Did you know that a panda bear has five fingers and a sixth proto-thumb? Or that there's this animal in Madagascar related to the mongoose called a Fossa — cute as anything — it hunts lemurs! I love lemurs! Or that the Galapagos Tortoise can go a year without food or water? Dang, animals are weird. Cool, though.
If you take the time to read the descriptions of the animals you'll treat in Zoo Hospital, these are just a few of the random facts you will learn. Of course, you also may learn that the zoo your Aunt Lucy has asked you to work at needs to keep their cutlery locked up. The cobra keeps getting spoons stuck in his throat. I'm telling you, that cobra is a real pain.
Zoo Hospital is a very simple title: Animals are sick, you are the vet in training, and you fix the animals. OK, the idea is simple; fixing them will depend very much upon your age and dexterity.
You've headed to work with your Aunt Lucy at an unnamed zoo to work, where you will perform your internship, receive grades in treating various categories of animals and help the zoo build its stock. Keep the animals healthy, and more will arrive — at about the rate of 1-to-1.
The animals vary from your typical brown bear and bush elephant to the more exotic aye aye and Malay tapir. There were a few that were brand new to me. Each has a nicely compact description explaining its name, taxonomy, territorial region and interesting facts. Any animal present at the zoo can be visited at any time at which point, you can view them in their habitat, read their description and watch them — there's a rather nice simple animation with fantastic sound and realistic rendering of each animal available.
On to being a vet.
An entire map of the zoo presents you with each of the exhibits where an animal is or will be present. You can scroll over the areas to see what animal is there and its status. If the icon for the three-toed sloth is static, then it's healthy. But, if the icon for the American bison is flashing, it is in need of care. Only one animal at a time will need your help.
Click on the flashing icon and you'll head to the hospital. This is where my adult brain laughed at the image of every animal lying prostrate on the table or floor — including the elephant and bison! (To be fair, the tree-climbing primates were hanging in trees.) Aunt Lucy will tell you the symptoms suffered by the animal, and it is then your responsibility to determine what is wrong before you "operate."
Symptoms range from labored breathing, scratching, lethargy, vomiting, sweating and panting, limping, and few other variants. It's an animal; there's not a lot they can tell you.
At your disposal are the following implements of torture ... uhh, examination: thermometer, scale, blood pressure gauge, respirator, x-ray, magnifying glass (representative of looking closely) and a microscope for sample analysis. Take the animal's temperature, and compare it to standard. Does it deviate? If so, you indicate "ready to operate." (I'll explain why in a moment). Aunt Lucy will indicate whether you are ready to operate or should examine further.
After a time, you'll have an idea based upon the symptoms what to check first. Lethargy is often an over/underweight animal. Decreased appetite and odd speech is a toothache, etc. After the illness has been determined, you'll perform the procedure required to heal the animal.
Interestingly, some of the illnesses included I wouldn't have expected but are real concerns in a zoo: heavy coats, weight issues and stress. Stress is a big problem with zoo animals and is no different with the animals in Zoo Hospital. Kudos to the developers for including it in this title.
An oddity in the game is the reliance on stating "ready to operate" with each step of examination. At first, I thought this was a bug as I would check the temperature on a patient, state "not ready to operate" and Aunt Lucy would send the animal back to the pen because I wasn't proficient enough to complete the task. Then it occurred when I was checking other vital signs, and I realized that it was reliant on the player stating that there is a problem in each category.
An adult would find this unnecessary. An adult states "ready to operate" after all information gathering has been completed. But, a younger child needs to acknowledge that there is an issue. It's a fail-safe to ensure that they see it, albeit an unforgiving one.
One other item of note: All measurements are in the metric system, right down to the metric tonne. It was difficult to conceptualize just how much weight my bush elephant was down when he was short 700kg (1,543 lbs). Be prepared to have a weights and measurements converter handy.
With no ending, completely random encounters with the animals and an interested child, Zoo Hospital can keep him/her interested for a long while. It's not an adult title; it's too simplistic for that. But the descriptions, sounds and renders of the animals are accurate enough to further curiosity about the animals. The operations are simple enough that a child middle school age should be able to complete them with a little assistance. And to be honest, it's fun. My children and I take turns healing the animals, and then we put it away. The next day it's out again. I suspect it will be for quite some time.
My children both play games so I often play them first, getting to know exactly how something may effect my sensitive and easily stimulated older child vs. my stoic and imperturbable younger.
I like games for games; for the pure enjoyment of them and believe that no game is wholly bad, though some are real stinkers.
I also have the dexterity of a camel in mittens so find playing FPSs difficult (and I also don't like the gore) and RTSs at times can stump me. I just can't seem to move quickly enough to keep up with them. Some of my favorite games are arcade games and I'll spend 3-5 years on the same 5-6 levels because I just never get any better. But, I have fun.