Wednesday 17 January 2018

Zoo Tycoon needs a bigger menagerie

Reviewed: Zoo Tycoon, XCOM - Enemy Within, Doki-Doki Universe

Zoo Tycoon for Xbox One
Zoo Tycoon for Xbox One
Doki Doki Universe for PS4/PS3/PS Vita
XCOM: Enemy Within
Ronan Price

Ronan Price


RATING: 7/10

AGE: 3+

MICROSOFT’S games consoles have earned an unfortunate reputation as a bottomless pit of shooters and racers – pandering endlessly to the hardcore. But every launch comes with at least one token family-friendly title, possibly to placate the marketing team.

Zoo Tycoon fits the bill for Xbox One’s debut, a streamlined reboot of the highly successful (and thoroughly enjoyable) animal management series for the PC.

What kid wouldn’t want to run a zoo, after all? This Zoo Tycoon strips out much of the complexity of its forebears, which will skew its audience much younger, below age 10.

By compensation, the XOne edition squeezes in animal interaction via the Kinect camera sensor. When it works, it could fill any child (or adult) with wonder - getting lions and monkeys to imitate your facial expressions is fun at its purest. But when it doesn’t, such as the awkward implementation of feeding time, it becomes a dull chore.

Certainly, younger gamers will be engaged by the simple logic of looking after the animals, keeping the zoo punters happy and building bigger and better enclosures. But the limited number of animals compared to the original series begins to jar after a while.

Additional challenges modes extend Zoo Tycoon’s longevity a little but perhaps some free downloadable content wouldn’t go amiss to sweeten the deal.


XCOM: Enemy Within


RATING: 9/10

AGE: 18

THINK of this as a director’s cut with added subplots, new props and a reworked script. Enemy Within is technically an expansion pack to the superb XCOM: Enemy Unknown strategy title from 2012.

But it’s a full game in its own right, reworking the amusingly melodramatic extra-terrestrial invasion scenario and tweaking the formula to excise some of the frustration apparent in the original.

You still manage a four-person commando squad, applying turn-based strategy to get the jump on the little green aliens (and several other types of enemy) as you roam the streets and buildings of cities around the world.

Now, though, your soldiers can be enhanced with genetic augmentation and even play dress-up. It all adds to the aching sense of loss when one of them is taken out in the field. The genetic splicing is powered by a new resource called meld, which adds an interesting dynamic that forces you to choose speed over caution as you rush to capture it.

The risk is well worth it, seeing as meld can transform your troops into super-soldiers or even cybernetic warriors.

With 40 new maps and a radical new way to tackle XCOM’s punishingly tough missions, Enemy Within is a director’s cut well worth catching second time around.


Doki-Doki Universe

PS4/PS4/PS Vita download

RATING: 8/10

AGE: 3+

“HUMANITY is complicated,” says the lead character in Doki-Doki Universe, a triumph of whimsy and day-glo colours. But there’s more humanity here than in a dozen games cluttering the charts.

True, it’s likely to prompt eye-rolling in a sizeable demographic who can’t cope without a virtual gun or steering wheel in their hands. This charming not-game explores the relationship difficulties of a cast of oddballs from aliens to animals to kooky humans.

In a style reminiscent of the brilliant Scribblenauts, you need to divine the inhabitants’ needs and satisfy their wants by conjuring an object from your ever-growing repertoire. The answers rarely require rocket-science thinking but it’s the amusing interactions that provide Doki-Doki’s heart.

Repetition begins to creep in a little too soon and the interface can be a little clumsy. But this inexpensive download (€7.50) is a welcome antidote to the usual clichéd fodder.


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