Experience/Opinions – Not quite a review. Not quite a preview. When you jump into a beta and experience something else.
You’ve watched Tiger King and thought to yourself, “that doesn’t look too hard” then you finished a documentary series on a Zoo and reality sets in, suddenly the idea of keeping animals more complex and wild than a Jack Russell Terrier seems like a lot of work. Time to fire up the PC, click in Steam and see what’s new in strategy games. With the beta for Let’s Build a Zoo showing the first few hours of gameplay it’s the perfect time to make a big pen and fill it with wildlife. Who doesn’t enjoy creating a fantasy Zoo? Building a park for people to enjoy, scratching that management game itch whilst collecting animals that nobody would normally try to contain and get into the fantasy menagerie business. Let’s build a Zoo!
Let’s Build a Zoo doesn’t just look like the classic PC title Theme Park, it plays like it to. The fixed camera angle and incredibly pleasing sprites all work together to keep everything both easy on the eyes and manageable. Creating the enclosures, placing objects, buildings and decorations is simple enough. Clicking the build menu gives you a list of available icons and it’s a simple click to pop stuff down where it’s needed. The only downside of the fixed perspective is when slightly taller buildings take up more space than you first think but it’s easy to shift and move them around after building them.
Let’s Build a Zoo is full of buildings and cosmetics to unlock once you have the research building but it’s a mystery on your first play what unlocks what as it shows a grid and you can only see next to the items already unlocked. People can move over any terrain without an item or building which makes building paths largely just cosmetic and creates an option for a completely dirt zoo. This does also mean you can paint the floor with metal or bricks and makes the land for your zoo a large canvas. It’s easy to undo any mistakes and it becomes enjoyable to paint areas with planks.
You’ll be hiring staff, assigning the cleaners to created zones to cover specific areas and keep the entrance spotless, making sure zookeepers are feeding animals correctly, researching new items and keeping an eye on the maintenance staff so they keep the gates working. Let’s Build a Zoo in its current state is a fantastic strategy game where you balance all of these things while keeping the finances afloat.
This all sounds like your basic zoo management experience so far but what sets Let’s Build a Zoo apart is the combining of animals. You’ll still need to breed existing ones together to find all the variants but once you have enough DNA you’ll be mixing them together in the CRISPR facility and creating all sorts of wild animal hybrids. It doesn’t require a lot of tinkering to start the process and after a few easy clicks you’ll be incubating some weirdly wonderful results.
Snabbit and Rabbopotamus aside, to keep your Zoo populated you’ll be breeding your existing animals, buying them from the rescue centre and trading with other Zoos to expand your menagerie. Let’s Build a Zoo has a nice flow of progression to it where you’ll be working through your tasks from various people to get more money and trading up through animals to have more exotic species.
There’s also a morality system in place where you can buy illegal animals and you’ll be given morally questionable choices which in the full game appear to have big benefits and consequences. Let’s Build a Zoo could do with a few tasks having more direction (I know I had to google how to buy illegal animals – which was a wild ride) but for the most part a lot is self explanatory.
From its lo-fi beats to the really enjoyable design, Let’s Build a Zoo is shaping up to be a cracking beast of a game. There’s something very calming and enjoyable to the setup and it has been the first preview game I’ve played in ages where when the time limit was reached and I jumped straight back in again to try something different. There is a fantastic level of detail and it extends to all aspects of the simulation, you can check out what each visitor is thinking and how each animal is doing.
The opening hours of the Let’s Build a Zoo beta had this really enjoyable Harvest Moon / Animal Crossing feel to it where you can just sip a mug of tea and watch the world go by, dipping in from time to time to make the utopia that little bit better. The preview for Let’s Build a Zoo was absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend you check out the full game for the opening hours alone.