, or older sibling.


Like most of you reading this review, I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to care for a Hammerhead Shark or a T–Rex before, so I don’t really know what I would need to feed them or what kind of environment that they would be happiest in. Fortunately, there are scientists and marine biologist type people that you hire on staff … just like the maintenance workers and zookeepers from the original who will tell you what each marine animal or dinosaur needs for it to be happiest in it’s enclosure. They also take care of things such as feeding, caring for sick ones, or cleaning up any messes that they make along the way … so you don’t have to worry about it. If an animal isn’t happy for some reason down the road, your assistants will tell you which one isn’t happy and why … so don’t worry about having to attend class or read encyclopedias trying to figure out what each one needs. This is just another added feature to assure the simplicity and enjoyment for anyone who wants to play … be it younger gamer or adult.


Graphically, Microsoft did a great job in not only the colors and fitting of all of the individual attractions and landscape items, but the animations for the guests and animals is great. There are some added visual treats here and there, like dolphin shows or animals escaping periodically if they get angry or are in the wrong enclosure, which results in a funny scenario and a bunch of people running in terror. When dinosaurs escape, helicopters will be deployed to catch them in reinforced boxes and bring them back. Animals also will get happy or frowny face icons over them depending on what you do, and they can be somewhat comical depending on the situation. Throw one of your gazelles into a lion’s enclosure and see what happens!


Microsoft didn’t cheat us on sounds here either, and everything from the animal noises to the “buzz” of the crowd in the zoo can be heard … and all of them mix together very well so that one doesn’t overpower the other in any way. Rides have a calliope kind of sound, and the laughter (or screaming, if the issue mentioned above in the graphics comment happens) of kids and adults alike adds to the overall enjoyment factor of the game. The music hasn’t been changed from the original, which is still that jumpy safari type theme that plays during the startup screens.


If you have and enjoy the original Zoo Tycoon game, I definitely recommend picking this expansion up for it, since it adds some great new animals and challenges, and also comes with a bonus expansion game in it as well for those of you that didn’t pick up Dinosaur Digs yet. If you don’t have Zoo Tycoon yet but this title attracted your attention, go get it and pick this up for it as well. It’s great, fun, and somewhat educational for the whole family, and it’s a well rounded game for not only adults but kids as well. 


Gameplay: 9.0
Marine Mania adds some neat new creatures … marine types and dinosaurs both … and provides a bunch of new unlockable extras, animals, and habitat add - ons as rewards for taking good care of your animals. There’s a bunch of new land areas available as well, ranging from flat, large, sandy, or mostly water based to add to your individual challenge. Add in a simple point and click structure with adjustable difficulty and a detailed but entertaining walkthrough, and this game is great fun for the whole family.


Graphics: 9.1
Again, Microsoft did a great job on covering all of the details in color and texture of the overall environment. The animations on the guests and animals both were done very well, and it really does look cool once you have a big zoo built up.


Sound: 8.9
All of the sounds blend in great, and all of the hustle and bustle of the crowds, exchanging of commerce, and the animals themselves blend in together very well and there is a good mix to ensure that there isn’t one that overpowers another. Some mild background music may have been nice, but probably wouldn’t be noticeable anyway after everything really gets going.


Difficulty: Easy
Before you start, you can adjust your starting cash to make the game easier or harder from the get go, and everything retained the simple point and click structure from the original game. Veterans and newcomers alike can hop right in and get to business. It also has a couple of kid’s maps at the beginning as well to help the youngsters along by themselves.  


Concept: 8.9
This adds a great new set of animals to work with, and a good mix of both dinosaurs and marine life to get started with as well as to unlock. While playing Zoo Tycoon by itself will kind of be one on the same, it does add a lot more to the selection and assures that there are animals there that everyone can enjoy.


Overall: 9.0
Marine Mania for the Zoo Tycoon series is a great and fun purchase, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who owns the original game or is thinking about picking it up as well. There’s not much to not like about it, and the expansion sets just add to the overall enjoyment and selection of options for the original. There are not many games out there that everyone in the family can enjoy, but this is definitely one of them.


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