Planet Zoo Review — Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Planet Zoo is a complex and deep sim management title that’s carefully crafted to offer hours of meaningful and educational enjoyment.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Truth be told, I’m not a great supporter of zoos. They are sometimes filled with depressed bears and suicidal tigers rocking back and forth in their painfully small enclosure surrounded by rubbish with an expression of “Get me out of here!” etched across their little furry faces. Fortunately, the good folks at Frontier Developments, who also created management sims Planet Coaster and Zoo Tycoon, allow players to create the zoo of their dreams with Planet Zoo and right all the wrongs of poorly managed zoological gardens around the world – at least through the medium of video games.
If you have already had hands-on experience with the studios’ previous titles, like Jurassic World Evolution and more recently Planet Coaster, then you’ve already set yourself up with a good working knowledge of what you will expect in this sim management game. If this is your first time dipping into the world of simulation, you will have a little learning to do but don’t let that put you off as you’ll have a comprehensive tutorial at your finger-tips.
“Planet Zoo shouldn’t really be tackled as a whole – it is best approached like eating an orange; one segment at a time.”
Planet Zoo initially greets you with the choice of a few official modes—Career, Challenge, Sandbox, and Franchise. In career mode, which is the best place to start for now due to it providing a more structured environment, you will find yourself guided through a platter of story-based scenarios and a beautifully equipped tutorial. That tutorial is voiced by a soothing and cheery Welsh lady named Nancy Jones who makes you feel right at home from the off. Here, you will find yourself going around the zoo for a practice run where you will do a host of jobs that include adopting new animals into the enclosure, finding out important information and statistics on each creature and how to keep them happy (very important), and learning how to build a safe and efficient habitat.
What I found most appealing about Planet Zoo were the great lengths you need to go to make sure that an enclosure is the right height to stop animals from escaping. You also have to make sure the temperature and terrain are correct and implement a “Goldilocks effect” of finding the right amount of stimuli per animal so they don’t go stir-crazy. The wealth of knowledge obtained for the games “Zoopedia,” an informational guide that gives details about each species of animal in the game, explains some truly amazing educational information that is not only valuable for adults but a key learning tool for children as well.
The Zoopedia goes into great detail to clarify each species behavioral pattern, habitat requirements, and tells you about each individual animal’s wildlife status. It even lets you know if the species is endangered in real life and highlights the reason why they are declining in numbers. Planet Zoo does a great job on the topic of conservation and the paramountcy of releasing animals into the wild to repopulate areas. Doing so gives players unique incentives like currency bonuses.I like to think that I know quite a bit on this subject but there was information laid out that I didn’t know. That made reading through the bucket loads of text a really worthwhile and fascinating experience. The obvious effort and commitment that Frontier Developments have put into the educational aspect of Planet Zoo pays off greatly.
The most important goal in Planet Zoo is to maintain the animals’ happiness, not only for their sake but also for the visitors that come to feast their eyes on exotic creatures. Humans want to be entertained, that’s a fact, and that factor hasn’t gone unnoticed here. Unhappy and bored people equal less money coming into your zoo which in turn means less capital to put towards the hard-working staff and animals. While you pan around your zoo, you can keep an eye on what guests have to say about their experience and what they do and don’t like. For instance: some visitors thought the view into the Lions enclosure was restrictive.
In order to maintain equilibrium, I inserted a one-way window so that the Lions could still have their privacy without feeling overwhelmed by glaring eyes whilst also allowing people to get an unhindered vista. To keep your zoo in the black, you can do plenty to make sure you are allocating donations boxes where crowds form, minimizing keeper’s stations away from the public eye (people come to see animals, not buildings), seeing what shops around the zoo are doing better than others, and firing certain staff members who aren’t up to scratch.
The UI can take a little time to get the hang off. If you’re looking for something important in a hurry it can be a bit tricky to find certain things straight off the bat. If you spend some time slowly getting accustomed to each and every tab though, you’ll soon be able to jump in and find what you’re looking for in no time. Planet Zoo shouldn’t really be tackled as a whole – it is best approached like eating an orange; one segment at a time. If you’re a fan of management sims then this isn’t exactly a new strategy. To keep yourself from feeling like you’re juggling, eating, and playing tennis all at once, take the time to learn and absorb each aspect of what this game has to offer as it will pay off greatly. This will not only benefit your zoo as a whole but also for sustaining the fun factor.
You will, inadvertently, learn that trial and error is par for the course in Planet Zoo, especially so when introducing another animal into an enclosure that’s already occupied. They may fight or they may not produce offspring, but with a keen eye, understanding specific species and making sure your staff are trained, you can eliminate this somewhat. That being said, as you care and nurture each animal you begin to form an emotional bond, so when failures do occur, the heartbreak that follows can be tough!
“Planet Zoo is arguably the best zoo management game to date with enough soul and purpose to shake a stick at.”
While the game has around 70 species of animals, with some having fewer animations than others, I couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of each one Clearly, Frontier Developments has a really keen eye on how these wonderful creatures physically behave, or maybe they’ve watched a lot of David Attenborough shows. Nonetheless, the attention to detail was superb. Their movement, sound, and behavior was like watching a wildlife documentary where at times, I forgot that I was actually playing a video game.
Planet Zoo is impressive and at the core of this immersive gameplay lays the developers’ passion for wanting to make the animal kingdom a better place. The game does this by not only tackling important educational and conservation topics but by also pulling the player into this kind of gameplay too and making them feel like they could make a difference. Planet Zoo is arguably the best zoo management game to date with enough soul and purpose to shake a stick at.