I could hardly contain my excitement given the opportunity to try out Planet Zoo. My son and I are huge fans of Frontier Developments other “Animal Park” title, Jurassic World Evolution and have lost many many hours to it. Callum previewed the beta a few weeks ago, Is this the Zoo Tycoon we’ve been waiting for? I’m keen to see how things are in the release version.
Planet Zoo released on the 5th of November, developed and self-published by Frontier Developments. On the surface, Planet Zoo is a management game, managing the layout of the zoo, animals and staff, guest expectations and needs. But under the surface is where the real fun and frustration can be found.
In career mode, you start out in a playthrough tutorial that runs you through the basics of the game. Buying animals, caring for them and creating the perfect habitat. You also learn how to recruit staff and set work zones, which are pretty important I might add. After a few hours, you are off the reins and free to start building your own creation whilst still meeting the goals and requirements of the career mode.
After the excitement of playing in the pre-made tutorial Zoo’s, it’s difficult to not go charging into building the Zoo of your dreams and having to remember when starting out you have a limited budget which if you’re not careful with, soon depletes!
The game also features an online franchise mode, an offline challenge mode that plays similarly to the career mode but without the story and a sandbox mode for those that like to play with all limits removed.
The building and landscaping tools are fantastic. The level of detail you can go into when designing your zoo and habitats is great. However, when I first started out I did find it a little frustrating. Particularly adding water to habitats, I just couldn’t get the terrain to level out as I wanted so I could fill it with water. I then found out by accident you can remove water by right-clicking.
One other thing that annoyed me a little was the path placement, I really couldn’t get my head around it, I was trying to build a secluded staff area (Guest’s don’t like to see these buildings, so if they are on show it will have a negative effect on your ratings). So I ran a path, but then couldn’t get the buildings to “snap” to the path correctly. I removed the buildings, removed the path, then tried to place the buildings, then run the path between them. Again, the game insisting that it couldn’t snap to the entrance of the buildings.
Occasionally I’d also find keepers would get lost, they’d be in the middle of a task and just suddenly stop, the only way to fix it was to pick them up and place them back down.
I often found time passed quickly in-game, even when playing on the slowest speed, this led to problems piling up and were sometimes easy to miss. I did find rebinding pause to the space bar a handy trick, making pausing the game a bit quicker so that you can catch up with the game. You can thank me later for that little tip 😉
Lastly, the UI and menu system, Why oh why does it have to take up so much space. Often having one or two windows open left very little of your zoo on show. It just looked way to cluttered and took up far to much space on my screen.
The Zoopedia is a really nice touch though and has a lot of information on the animals available. Particularly the origins and natural habitat of the animal, social group size and animals that it can share a habitat with.
The game looks absolutely stunning. The guest designs remind me of the classic “Theme” games by bullfrog. The main reason most of us will be buying Planet Zoo… The Animals, Wow! They look beautiful, the amount of time I found myself just setting the camera in habitats to sit and watch the animals going about their lives, eating, drinking, playing and socializing. Frontier has done a great job with the animation of the animals.
The way the game looks almost gives me plenty of reasons to forgive the mechanical issues. Whenever Zoo management got too much, or path placing started to frustrate me. I just headed to a habitat to check on the animals.
No complaints on the way the game looks or performs graphically.
The Audio quality is great, The animals sound realistic, other than that as Callum stated the only other noise you hear is of the guests of the zoo, or occasionally the speakers placed around the animal habitats, which really isn’t a bad thing. The background music is well themed.
It’s a building/management game with a sandbox mode, need I say anymore lol. In its current form, there are plenty of hours to lose to this game. Building and maintaining your zoo, caring for your animals and keeping your staff busy keeps you occupied for hours on end. No doubt from what we’ve seen with Planet Coaster and Jurassic World Evolution there will be DLC with extra animals, maps and challenges which will only increase this. I’d love to see Aviaries and aquariums feature in future DLC, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Even with all of its faults, it really is hard not to love this game, Every time the UI bugs me, or a keeper gets stuck, I just head to a habitat, sit and watch the baby Panda’s walking around with their parents, or head to the chimpanzees to watch them play and socialize and all of sudden I’m reminded of why this game is so great.
Planet Zoo is so close to getting a platinum thumb, If only the UI was a little easier on the eye and the path-building wasn’t so frustrating. Planet Zoo more than deserves the Gold Thumb!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.