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Let’s Build a Zoo (PC) Review

July 9, 2021 | Posted by Genna Boyer
Let's Build A Zoo
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Let’s Build a Zoo (PC) Review  

I love games like Rollercoaster Tycoon where you make all the decisions, but there was one problem with the popular theme park sim for me: I don’t like rollercoasters. Vertigo plus a fear of heights does not a rollercoaster lover make, so I never became emotionally attached to my parks. It’s just not my scene. Then I watched a reveal trailer for a delightful zoo management sim that seemed to possess a similar gameplay formula to Rollercoaster Tycoon, and I knew I had to review it. I’ve spent quite a few birthdays and even a day of my honeymoon at a zoo. This is the emotional attachment I needed to become fully invested in a management sim, so I said, “Alright, let’s build a zoo!”

The premise is in the title and the game dove right in, asking me to name my newly acquired zoo and pick my little chibi zoo manager that reminded me of an early generation Pokemon avatar. A neighboring zoo had an abundance of bunnies (shocker), so they gifted me two of them. As soon as I saw them hopping around in their enclosure, I knew I would take a virtual bullet for them.

The tutorial bits were nice and didn’t bully me into decision making. You can pin tasks to keep track of what needs done, which is incredibly helpful when there’s depth in everything. I always had direction, whether it was task or self-made, in the two in-game weeks I was able to play. Sometimes I really needed that tutorial nudge, like when an animal wellness evaluation popped up and said, “Hey, remember those bunnies you love so much? Maybe build a storeroom so they don’t starve to death.” I didn’t mean to be neglectful. I just got distracted by looking at all the decoration options.

It’s no surprise that animals need a lot of love, and Let’s Build a Zoo has thought of just about every way you could show it. Size and location of their enclosures matter as they’ll prefer being calm while they roam their space. They need water of course, so a water pump has to reach the troughs placed in their enclosures. Animals also want to have fun; there are quite a few enrichment toy options to choose from. Building the storeroom does auto allocate a generic diet to each enclosure, but you can spice up their meals and decipher what percentage of each option they should receive.

Breeding animals can produce different coat colors. Trading with other zoos might depend on how an animal looks; I couldn’t obtain two horses until I had a brown bunny. And if collecting regular animals is too boring, you can dabble in gene splicing. I’m interested in making the elephant hawk that’s depicted on the main menu screen.

For such a cute and lighthearted game, there are morally questionable decisions to be considered in Let’s Build a Zoo. Want an exotic animal right of the bat? Buy one from the black market. Want a zebra but can’t find one? Accept an artist’s offer to paint one of your horses to look like a zebra. I also noticed a building tab with a death icon, but I couldn’t peruse any of it as I hadn’t unlocked them yet.

Let’s Build a Zoo has many qualities that facilitate a soothing experience. First thing I noticed was the music. It’s so important for games to have music that doesn’t make you lose your mind, and the tunes on here are so varied that I caught myself surfacing from gameplay long enough to appreciate another bop. Mixed with the music, the art style is cutesy, colorful, and chill. The best part for me is how buildings can be moved after placement. No stressful one and done building permanence in my zoo. Last thing I really admired was how detailed the managing gets. I honestly felt like a zoo manager from the different ways I could approach the hiring process to how I could unlock decoration packs in an order that appealed to me to which animals I wanted in my zoo next.

Like many zoos, Let’s Build a Zoo has a few buggy inhabitants. But before I describe the bugs I encountered, I want to point out that I played the early beta, not the final product. That said, I only found two in the hour I played. The first one involved my janitor not picking up trash by the entrance of my zoo, even when he was clearly walking over it. I checked his work ethic, and it told me he was good at his job, so I knew he wasn’t just being a trash employee. The second bug was a bit more serious and made me sad. Remember that bunny I traded for the horses? Well, I did that without creating an enclosure first, so when the game asked me where I wanted to place them, I only had the bunny enclosure. I wasn’t able to build a new one, and I couldn’t do anything else but choose the horses’ forever home, so I selected the bunny enclosure, figuring I could rehome the horses. Except the horses never showed up in my arrivals tab, and I realized I traded a bunny for air.

There are some quality-of-life additions that I wouldn’t mind seeing in the finished version. Currently, there are three different time speeds, much like The Sims, but no pause button. A lot of the time, I spent half an in-game day formulating my next design idea. I felt like I was missing out on money because I wasn’t quick enough at figuring out where everything was yet to build efficiently, so a pause button would be helpful to an easily distracted individual like myself. Also, I often miscalculated how spacious an enclosure needed to be for certain animals, so if we were able to edit the enclosure’s size, I would be grateful.

When my two in-game weeks ended, so did the demo, and I had to say goodbye to my furry friends (love you Cupcake), but it’s not forever. I only had a taste of gameplay, but I can tell Let’s Build a Zoo is going to be expansive, and I can’t wait to experience the final product.

The final score: review Good
The 411
An aesthetically zen zoo management sim with a morality system and adorable chibi animals. The only downsides were a few pesky bugs and being unable to play more than an hour.

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Let's Build a Zoo, Genna Boyer