Updated: May 28
Planet Zoo, a game that I’ve been highly anticipating since it’s reveal back in early 2019. This was the game that I felt needed to happen. Ever since the release of the brilliant Zoo Tycoon 2 in 2004, there has never been a zoo game that’s managed to capture my imagination so much. Sure, we had 2013’s Zoo Tycoon, which was released on Xbox, however, this was very basic and offered very little in the way of creativity. The game was so limiting that the whole experience felt monotonous.
Does Planet Zoo deliver what was expected of it? In short, yes, this is exactly what I was hoping it would be. While there are a few teething issues within the game, all in all, it’s a positive experience and very well made.
Frontier, who as we know made the very controversial Jurassic World Evolution game, are also the developers for Planet Zoo. Now, this could seem extremely worrying especially considering how limited the creativity and decoration side of Jurassic World was, fortunately though, this is not the case in Planet Zoo. You can essentially build the zoo of your dreams, especially if you go straight into sandbox mode with unlimited money and resources. This allows you to sit back and relax while you put your imagination to the test in order to build the zoo of your dreams. With so many different themes, enclosure barriers and decorations to choose from you’re never left short of new ideas and ways to add some diversity into the zoo as well.
Planet Zoo can be challenging when you jump into franchise mode. This is essentially the mode where you need to make money to have money. Everything you do, from the animals you have, to the ticket prices you set, will affect how much money you make, or, dread to think, lose.
Now this game is by no means easy to get to grips with. Firstly, the controls can be quite daunting, as the tutorials which I would put under the career mode side of the game, teach you certain controls and how to do specific things regarding building. However, be wary as it won’t teach you everything. Nonetheless, you’ll soon figure out how to do things for yourself, so this shouldn’t be a massive issue, as most games like this are a learning curve anyway.
In the first franchise mode that I created I couldn’t wait to take on the role of a zoo designer/owner/manager/you-name-it! To begin with I had to pick a name, and what better name than “Animal Heaven”. Such an apt name, especially when most of the animals in this zoo expired faster than I would have liked or even expected! At the start it was all going so well, the first enclosure to open was the Indian peafowl. A simple but beautiful creature. I believed they wouldn’t be too hard to cater for, and I was right, until I was very wrong.
The peafowls had plenty of room, and the guests were loving them. They were donating a lot each time they saw them, although it did feel like a bit of a scam considering they were paying $8 to see some Peafowl. In response to this, I decided it was time to give the wonderful guests a different species to admire. Enter the Gharial, a critically endangered species, estimated to only have 200 left in the wild. Now whilst I know that having them in a video game and potentially breeding them in-game doesn’t affect the real world, it is nice to know that something could be done to increase the number, and the game teaches you about the animals and why they are endangered. The guests took to the Gharial straight away, admiring them and appreciating their great looks. Quickly an elevated path was created overlooking their enclosure to give a better view, and the donations started flying in, money was being made left, right and centre!
The zoo was rapidly growing, all in such a short amount of time as well. But, this was my first mistake. In hindsight you do not want to start growing too quickly, the money will not sustain itself and you will start making losses. To my surprise, the Gharial had started breeding, which was quite exciting and when you release the offspring into the wild once they mature, you receive conservation credits. These credits essentially get you ‘better-rated’ animals. This was amazing and just what I thought was needed.
Back over in the Indian Peafowl habitat, there was also offspring now, but the numbers were quite high with about 20 or so now in the enclosure. Some of them had to be released into the wild to make space. My next mistake followed, and ultimately led to what I believe forced me to shut the zoo down forever.
The zoo needed more animals, the power had gone to my head and I just wanted to cram so many animals in and make the zoo incredible. Zebra and Ostriches were quickly introduced into the zoo, all within one big enclosure, making use of the fact the two species can co-live. It was all going well, until I began to notice protesters who were not happy with the Ostriches welfare. I set about addressing this, and they quickly left. However, things only went downhill from there, Animal Heaven was now making no money at all and was dangerously close to being in debt, so the new enclosure sadly had to close. The animals were sold to other zoos, but the problems kept on increasing for the zoo.
The newborn Indian Peafowl were dying of thirst, even though I had provided them with plenty of water, they were just sitting there and not drinking, so this led to protests and the deaths of about 10 newborn peafowls. The zoo was now in a dire state and the finances were now -$70k. Even though the Gharial enclosure was still going strong, Animal Heaven had no choice but to shut down, and for me to flee the county so I couldn’t be put on trial for animal cruelty or mismanagement. The moral of the story is, don’t get too big to quickly> You’re best off starting small and easy whilst gradually working your way up. If you stick to those steps, then you should be absolutely fine in building an incredible zoo.
One of my absolute favourite features in the game is the Zoopedia. This is such a handy guide in the game which provides a nice introduction to each animal, giving a description of what they are and their conservation status (e.g. Least Concern through to Critically Endangered). It will provide you with the habitat information which will be essential to you whilst you go about designing each enclosure. I would recommend looking at this before you make a new enclosure to ensure that you are creating the right biome and choosing the correct plants for the region the animal is from. The Zoopedia is such an interesting and brilliant idea, and it brings the detail up to a standard that exceeds all my expectations.
If you love management games, love animals, and love building, then this is a game you need without a doubt. I cannot recommend this game enough. Even though it takes time to learn everything, you will find great joy in doing so and once things run smoothly you will have a real sense of achievement. This is everything I could have asked for in a zoo management game, and I am glad Frontier have delivered.
The detail is the real outstanding feature of this game, from the animal movement, down to the Zoopedia. All in all, Planet Zoo is one of the best management games since Zoo Tycoon 2. It captures the imagination and provides a great platform for others to design and upload blueprints for building and habitats. The sense of community is great as other people sell their animals in the market, and even come and visit your zoo sometimes.