Out of all the simulator games I’ve played where you have to maintain an establishment, this one came packed with the most responsibility. Why? Because now you’re in charge of actual cute and cuddly animals, some even endangered. As someone who loves every little thing about critters, I found myself tense throughout most of this playthrough.
That’s also because this game is pretty punishing for anybody who lifts their eyes off the prize for even a second. It did do a great job of creating suspense and being engaging, however. Once you really get into it, it’s hard to tell when the time flies by.
Planet Zoo also changes the mold in regards to the main objective of the game. Over here it isn’t profits as much as it is taking care of the animals. It’s more conservation if anything so it’s actually a cute little innocent game as long as you play your cards right.
It does get a little dark if you don’t manage to, however. Animals can suffer from starvation, dehydration, fighting over dominance and other causes if you’re not careful enough.
The game modes differ as Career, Franchise, Sandbox and Challenge. The two ones to tussle with are career and Sandbox as Career is the main game itself while Sandbox is sort of like the creative mode.
One where you can focus just on making the most visually appealing park to show off to your friends. Career is more like the survival mode where you’re like a struggling parent keeping all your babies from dying while running a business.
I mean it in quite the literal sense. The amount of problems you have to deal with actually kind of surprised me. The developers really came up with putting an issue that could arise from every little nook and cranny in the game. I remember a Zoo cleaner getting frustrated because I didn’t put the appropriate directions for him to find his way around the Zoo.
Without the cleaner, I had dung piling up in a lot of the habitats which then led to the spawn of several horrid diseases that befell my beautiful critters. The domino effect this game manages to pull off is really one to behold.
The fact that you’re now managing actual animal lives is a major reason I give this game edge over most sim games like managing a theme park for example. In this one, you have animals that you’ve taken out of the wild and are now fully responsible for. There were times where I was walking a thin line between wanting to cuddle them up vs wanting to throw them out. Some of them breed pretty uncontrollably, watch out for the spiders especially.
Those bastards reproduced, after which their offsprings mated and further reproduced. I remember panicking with a Bass Boosted Sweet Home Alabama buzzing around loudly in my head. Still, as easy as it is to create and cause problems in Planet Zoo, you can just as easily take care of them with the right allocation of resources.
Frontier Developments Plc really made sure to emphasize that point well, about conserving and using your resources right. You can purchase and apply pre-built structures or you can go full Minecraft and manually allocate every piece into a custom structure. Sometimes you actually need to do something very specific just to solve a problem. For example, creating a more reinforced barrier between two habitats where the animals are causing problems for each other essentially.
Is the monkey climbing its wall to harass the bears? Just add a closed off ceiling to the bars between the two exhibits. I’d suggest starting small with your Zoo and growing at a one-at-a time basis.
Making absolutely sure there aren’t any flaws in your current habitats before even thinking of adding another one. The worst thing you can do in this game is cause your problems to stack because they will stack like a pain in the ass. They proceed to reach a point of no return after which you’re just fucked.
Another thing I really liked about Planet Zoo is the occasional bit of detective work you have to do. While the game does tell you what a problem usually is, it doesn’t tell you what exactly is the cause. The game will notify you about animals getting sick or being at risk of diseases.
However, it won’t tell you exactly what’s causing it. Could it be the feces that continue to grow in their habitats? Could it be the water running through the exhibit not being purified well enough? A multitude of reasons can be causing the issue and if you can’t deduce it straight away, the process of elimination begins.
One thing I was prone to forgetting pretty often was the fact that as a Zoo, we have customers as well. That added another layer of gameplay which was in keeping the customers satisfied. Making sure the appropriate snacks were available at the right time as well as following the safety procedures.
Wouldn’t want another Harambe situation now would we? There’s also the threat of vandilization. Whether it be with people fucking with the benches or even irritating the animals. You know how it is, humans can be assholes.
I also loved the simulation of animals themselves, something Planet Zoo did really well. From the looks of them to the animations to even the actual behavior. The way irritation to some animals could be a mild annoyance while to others it can induce a full blown panic attack at times.
These little details do a great job of really immersing the player into the experience of running a Zoo. And there’s nothing more satisfying than to see your animals being all happy and shit in their little enclosures. My favorite part of my end game experience was to release my happy critters into the wild after I was satisfied with my experience. It ended up being a little vacation for them after all.
Planet Zoo is available on PC now, you can get your hands on the game from the official website.