When it come to Xbox One games for children, the choice is pretty limited. Zoo Tycoon is one of the few games that entertain my girls, whilst also introducing them to the gesture and motion control that the Kinect offers.
Whilst I do not foresee my one and three year olds building a Zoo from scratch (yet), they do love the interaction exhibits that include feeding, cleaning and playing. Sadly there is only a limited few, so I wanted to outline them for other Xbox One parents looking to make the black behemoth part of the family.
The feeding stations use the Kinect sensor to virtually feed certain types of animals including Elephants, Giraffes and Impala/gazelle. My favorite being Giraffes. The Kinect sensor tracks your hand as you reach down to pick one of three fruits. Once chose you raise your hand up to the animal and open your hand to feed. The girls love it.
The cleaning station takes the form of a water cannon and can be used on elephants, rhinos and bears. My favorite animal to wash has to be the elephant as it splashes the player at the end making my children laugh.
The playing interaction is a large glass screen that is placed on the side of the enclosure. The glass has the authentic smears, hand prints an finger marks we all worry about when visiting a real zoo. When the player stands in front of it they can activate the play interaction. This can be done with Monkeys, Lions and Tigers. As you can probably guess, our family favorite is the monkeys as you wave your hands, cover your eyes and ears and generally muck about in front of the glass to make the monkey copy you. This interaction also includes a further ‘mini game’ where you can lean forward and the monkey will copy your face as you open your mouth and blink your eyes. My youngest loves this.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
Whilst my girls try their hardest to do the correct actions, both of them flailing their arms and jumping up and down doesn’t always yield the results we want. As such, the controller comes in handy to secretly ensure that they are doing it right. This means we can all avoid the frustration of getting stuck on an activity.
Overall, Zoo Tycoon is a well put together game that has something for both the skilled gamer and small child. Slowly but surely they are getting used to the Kinect sensor and even asking to use the controller to try and drive the buggy around the Zoo. Some might say 3 is too young but I guarantee that if I gave her a couple of months with it she will be running, driving and feeding the animals unassisted. With touch controlled tablets, Kinect gesture control and voice control now entering more homes I can see a future without mice and eventually keyboards.