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Wildlife Park 2 Preview

Wildlife Park 2 pack shot
Publisher:Deep Silver
Official Site:http://www.wildlifepark2.com/
Release Date:June 23, 2006 (UK)
Reviewer:James Barlow (Malis)
Pre-order at Amazon.co.uk

From rabbits and ponies, to tigers and carnivorous squid, the player in Wildlife Park 2 is charged with building natural habitats for wild animals and keeping both the animals and the people who visit their parks happy.

The first thing I noticed when loading my first mission was the UI. A simple, self-explanatory interface allowed me to immediately immerse myself in the game, without hunting for obscure, out of the way buttons. Everything in the game is clearly labeled and includes mouse-over tool tips: I am a real fan of fluid, intuitive interfaces in games, so I'll give thumbs up to B-Alive for theirs. The camera system is classic style click and drag, with the mouse wheel controlling zoom and rotation, it's not the most fluid system ever, but it does get the job done. You can, if you so desire zoom completely into first person and explore your zoo on foot, allowing you to take 'photos' of your star attractions. I personally found first person to be slightly awkward and frustrating, so steered clear of it generally.

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The game comes with two modes of play, missions and free-play. Normally in these sorts of games, the missions are nothing more than a change of background and a smaller bank account, but from what I've played so far of Wildlife Park 2, I must say I'm impressed at the thought that has gone into each one. One memorable mission thrusts you upon a small island, with no park foundations. The local wildlife is roaming free, and its up to the player to gather them up and care for them, whilst terra-forming the island into something serviceable. Later missions see you being hired by the Japanese to build a zoo around a giant squid they discovered, or even to build a refuge full of creatures brought back from extinction. So far each mission feels just different enough from the last to make a play-through the campaign rewarding.

The graphics and animation are by no means spectacular, but are perfectly enjoyable in their own way. There is a vibrancy and colour about them that is charming: even the most jaded gamer cant help but smile at zooming in on his newly rescued tiger and watching it jump around over rocks in full 3d.

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Game-play wise the game again feels intuitive and natural. Clicking on animals tells you how happy they are, and what they want, whilst clicking on buildings or objects to build tells you which needs they serve. The game can get quite hectic, as you have to reach the needs of your visitors and your animals. On more than one occasion, trying to please an annoying visitor who complained about my decorations resulted in me neglecting my animals (resulting in my ponies leaping their fences and racing for freedom, so starved were they of food).

What really seems to shine in this game is the level of detail. From dynamic weather affects to animal social behaviour, Wildlife Park 2 is not short of realism. Animals grow up, look for others to play with and for a mate and procreate with a certain probability of mutations (albinos, colouring of fur and skin). Water responds to the laws of physics impressively; in the first tutorial mission I was tasked with turning a water pump on a mountain on for the goats below. This created a water pool at the top, too far away for the animals to drink. So, using the tools provided, I moulded the terrain and created a dynamic waterfall, which in turn created a feeding pool for my goats. Little features like this definitely impress.

From what I've played so far, Wildlife Park 2 seems to be a remarkably charming little tycoon/sim game, that is both deep and rewarding. Fans of the genre should definitely keep an eye on this one, and I look forward to playing the retail code.