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Planet Zoo Review (Xbox Series X|S & PlayStation 5)



Planet Zoo Promotional Art

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was fumbling for pocket change just to keep my velociraptors from chewing through the electric fences of their enclosure for the millionth time in Jurassic World Evolution. From that, I was able to learn one important thing: I was terrible—and I mean terrible, at running a theme park from atop an ivory tower of infinite power and wisdom. To cut a long story short, guests died, and that little bastion of pride that I once had quickly dissolved into an open-ended bloodbath of razor teeth and fossils, barbed wire, and tranquilizer darts. As luck had it, though, I had another project to attend to—an endeavor that wouldn’t involve parkgoers losing their own flesh and blood — or even their heads, for that matter. Miraculously, it was Planet Zoo—a sandbox game in which, to my knowledge, nobody could die.

For the record, I have slugged through my fair share of tycoon-centric endeavors in Planet Coasterand so, Frontier Developments’ core features do indeed come across as a little, shall we say, recognizable here. But that isn’t an issue, though; if anything, having prior experience in the sandbox series has given me the confidence to hit the ground running, so to speak. With that said, there is another pressing matter that I’m not entirely sure about, and that is how to actually cater to animals of all shapes and sizes. In my mind, though, having to deal with a few ravenous lions is a whole lot easier than having to prevent a pack of dinosaurs from severing the heads from customers’ shoulders. I’m not exactly correct, but that hasn’t stopped me from cutting the red ribbon and onboarding a new curriculum.

Welcome to the Pride

Lion and a cub surveying landscape (Planet Zoo)

Frontier Developments’ Planet Zoo isn’t all that different from its predecessor, Planet Coaster. The only major difference here, of course, is that you’re aiming to build and embellish a wildlife conservation resort, and not, for example, a paradise for fledgling thrill seekers and coaster aficionados. With that comes a thread of new challenges—tasks that require budding tycoons to not only lay the foundations for an economically sustainable habitat, but to create a money-making beacon of limitless innovation that has the power to transform small happenings into full-fledged projects and revolutionary solutions. In other words, the goals stretch a little further than simply feeding a few goats and bolting on a burger joint to a nexus of pathways. Sounds easy enough, right? Eh.

Planet Zoo comes loaded with its traditional campaign mode, as well as a signature sandbox mode, with the latter option being a little more forgiving than the other. Naturally, the ultimate goal of the career mode is to transform the remnants of an emotionally bankrupt and barebones terrain into a whimsical world of adventure and fantasy. Similar to Planet Coaster, you have a set amount of funds to work with, and an entire web of facilities, slideshows, enclosures, and local amenities to develop and evolve. The one major drawback to all of this, of course, is that your visions can only travel as far as your pockets are willing to go, and therefore, in order to successfully achieve your dreams, you need to devise a foolproof strategy on how to spend your cash, and how to prioritize your animals and guests’ needs and wants. Again, not an easy task.

A Touch of Character

Panda in natural habitat (Planet Zoo)

Like a lot of sandbox games that offer a wide array of customizable features and sliders, Planet Zoo comes fully equipped with an enormous amount of options to choose from. From its natural decor to its colors, textures, and themes, each resort delivers a substantial amount of content to personalize, allowing players to emerge from the linearity of a bog-standard business simulation experience and embrace a model that’s entirely fresh and free from any real constraints. This is, in all honesty, the best part about Planet Zoo: its mouthwatering quantity of features—nodes that have the potential to permit you to create without limits, and to make several returns and never stumble across the same issues or financial curveballs.

There is, on the other hand, an issue with the sheer volume of content: the fact that, despite it being openly available in the sandbox mode, a lot of it isn’t really discoverable in the campaign. It isn’t discoverable, simply down to the fact that a lot of the best features are hidden behind a paywall of some sort. And when I say that, I mean, you have to pour a dozen or so hours into fleshing out your park and locating all of the necessary currencies and resources in order to actually unlock them. This isn’t too much of a headache, though, as the game always finds new ways to keep you moving forward, whether it’s through small business milestones, or subtle improvements to the economy via the upgrade menu. The bottom line here is, there’s a lot to do — so much, that you won’t ever be idle.

A Habitat for the Wild

Terra-forming tool (Planet Zoo)

As far as animals go, Planet Zoo does indeed provide a good amount of species to choose from. First and foremost, it allows you to adopt wildcats, amphibians, and an enormous array of semi-aquatic species, to list just a few of its 180 pre-loaded animals. There’s also an entire menu dedicated to creatures like wandering spiders, snakes, and scorpions, further reinforcing the fact that, as far as readily accessible animals go, there are almost too many to choose from. There are so many, in fact, that it’s downright impossible to allocate a single plot of land to cover every species in the book. I wasn’t complaining about this, though, as it gave me another hundred reasons to come back and trial new ideas and themes for future conservation projects.

I’ll be honest, the most fun I had in Planet Zoo was with the sandbox mode, as it allowed me to alleviate the stress of having to balance my budget and tend to staff’s financial needs, and instead focus on my personal goals, like building an entire allotment dedicated to frogs, for example. What’s more, as I didn’t have to concern myself with the overall happiness of my guests, I could spend more time embellishing the habitat, and finding new ways to build new bridges rather than burn them to make room for others. With that in mind, I was able to pour a good fifteen hours into evolving a dream from the grassy roots up, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy every second of it.

A Jack of All Trades

Rangers surveying areas (Planet Zoo)

With all of that said, I did encounter a slew of curveballs during my ascension to the throne, such as enclosure temperatures often being, well, temperamental, or plant life-threatening to eradicate a certain species in an otherwise healthy environment, and so on and so forth. Needless to say, a set amount of ironing over the creases and brushing up on lengthy tutorials provided me with the tools needed to make swift work of my failures. It wasn’t an easy road, for sure, but an entertaining one, nonetheless.


Branching pathways in park area (Planet Zoo)

There’s a great deal to learn from Frontier Developments’ Planet Zoo, as well as how it elevates the basic sandbox-building blueprint to vast new heights. Honestly, there’s a lot to wrap your head around, and thrice as many tutorials, stepping stones, and reruns to plod through in order to make the most out of its assets. However, if you’re able to pay close attention to the world around you and make gradual progress as the habitat naturally evolves, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy just about everything that Planet Zoo has to offer in its ever-growing casket of wonders.

If you’re looking at throwing yourself into the depths of the Console Edition, then you ought to know a few things — the limit on what you can build, for example. As you can only create so much in one world, it does mean that you’ll have to spread out your ideas across several locations, and not, in an ideal world, the one plot of land. This isn’t great, but at the same time, it does give you an incentive to return and try your hand at another story. And speaking of stories, Planet Zoo is absolutely bursting at the seams with them—to the point that it’s practically impossible to recreate the same one twice.

To cut to the chase, if you are looking for something that’ll allow you to flex your creative skills, and not to mention a vessel that bears an exclusive range of animals, enclosures, and customizable assets, then you honestly needn’t look any further than Frontier Developments’ Planet Zoo. If, however, you’d rather something a little less challenging, then consider planting roots in Zoo Tycoon or, failing that, Let’s Build a Zoo.

Planet Zoo Review (Xbox Series X|S & PlayStation 5)

Roar-some Roots

Planet Zoo simply reinforces the fact that Frontier Developments, as a studio, is clearly capable of executing a well-oiled sandbox simulation experience. It’s a little difficult to figure out, true, but where it suffers from an insane amount of detail and complexity, it makes up for in just about every other way imaginable.

Jord is acting Team Leader at If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.