Blue Fang Games and Microsoft Game Studios teamed up to release Zoo Tycoon 2 about a year ago. I didn’t like the game very much. I thought that Blue Fang Games took too much game out of the game when they created the sequel, and that they converted an interesting strategy game into nothing more than a zoo construction kit. However, that being said, no doubt Blue Fang Games made the changes just how they wanted them, because their target audience wasn’t hardcore gamers like me, but casual gamers who enjoy zoos and animals, and who aren’t looking for a stressful gaming experience.
Now Blue Fang Games is back with Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species. As you might expect, the expansion pack includes a bunch of new endangered animals to put in your zoos. I counted 20 of them, including the Galapagos giant tortoise, the koala bear, and the orangutan. These animals don’t do anything new or exciting, and they don’t seem to be any more difficult to please or breed than the other animals, but at least they add some extra variety. There are also new plants to put into your exhibits, and new themed objects to sprinkle around your zoo.
Now, if that’s all that had been included in the Endangered Species expansion pack, then it wouldn’t have been a very exciting expansion pack. But of course there’s more.
The best addition in the expansion pack is the idea of a tour. Tours come in two flavors. You can add a sky tram tour to your zoo, where guests are able to view multiple exhibits from an elevated position, and you can also add a Jeep safari tour, where guests ride through exhibits in a Jeep. Both types of tours are essentially rides that the guests can go on, and if they like the tour enough then they’ll donate extra money to your zoo. If just viewing animals from an advantageous position isn’t enough, you can also add special tour objects to your zoo (such as a crystal cave for the Jeep to drive through) to bump up the tour’s rating and generate extra donations.
Also included in the expansion pack is the concept of a conservation area. Conservation areas are fenced off areas in a zoo that you’re not allowed to manipulate. You can add animals to the conservation areas, and you can put down food dishes, but you can’t do anything else. That’s a nice change because terraforming the land is free in Zoo Tycoon 2, and so in most scenarios the simplest thing to do is bulldoze all of the hills away, sell all the foliage, and start from scratch. But conservation areas force you to work with the land as it starts out.
To help you deal with conservation areas, the expansion pack also (finally) allows you to build elevated paths. So if your conservation area is very large, you can set up a viewing platform over it, complete with a ramp leading up to it, to allow your zoo guests to see what’s going on. Elevated paths and platforms also give you more options for how to organize your exhibits when you’re building your zoo, and having more options is always a good thing.
And so Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species is a very nice expansion pack. It gives you enough new things to do that even if you played Zoo Tycoon 2 a lot when it came out, you’ll now have an excuse to play it some more. It’s just that none of the changes made the game any more difficult to play -- really, it’s just the opposite since tours can generate a lot of money -- and so Zoo Tycoon 2 still isn’t a very exciting game to play if you’re looking for a challenging strategy game. But if you’re a casual gamer who enjoyed Zoo Tycoon 2, then Endangered Species is probably just what you were hoping for.