A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Planet Zoo is a downloadable zoo simulation for Windows PCs that simulates what it’s like building and running a zoo. You must take care of the animals, keep humans happy (visitors and employees) and be profitable with your tourist attraction. If the wrong animals are placed together (like a predator and prey) it will likely lead to a violent altercation and death. Some blood can be seen, but it's mostly for feeding purposes. Animals may defecate on the ground, and there's some crude humor in the dialogue. There's also some downloadable content (or DLC) to expand the gameplay with new animals.
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What's it about?
From Frontier Developments, the team behind Planet Coaster and Zoo Tycoon, comes a brand-new simulation: PLANET ZOO. Here, you’re challenged with building a successful zoo, featuring a vast assortment of animals, each with artificial intelligence tied to its motivations and actions. You’ll create unique habitats to house these animals, make decisions on what goes where (like choosing the right climate, vegetation and enclosure), research and manage the animal’s needs, and expand your zoo with new areas and attractions. A Career mode has you going around the world to collect new species and complete various missions, including building exhibits for your attendees and breeding new animals (to perhaps release them back into the wild). The Sandbox mode is a little more open-ended and focuses primarily on the animals rather than the business side of things. There’s also an online Franchise mode, too, that has you buy and sell animals from other players (but without a multiplayer option, though). A “Zoopedia” is your in-game encyclopedia, chock-full of useful animal facts and stats. Because no two games will play out the exact same, the game should provide a different experience for each player (even for those who want to play it again), and your management choices will each have consequences, as you might expect.
Is it any good?
This is a unique game that can be deeply rewarding, but you need to be a little patient with it because of slow progression and a confusing interface at times. Planet Zoo is as beautiful as it is deep, and the rendered animals are a marvel to look at. Not only are the graphics impressive, but the animals’ behavior is fun to watch. It’s great to expand your zoo, building new enclosures and attractions. The main mode has tutorials to help you along, so it’s where you should start to learn the ropes. You’ll refer to your Zoopedia to make sure you’re putting the animals in the most ideal environment, with a proper male to female ratio for the species, with the correct temperature, and right terrain and plants (and other animals perhaps). You’ll research what to feed or water them, how often, and so on. You get the idea. Get it wrong and your creatures will die or protesters may picket about the inhumane conditions at your zoo!
It can be a pain looking up all this information as there could be many screens and sub-menus. Perhaps the developers could've offered voice support to ask questions, or the option to type in something specific for a quick answer. You also can’t look up animals until they’re in your zoo already, which seems odd. Another issue is constructing buildings, which sometimes didn’t work, and it wasn’t clear why, although a recent patch seems to have fixed this issue. Other small problems were tied to A.I. pathfinding – sometimes employees didn’t know where to go unless you helped them out or animals were stuck somewhere, but the game mostly gets it right. Overall, Planet Zoo is a super deep and enjoyable simulation for animal lovers and management sim enthusiasts alike.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Planet Zoo affected by the blood and gore shown when players introduce animals into habitats? Does the blood and gore matter if you avoid getting animals killed? Would the game be engaging if there wasn't the possibility that animals could be killed?
Does the complexity of managing the zoo make it too hard for some players? Would it be more enjoyable if the game was easier?
- Platforms: Windows
- Price: $44.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Frontier Developments
- Release date: November 17, 2019
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Bugs, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Horses and Farm Animals, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Blood, Violence, Crude Humor
- Last updated: December 20, 2019
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