It's a zoo out there. We all need a break from the human kingdom from time to time, and Planet Zoo is the perfect answer. Thankfully, no animals were hurt in the making of this review.
Planet Zoo is the spiritual successor to a long line of simulation games on the PC by Frontier Developments, who have traditionally made rollercoaster simulators but turned their attention to animal parks for this release. It’s a good thing they did, because Planet Zoo is the best of its species since Zoo Tycoon, and the ideal way to spend a few hours away from the rat race.
On the surface, Planet Zoo does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to build and foster animal habitats that are designed to be visited by the public. But there’s a lot more to the game than just putting up walls and placing animals in fields — you will soon be lost in a world of funding, education, guest satisfaction and animal breeding.
For a start, creating the ideal habitat for any given animal means going into impressive detail, by ‘painting’ the right colours to make the creatures happy, and even changing the elevation of the ground to correct levels. Planet Zoo is the kind of game where such details make a difference to success.
The requirements of your animals don’t end there, however. If you thought raising a pug was hard, wait until you get a load of bonobos. Factors like the presence of water, temperature, foliage type and even the size of animal groups can make a difference to happiness and therefore breeding, impacting the long-term future of your zoo.
One unexpectedly important aspect of Planet Zoo is how you educate your visitors. The zoo depends on donations to thrive, meaning you need to erect televisions, conservations boards and have employees give talks on animals to encourage visitors to donate.
Ultimately, though, people will be playing Planet Zoo for the animals and the game really gets it right here. There are 73 species in the game, most of which you will acquire through the animal marketplace.
The marketplace is randomly generated, meaning you’re not guaranteed the kind of animal you want, with the kind of qualities you need.
For example, you might find a lioness with a great fertility rating, but not have the appropriate male to encourage breeding, so you’ll need to keep playing until the right match comes up, or trade with people in the online mode.
Players are also rewarded for releasing endangered species back into the wild, which is a lovely touch. The animals all act and sound in a lifelike manner, and your sense of pride as the zoo grows is worth the admission alone. Trust your animal instinct and give Planet Zoo a visit.
Meanwhile, exhibits of a different kind will be on display this weekend at the Insomnia gaming festival in Dublin. Ireland’s latest attempt at a gaming festival has some weight behind it, as Insomnia has been running for 20 years in the UK. The event is running at the RDS on Saturday and Sunday.
Visitors can expect to see all the usual attractions this weekend, from a retro gaming section, to influencers (Pyrocynical and Call Me Kevin are listed), cosplay and Fortnite and Rocket League tournaments. Other games listed for tournaments include Fifa 20, Overwatch and Super Smash Bros.
In addition, there will be HTC Vive virtual reality units available for use, exhibits from Trust Gaming, who manufacture gaming kits, and involvement from the Jigsaw charity, which deals in mental health support for young people.
With all this happening, it certainly sounds like Insomnia won’t put you to sleep. You can find tickets at www.insomniagamingdublin.ie.
Finally, don’t sleep on Death Stranding, the long-awaited new release from Hideo Kojima. It finally comes out this week and is expected to divide gamers with its emphasis on long-distance travel and overcoming harsh terrain. Despite that, Death Stranding also bears all the trademarks of a Kojima game, with an exceptional story, thematic links to gameplay, and production values through the roof. You can take the journey on November 8.