Owning a pet can be hard work, you need to make sure they are fed, cared for when ill, have the right environment and given enough exercise. So can you imagine what it would be like to run a zoo? Well with Wildlife Park you get the opportunity to sink or swim with this classic sim style game.

The basic premise of the game sounds simple: you must design and run a zoo, keep the animals alive and happy, make the visitors happy and part the them from their hard earned cash. However it’s not quite that easy. You have to place the various enclosures, shops, hire employees and generally keep everyone and everything happy. The animals require the right kind of food, the correct plants, terrain, company and toys to play with. Get it wrong and the animals will be unhappy leading them to fight with other animals or attack visitors if they escape from the enclosure. If you let an animal die expect protestors to be beating a path to your door. Who said zoo keeping would be easy?

Employees and visitors need to be kept happy too – overwork an employee and they’ll get upset, visitors get unhappy if you charge high prices, have too few animals and fail to make the park attractive amongst other things. You also need to make sure the park has the required amenities for the visitors such as food and drink, cash machines, telephones and information.

The game features detailed information on each animal including the preferred habitat, food etc. Each animal also has a list of what the animal is unhappy about to help you monitor their well-being, for example, the lack of more animals of its’ own kind or wanting more water to play in. Each visitor also has a similar list letting you know what they think is wrong with the park, they also have stats about the money they’ve spent and their happiness as they walk around the park. Using all this information you can see which part of you zoo needs to be improved to keep the animals and everyone else nice and cheery. Basically, if you can think of any stat or measure of how happy visitors, animals and employees are and how much cash you’re making (or losing) you will be able to find it in Wildlife Park

The game has two modes of play, campaign and free play. Free play lets you choose which country your zoo will be in, gives you an amount of cash and you’re free to design the zoo as you see fit. Campaign starts you off with simple tasks such as nursing an animal back to health and after you’ve worked through the first few ‘missions’ you get charged with running a simple park.

There are three difficulties of play, easy gives you unlimited cash along with no protestors, deaths or attacks. Medium skill gives you a limited overdraft with protestors but no deaths or attacks. The hard skill level has a restricted overdraft, protestors, animal deaths and animals attacking. As you play the campaign mode the game will present you with missions on the easy setting leading up to missions on the hard setting. The game also allows you to pause time and run it at approximately twice the speed and although this feels a little too slow, four times would have been good as even twice the speed can take a little while for things to get going.

The user interface is well laid out and is presented at the top and bottom of the screen. An overview of the park allows you to move to a certain area quickly along with time controls and the ability to rotate and zoom the view. The menu presents you with all buildings, animals, people and general decoration you can build. The bar at the top shows any messages, the time, weather and the overall happiness of the workers, visitors and animals.

The game is presented in isometric 3d which can lead to difficulties seeing behind buildings, a common problem in many isometric games, but thankfully there’s the option to rotate your view so you can see each side of any object or building. One small niggle I have with buildings is the positioning of their ‘openings’. Put down a food stand and you must make sure the front of the building is towards the path, kind of annoying if the location of the serving opening is blatantly obvious.

Graphics wise the game is nothing special but for sim games they don’t need to be. The sprites are clear and most animals can be easily recognised. The buildings are styled after their function so a food stand looks like a big carton of fries, a ice-cream stand looks like a big ice-cream cone. The menus and loading screens are presented in a jungle theme: large foliage and wood effect windows. You get the picture.

The background music to the game has an African tribal theme, lots of jungle drums and chanting. The sound effects are limited to the noises the animals make and general environment effects such as a waterfall, pretty much what you would expect from a game involving animals and zoos.

If you can juggle 10 things at the same time or like sim style games then could be for you. Wildlife Park is a decent enough game that’s well presented and leads you gently into the world of running a zoo, and it’s certainly on par with Microsoft and Blue Fang’s Zoo Tycoon. Worth a look if you enjoy your sim titles.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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