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Planet Zoo Review: Adorably frustrating fun

Planet Zoo Review: Adorably frustrating fun

It's time to become the zookeeper you were always destined to become

To say that this game almost made me call my therapist is nothing short of true. What I envisioned going in was a cosy animal welfare experience, and what I got was chimpanzees breaking out of their habitat every few minutes. Needless to say, I’ve since realised that I should never own or run a zoo in real life. Maybe not even the pixel ones either.

I’ll concede that most of the problems I faced were of my own making, born from my poor time management and multitasking skills. Looking back on my decision to review this game, I now see how foolhardy I was assuming that, somehow, despite everything I already know about myself, I was mentally equipped to deal with life as a zookeeper.

Have you got what it takes to become a Planet Zoo: Console Edition zookeeper?

Planet Zoo: Console Edition certainly delivers a memorable experience, even without continuously dropping the ball like I did. Having proved a huge success on PC, being able to finally embark on your journey into the world of animal conservation via your consoles is welcomed.

Whenever a game comes from PC to consoles, there’s always cries of concern over performance; will it hold up? I’m happy to report that my zoos never suffered because of performance issues, at least not relating to the console – ones relating to my incompetence were many.

Partnered with its smooth gameplay is its aesthetically pleasing looks. It’s not quite photorealistic, especially when you look at the human NPCs, but the animals all look incredible. Seeing as how the game is all about the animals, them being the most realistic looking aspect is all I truly care about. The only gripe I have with the graphics is to do with customisation options; the character creation is severely lacking.

Frontiers Development Plc

My female zookeeper could have either the classic Karen haircut or dreads, both of which aren’t the hairstyle for me (I’ve even tried a Karen-esque one back in my youth. Oh, the shame). Sadly, that’s what you’re left with: two wildly opposing and not at all inclusive hairstyles. Luckily, there's a hats section that has a giraffe hat that I instantly knew was meant for my character, but if that – or the badger one – hadn’t been there, I’d have been extremely miffed. Even if you’re not one for heavily customising your character, I think you’ll agree that two options hardly allows for much personalisation.

Setting aside that grievance for now, let’s discuss being introduced to the numerous controls and options you have for each zoo. There are so many controls to remember, to the point it does feel overwhelming; without the pause time function, I’d have quit in the first few minutes. It’s not that the tutorials aren’t thorough, or that they don’t steadily guide you through, it’s just that the further you progress, the more is added to your plate.

The moment I had to deal with monkeys, my life became hellish. It was fine while Nancy helped me out, but once she decided I was ready to go it alone, chimpanzees had customers running for the exit. And despite constantly pausing time, the sheer panic I felt when this kept happening, only added to the stress of trying to remember all the buttons to ensure someone recaptured the escapees.

Again, I must stress that this is very much a skill issue – my brain isn’t programmed to problem solve efficiently, or with any form of logic neurotypical folks are blessed with. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair for me to say that the controls could be streamlined and made more accessible. Having to hold down two or more buttons at once to go from one menu to another is too fiddly for me, especially when it makes up the basis for several of the commands.

Frontiers Development Plc

Yet, I felt compelled to keep going. As frustrated as I was – oh boy, was I stroppy – I didn’t want to leave my zoo in disarray. Not just because I already cared for these pixelated animals in an unhinged way, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could succeed despite my playthrough resembling the “this is fine” meme.

Even now, I know I’ll return to the game and sink more hours into seeing my efforts crash and burn, all because I can enter camera mode and watch a lemur do something ridiculously cute while I was coo at the screen. For those animals, it’s worth the sacrifice of my sanity.

My advice before I leave you to mull over whether you’ve got enough moxie for this job, is to pause time as often as you need to. Just make sure you unpause it to fulfil some of the actions you’ve requested, e.g. returning an animal to its habitat. From there, just pray to the conservation gods that you have the fortitude to see this through.

Pros: Animals – lots of animals, in-depth gameplay, and attractive visuals

Cons: Overwhelming number of options and controls, as well as lacklustre character customisation

For Fans Of: Zoo Tycoon, Planet Coaster, most simulator games

7/10: Very Good

Planet Zoo: Console Edition is available on PlayStation and Xbox (version tested). A review code was provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Frontiers Development Plc

Topics: PlayStation, PlayStation 5, Xbox, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PC