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Video Game Review: Planet Zoo

Relive the Zoo Tycoon 2 days with this new reimagination of the tycoon genre

Let’s play the game of “why I haven’t been outside the house in two weeks.” If you guess “because she was playing a zoo simulation game that she waited almost two years to play,” you would be correct.

I’m just going to put this out there: Zoo Tycoon 2 is the best video game of all time and, if you disagree, your opinion just as valid as mine. That being said, I have been unable to play my copy of Zoo Tycoon 2 for a few years now, since newer operating systems have changed and have taken away my ability to play such treasures. My dream of being a zookeeper became a reality when Planet Zoo, which described itself as a “spiritual successor” to the Zoo Tycoon franchise, was released on April 24. As a result, yours truly hopped onto the computer, downloaded the game, and awaited the sweet sensation of being a zoo architect.

The game was almost everything I had hoped for. Different visitor shops, donation boxes, the ability to alter terrain, and the fact that you could make mixed-species exhibits; all of this was enough to make me more than happy. Now, the game isn’t a complete copy of Zoo Tycoon 2; certain aspects of the game were improved in Planet Zoo, but other aspects still need work.

Frontier Developments

Planet Zoo solves the main problem I had with Zoo Tycoon: its AI. In Zoo Tycoon, you had to fill the exhibit with 30 different zookeepers if you wanted the animals fed.  I almost never opened my zoo up to visitors because the animals always felt hungry, thirsty, tired, or a variety of other negative emotions that they refused to fix with the amenities literally 3 feet away from them. In Planet Zoo, however, zookeepers fill up food dishes themselves and visitors can comprehend the idea of services outside of their immediate view — although there are problems with the zookeepers, it’s overall better than it was in the original game.

Even the animal AI is better, as they respond to factually accurate animal rankings and, if that requirement is not met, they will begin fighting either because it’s overcrowded or because there is more than one male in the exhibit vying for alpha status. The game also addresses the question of inbreeding and, while it doesn’t stop it completely, it does punish the player if it is allowed to happen by producing genetically inferior animals.

My biggest issue with the game is the way paths work. I have no idea why this happened, but the pathing tool in the game is horrendous and I had to resort to watching Youtube tutorials to understand it. The second biggest issue I have with the game, and an issue I expect will be solved with the introduction of additional downloadable content is that there is a lack of animals. There are lions, tigers, bears, and a variety of other standard animals, but it is missing some staples such as penguins and meerkats. DLC for the game is expected, but I still want penguins now.

If you like simulation and building games, then this is the game for you. However, if that isn’t your type of genre,  Planet Zoo has nothing radical that will change your mind. 

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