Planet Zoo Review

A new installment in the management game library--Planet Zoo comes alongside Planet Coaster and Zoo Tycoon as developers Frontier Developments gives us an ambitious take on the genre. Put in the role of a new hire that's been trusted by the zoo's owner and founder, it's your job to create and maintain prosperous zoos with a heavy hand on conservation work.

Career mode starts with a tutorial handed to us by a curious Welsh accent--Miss Nancy Jones does her best at guiding the overwhelmed hand...and if you've not played a simulation game like this in a minute, chances are you will be overwhelmed. It's not terribly difficult to learn, but there is a lot to remember and many subtleties hiding around every corner. 

Let's talk about building! With the career mode, you'll have a pre-built zoo for the first couple of levels whilst you learn the ropes. Slowly, you'll be made to build habitats for your animals, how to fill said habitats with animals, and how to keep them happy behind the glass. There is also small exhibits--things such as spiders and snakes to take care of in the very same fashion. It's not straightforward and there's many factors to consider when bringing the animals in and getting them settled it, but to me that was the fun of it. I loved reading guest comments about how my hippos looked particularly content, or how my tigers appeared well fed as they sat belly up to the Sun.

Outside of building for the animals, you'll have to build for your staff and for the guests. I really enjoyed some of the themes that Planet Zoo included--some with Asian flair, and some of a new-age look about it. It was fun to define the individual zoos' personalities with these details. Building for staff if important with the amount of facilities you'll need to maintain them (it's almost like they're more work than the animals!). In addition to things like staff rooms, you'll need veterinary surgeries and quarantines that will need to be manned by the proper professionals. These buildings are somewhat passive, yet very, very important to have. To make sure no guests wander in where they shouldn't, there's also designated pathing to make sure only staff feet walk on it--very handy indeed!

Power and water play a big factor in the success and health of your zoo as well. Water purifiers are massively important for the animals that have big pools--clean water keeps them healthy of course, but the extra incentive is to keep it clear so the guests get a good view of the animals, making them happier in turn. 

Careful when you're building a habitat with an animal that is a bit of an escape artist as well--species like monkey and tigers are keen on climbing and potentially destroying their habitat walls (yes, your animals WILL escape if that happened and chaos will ensure!). This is where the subtleties of building become very important; anti-climb tops are a manual add on for the walls, and there's a dire need to have them fitted for the safety of your guests. There's also things like one-way glass so the guests can get a view without constant eyes upon the animal stressing them out. It's all very clever, but will take some time to master if you're anything like me!

Animals will gain injuries and fall ill. I found the latter to be morbidly interesting; you'll have the ability in all areas of your staff to research certain things. Focus on one species and in return you'll be able to upgrade their quality of life--or focus on a disease plaguing a specific population. The more you research, the better off you'll be in any respect. It was neat to learn about certain animals being susceptible to certain things--and yes, this comes with a recommendation not to Google Search if you've got a fragile stomach on the matter.

The challenges will get bigger and bigger and rely more on your previous learned knowledge in Career Mode. However, if you would like to take a break for the hustle and bustle of managing funds with fun, you can choose something more relaxing such as the Sandbox Mode. Without any limitations, you can build without tearing a hole through your wallet--an opportunity I greatly appreciate that was given right off the bat without having to be unlocked. It lends a nice spirit to the game itself, letting you have fun and enjoy yourself without having to earn it though grueling tasks. The incentive to go back and play Career Mode is very much there though--as the scenarios tend to be full of entertainment.

The only real downside to Planet Zoo isn't too much of a dealbreaker in relation to the entertainment, but rather little frustrations here and there that tend to add up in some cases. Strange bugs where keepers won't remove waste or animals getting stuck in curious places will happen from time to time--of course, remedies against these inconsistencies are manually solvable. Controls also hold a deep learning curve with the usage of mouse and keyboard. Building bugs seem to litter their way around, and this to me is the biggest headache out of it all--paths that refuse to connect, or buildings that argue with their chosen placement is not impossible to work around, but you WILL find yourself dealing with it quite a bit.

Planet Zoo comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from me--it's loads of fun and will keep you very busy for a very, very long time. Packed full with content, it's more than worth the Steam asking price of £34.99. Just be aware that if you're looking for a simple management game, Planet Zoo won't be without its own unique learning curve. I can genuinely say the success of your zoo combined with the good-will efforts of conservation and education will no doubt leave you feeling fuzzily rewarded.