on Sunday, January 04, 2009
By now I can honestly say that the DS has taken a commanding lead in the next Generation handheld video-game race. Most games released for the DS have been pretty quality runs and even more surprisingly, there have been several top-tier titles (Castlevania, Nintendogs, Advance Wars). Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later to this reviewer, I got DS title for review that really kind of fell apart on me. By that, I mean it really doesn't have much going on for it. To say that the Tycoon series hasn't been successful would be an out-right lie. The PC was originally blessed by this series and using the same formula there has been all sorts of tycoon games; Roller Coaster Tycoon, Deep Sea Tycoon, Hell Tycoon, etc, etc. The interface is fairly simple, create a theme-park style location and build it using the appropriate items provided. Try and draw in people to make money and eventually build up to creating extravagant exhibits. Now of course this is very generalized, some of the different titles involve all sorts of unique problems and solutions, thus making the title different as compared to the others. But in this title, the player is challenged with selecting animals for a zoo, building and maintaining habitats for them that will keep them happy and healthy. However, the problems pop up quite quickly with this one. The game screen is incredibly pixilated to the point where it actually becomes a hindrance to play. The little sprites are blurred together and there is a little "happy" icon that pops up whenever you do something to an animal's pen that makes it happy. I just don't see how it's a "happy" icon, my wife says it is, but to me it looks like a little green balloon. But whatever it is, it doesn't look good. Plus, the graphics of all of the different terrain and items that you must fill your exhibits with just don't do a title like this justice. Which, by the way, is done by navigating through the screen using the stylus and then tapping the area you want effected. Of course to do all of this and see the entire 3/4 view angled screen, you must use the trigger buttons to spin around the entire exhibit. If you don't you won't be able to remove the rock that's behind the little building that is really upsetting the cheetah. Cause cheetahs don't care for phosphorus rock, they like dessert rock. Hmmpff, either way, the little game clock goes by and you must complete certain exhibits, get the animals into them and then assign a zoo keeper to take care of the animal all while maintaining a strict budget and time table. It would be fun if the game didn't make such a challenge out of building the actual exhibits when clearly the fun should be figuring out the problems each animal has and designing cages that suit them, but instead building them becomes more of a hassle. For example, the fences that are used to enclose the animals must be placed and sized in a specific area, but the clunky controls that are within this game make it more painful then anything, I just can't get over how much of a failure the controls on this title are. Now, I realize that half the fun of the DS is finding new and creative ways to utilize the touch screen, but this is a port from a PC title, and it maintained a certain amount of success without any sort of touch screen. I think that a "less is more" kind of approach was needed here in order to pull this title out of the depths. It would also help if the game did look better. The shading is sub-par and the different textures don't seem all that different. Sure there are different colors used for the different terrain but look as the demo screenshots above. The game contains too many different items for such a small screen, it becomes overly cluttered and runs together. Plus, once you finally get your animals in the cages, if you aren't the one building the zoo, you won't know what the heck kind of animal is in there. My wife was playing the game and I came up behind her and asked if she had placed an animal in the pen yet. She looked at me as if I was crazy, stating that this was her best exhibit and was the first animal placed. I walked away still trying to figure out what creature was in there, I simply could not see anything. The sound the game features is absolutely a non-factor. It's as if the game would be fine completely silent.