Zoo Tycoon 2 is the sequel to Microsoft's 2001 release, and another entry into the "tycoon" family of games, serving up similar plots and goals. In the early 2000's, the "tycoon" franchises took off, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Railroad Tycoon, you name it, it has likely been made into a "tycoon" game. In Zoo Tycoon 2, as with the original, you start out with nothing and build from the ground up, or start with an established park and try to improve what you have.

In Zoo Tycoon, you can make themed biomes, including desert, polar, tropical rainforest, and savannah, among others. You can choose from different rock formations, grasses and flowering plants to add to the feeling of being in that region. Of course, the animals you choose will reflect this as well.

There is a very wide selection of animals to choose from, both male and female, and you'll want to have a good mix of both in order to keep your selection. If something's not going well, just click on the encyclopedia at the bottom left of the screen and find out your animal's likes and dislikes, what it should be eating and playing with, and what kind of habitat is optimal. This will help you if your animals are not eating well, or are unhappy. Try to use the encyclopedia feature before you place your animals so that you will get a maximum benefit and minimal problems.

Creating habitat's is a primary goal in the Zoo Tycoon franchise, and you'll spend a lot of time building fences to keep them from running loose around the zoo. The landscaping tool is very similar to the one found in any RCT game, and is easy to use even if you haven't tried it before. The fencing tool is slightly more difficult to master. There are three types of fencing modes: rectangular, circular, and rubber-band mode. Rectangular allows you to make a perfect square or rectangle, and the circular one allows you to make circular fence areas. The rubber-band mode is very freestyle and slightly difficult to grasp, but once you've got it, you've got it. In rubber-band mode, the fence will twist every way it can to give you a unique fence designs. This is easier to use by going from short distances, or cutting up longer fences to short parts, since trying to go for a long fence will be more difficult. Also, you have to be careful where you click or the fence will go the opposite way. There are many designs for the fences, and they fit into the biomes well. Just make sure your fence is completely closed or else your animals will escape!

Don't forget to put in a staff entrance gate to the animal area so that you can clean up and feed the animals. Through the staff entry gate you can enter into the animal areas and interact with your animals. You'll need to keep their areas clean and free and waste so that they can stay healthy and happy. Also, their food and water will need to be filled up frequently. Stay on top of this or your animals will become sick and unhappy. And remember to keep hiring more staff as your zoo grows.

You will have guests in your zoo as well as animals. You will need to keep them happy as well. By keeping prices low and by having a good variety of food, merchandise, and several washrooms and garbage cans, your park will stay clean and your guests will be happy too. Try to arrange your merchandise stands logically - don't put the polar bear stuffed animals next to the giraffes!

Graphically, Zoo Tycoon 2 is an upgrade over its predecessor, but is nothing truly superb. You always seem to be zoomed in too far, and you are quite limited as to how far you can zoom out on screen. Models are nicely detailed (look at that Lemur swing!), and environmental detail is more than adequate.

Blue Fang Games has gone to great lengths to keep the franchise up to date. Since its release, the developer has released numerous scenery packs (including a Spring Scenery pack and a Beautification pack), and numerous other downloads including new animals and challenges. This kind of post-release support is rarely seen in the industry, and it is nice to see a developer really standing behind their product.

Zoo Tycoon 2 is an enjoyable title overall, especially if you enjoyed the original or have an interest in other "tycoon" series titles. You'll spend hours designing your Zoo to keep both the guests and animals happy, and coming up with new ideas to do so. Solid graphics, animals that sound lifelike, and a massive encyclopedia are just a few of the strengths of Zoo Tycoon 2. A recommended title for any fan of the genre.