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Planet Zoo

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 19 - 2019

Swapping speed and thrills for cute and cuddly, most of the time.

Planet Zoo has been a long time coming. Since the launch of Frontier’s excellent Planet Coaster back in 2016, tycoon game fans have been holding their breath and wondering if a Zoo Tycoon style sequel would be next on the cards. Of course, it wasn’t long before Planet Zoo was announced, and then the wait began. With a beta not long ago that allowed anyone who had pre-ordered the game a chance to at least sample the wares, the hype grew and now, finally, Planet Zoo has launched and anyone who wants to create their very own zoo will have all of the tools to do so.


And the tools are plentiful. Planet Zoo has a lot of similarities with Frontier’s Planet Coaster and so players who have already created masterful theme parks will have some idea of where to go and what to do, at least when it comes to the building. However, there is a level of complexity here in Planet Zoo that would really suggest players at least spend some time in the campaign mode before facing the freedom of the sandbox. Sure, the UI will feel familiar and trying to design complex pathways is as flawed as it was in Coaster, but would creating a theme park have prepared the player for the difficulties in keeping a snow leopard happy?

So there are 12 missions for the player to work through, and while incredibly fun to play, they could be seen as extended tutorials in the art of building and running a zoo. Starting with the very basics, the player will be moved from one zoo to another, each with specific issues that the player has to address, along with goals to achieve. The player will not have to complete all goals in order to progress to the next park, but the learning process is such that players would benefit from all of the knowledge they can get. It is very easy to gloss over one aspect or another and then find, further down the line once the player has invested time and money in a glorious zoo, that it has a gaping flaw that will lead to its ultimate downfall.

Not everyone enjoys sandbox modes, preferring a certain amount of direction, and it is those players who will find the most enjoyment in the campaign mode and will reach for completion of all goals. This will keep them going for a long time, as there is a lot to do, but it will also inspire them to play the sandbox mode.


There is nothing more daunting than being given a blank screen and a bunch of tools, then being left to get on with it. The campaign missions will teach the player how to build, how to properly look after the animals, and how to keep the zoo ticking over and improving. However, the missions will also provide inspiration and ideas for what is actually possible in the sandbox mode, allowing players to hit that empty piece of ground running. Of course, players may come out of the campaign mode with visions of the perfect zoo, but the reality may be absolute chaos.

At various points in the campaign mode, and throughout the sandbox, the emphasis will be entirely on building an exhibit. While this can be as complex as other aspects of the game, it is probably the most fun. The freedom here is extraordinary. However, there are limitations in place according to what the player wants to put in the exhibit. Players will head to what is essentially an animal adoption service which constantly changes which animals it has on offer. From here, the player can choose to adopt an animal for a given fee, and then have it shipped to their zoo and put in storage until the enclosure is ready. Don’t leave animals in storage for too long mind you, it is frowned upon. Anyway, players would then do well to check what the animal needs. The animals information will be expanded upon through research, but the basics to keep the animal happy and healthy are all there. What ground type the animal needs, how many plants, trees, bushes and what type, even how much water would be optimal. This all continues with things like whether the animal would be better off by itself or with others, what temperature the enclosure should be at, and if they need privacy. It’s not all about the animals either, as the paying public will need to be taken into account with the likes of education about the animal and hopefully being able to see the animal in the first place.

It is a lot to think about, but there is something magical once the enclosure is complete and the player puts there animal in and watches it go about its business. The animals in Planet Zoo are quite amazing. They all look stunning and are thoroughly entertaining to just sit and watch, zooming in close to get all of that lovely detail.


But the zoo will require more than a few enclosures with animals in. The whole point is that without money the zoo cannot keep going, and so players will have to cater to the needs of the paying public as well. This means keeping them entertained with information about the animals, which can lead to donations, while also giving them places to eat and drink, and places to put all of their rubbish. Which leads nicely onto the staff that will keep the zoo running, including the caretakers to pick up all of that rubbish. Things go further with the very real risk of protestors if the player doesn’t care for their animals properly. Research will lead to further revelations about the animals, and provide new ways to keep them entertained and happy. Conservation is also a consideration and players will be rewarded for releasing animals back into the wild. Then there is the whole breeding situation, which has its own complexities.

While the career mode will drop players into existing zoos and give them specific goals, and the sandbox will simply allow them to create with unlimited funds, there are two more modes that come somewhere in-between. Franchise mode takes the game online and challenges the player to build a network of connected zoos and features an online animal market, allowing players to trade animals. Then there is the offline Challenge mode which gives the player the freedom to create while also having to worry about funds and personal goals. In all, there is a massive amount to content here no matter how the player wants to enjoy the experience.

Planet Zoo is not perfect though. There are little quirks to the game that players will have to overcome, such as the much maligned laying of paths or having to make changes to an entire boundary. These are things that can frustrate, but are forgivable. The same can be said for the games occasional lack of explanation about certain aspects, which I would imagine will leave new players scratching their heads. The biggest barrier to entry comes from the level of complexity though, as so many things have to be considered to get the perfect zoo that some players may simply find it too draining. It really is worth putting the time in to learn the ins and outs of the game, but not everyone will want to spend that time.


But with time and effort, Planet Zoo is a wonderful experience. The management can be stressful, but watching beautiful looking animals behave realistically in an enclosure the player has created for them is just incredible. Players lacking patience will probably be better off going elsewhere, but anyone who wants top build and run a zoo, filled with exotic animals, there is no better place to go than Planet Zoo.




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