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Zoo Tycoon: Dinosaur Digs

If you read my previous review of Zoo Tycoon, you will understand that I quite enjoyed it. It's one of the best build'em-up games for quite a while, and the content of the game is immense. Imagine my joy when I realised that the expansion pack, Dinosaur Digs, adds prehistoric creatures and other animals into the fray that you can slap into your park for that added thrill!

What have they got in there, King Kong?

Dinosaur Digs installs seamlessly into your existing Zoo Tycoon installation (which is required to play) and adds a bucketload of new options for your park. Everything that the expansion pack adds to the game can be accessed via the standard menus, in any park. So whether you're in free form or a scenario, you can add any animal/dinosaur provided it hasn't been specifically disabled.
Before I describe the finer points of Dinosaur Digs, i'll cover one rather large annoyance. In the standard Zoo Tycoon, there is a small period of slowdown every time you alter the perspective of your zoo (ie: rotate it 90 degrees). This is due to the blending of textures, which is quite processor intensive. It wasn't pesky enough to warrant mentioning in the review, considering my system is below the average for a gaming machine these days. However, not one attempt has been made to solve this slowdown. It still exists in Dinosaur Digs, to an even greater extent when you consider the more complex maps that are included with the expansion. It's not bad enough to stop you playing the game, but it's certainly annoying as hell.

With that out of the way, there's relatively little else to moan about. Any bugs that seemed to exist have been removed, and there are new buttons to play with. Three of these controls enable you to hide any combination of foilage, guests and buildings. With these temporarily hidden, you can grab hold of animals or place items that would normally be obscured behind fencing or trees for example. Removing the guests also allows you to see your employees, and how much litter is scattered around your zoo. Very handy indeed.

Also included is the ability to toggle between Zoo Tycoon and Dinosaur Digs content. Scrolling down the foilage/animals lists with every single selection available is tedious, so you can filter out the items you know you don't need.

The range of dinosaurs available for adoption varies across several periods, from the Triassic era (Herrerasaurus) through the Jurassic era (Allosaurus, Stegosaurus) up to the Ice Age (Wooly Mammoth, Saber-toothed Cat). In total, 20 dinosaurs await placement in your park, and yes: the Tyrannosaurus Rex is included. He's a bit fussy when it comes to....well, everything, so you had better be pretty damned good before you adopt one.
Talking of adoption, not every dinosaur is instantly 'there'. Some must be grown from an egg, which requires a scientist (dino equivalent of a zoo-keeper) straight from the word go. It doesn't take long for your baby to hatch though.

We're going to make a fortune with this place!

Along with new pets comes new park buildings. Dinosaurs that are too small or too difficult to contain are available in building form, such as the Pteranadon. No flying dinosaurs are available to place in enclosures, which is a bit of a shame but I suppose safety must come first.
Your typical burger stand and drink stall have been replaced with their prehistoric counterparts. Gift shops are now dino-themed, and there are even new park rides for the kiddies! With so much to build, you'd think space would be a problem. Not so. Especially for your building pleasure are new maps for freeform building, and to compliment your ancient attractions are center-pieces such as tar pits, volcanos and lava-lakes. It all adds up to one large tourist trap, just right for earning you those dollars you need to maintain your dinos.

Finally, my favourite little feature of the expansion is what happens when you let one of them loose. Unlike lions or tigers that simply chase after your customers and perhaps maul them, dinosaurs waste no time and simply chew their way across the park. If something smaller than them gets in the way, it won't remain there for long, especially if it's a particularly angry dinosaur. I must admit I laughed when a message popped up informing me that "scientist 9 has been eaten by Allosaurus 1". If you have any sense of humanity though, you'll invest in a dino recovery team, which basically fly around your park in a helicopter and tranquilise the rampaging creatures. You can then place them back into their enclosure as you see fit.

Overall, Dinosaur Digs adds a superb slant to the standard Zoo Tycoon, which boosts replayability and the fun factor to boot. Managing your own Jurassic Park is a lot different to adventuring in one, and I advise you try it bronto.
Pronto, sorry.