Planet Zoo is very much the spiritual successor to Blue Fang Games’ Zoo Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon 2 PC game series of the early 00s. Blue Fang closed down in 2011 following the ending of their contract with Microsoft.
In 2013, Frontier Developments picked up Zoo Tycoon under Microsoft Studios to bring the classic zoo simulation franchise to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. However, the game was very restricted on the platform, which was partially redeemed with the release of Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection.
Since then, Frontier has proven that they do have what it takes to make a fully-fledged zoo simulator, even on consoles, releasing the superb Jurassic World Evolution in 2018, which the developers continue to support to this day. Now, Frontier Developments returns to real-world zoos with Planet Zoo, one of the most highly-anticipated new wildlife games. Released at the price of £34.99 ($44.99) for the base game or £42.99 ($54.99) with the Deluxe add-on.
Fans of Zoo Tycoon have been clamouring for a new and modern zoo management and simulation game, and the Planet Zoo YouTube channel released many gameplay videos leading up to release. As such, there was a lot of hype surrounding the release of this title.
This Planet Zoo review is completely spoiler-free, and despite delving into the pros, cons, and appearance of microtransactions within the game, it only takes up to five minutes to read!
Planet Zoo review in five minutes
The first thing that you’ll notice when you boot-up the game is the stunning graphics. The soundtrack is lively and exciting, and when first opening the game, it sounded like there was a small sample from the Zoo Tycoon 2 original theme, which felt a nice touch.
On the landing page, players get an immediate feel for the scope of the game. There’s a comprehensive set of tutorials under Career, customised or scenario-based Challenge mode gaming, the focal Franchise mode, the unrestricted Sandbox mode, and the panels for the ongoing community events and the latest DLC releases.
After starting up a zoo and getting into the gameplay, it’s difficult not to feel both overwhelmingly impressed and daunted by the scale of the game. Not long after you start playing, though, you’ll find everything to be easily accessible and very useful.
At the time of writing, there are 80 different species in the game, ranging from smaller animals like goliath frogs and Gila monsters for windowed exhibits to giant pandas, Chinese pangolins, pygmy hippopotamuses, Siberian tigers, and Indian rhinoceroses for the regular habitat builds.
The range goes so much deeper than just the animal roster, with the selection of buildings, staff members, walls, fences, terrains, and themes being massive. What came across as a particularly important step forward from the older games is the fluidity with which everything can be placed in the zoo.
Most impressive of all, though, was the attention to detail with the animals – both aesthetically and concerning their individual needs – as well as the focus on conservation. In a modern zoo game, conservation, animal welfare, and species preservation must be a paramount concern. Planet Zoo nails this as a core feature of the gameplay.
There is a lot to learn in the game, from how the system works to the controls, and the Career mode (which is effectively a line of tutorials) does a grand job of teaching the ways of Planet Zoo in an entertaining and easy-to-understand way. But if the controls aren’t to your liking, you can customise many of them from the main menu.
Very few aspects stood out as even remotely poor in Planet Zoo, but if something had to be named, it’d be that fence building doesn’t feel as smooth as it could, and laying path can be a bit tricky when getting started. The new need for electricity stations, the trade centre, and the lack of the mass-delete digger from the Zoo Tycoon games may catch out players coming in from the classic titles, but they don’t hinder Planet Zoo in any way.
People who want an in-depth and potentially challenging zoo simulation game will love Planet Zoo, as will those with a genuine interest in animals and conservation.
Does Planet Zoo have microtransactions or loot boxes?
Planet Zoo doesn’t feature any microtransactions, but it does have a couple of DLC packs to add more stuff to the game. Frontier Developments will undoubtedly continue to support the game in this way, so there should be more paid DLC add-ons down the line.
Planet Zoo is nothing short of excellent
The graphics, gameplay, attention to detail, depth, and customisation options combine to make Planet Zoo quite possibly the best zoo simulation game ever created.
It respects the mechanics that worked so well in classic titles but builds on them a great deal to make Planet Zoo more enjoyable, diverse, and even very educational for modern players.
Planet Zoo review recap
- The most realistic animals in appearance and needs.
- A focus on the need for animal conservation that’s worked in well into the gameplay mechanics.
- Absurd amount of customisation and yet it’s easy to pick-up.
- Some controls and mechanics are a bit tricky to get a hold of.
Planet Zoo does not feature microtransactions but it is supported with paid DLC releases.