REVIEW: ‘Parkasaurus’ is a Treat for New Sim Players and Veterans Alike (PC)

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Parkasaurus

Themepark and zoo simulators are just plain fun. To make a good one, the developers need to balance the joy of building the park and its features while challenging you enough with the management aspects to keep you from losing your focus on the game itself. WashBear Studios maintains this balance well with its highly stylized dinosaur park management simulator Parkasaurus. With bright colors, hats for your dinos, finding new fossils to diversify the range of your exhibits, and the challenges of building and maintaining a lucrative park, this game is adorable, creative, and slightly difficult.

Parkasaurus challenges the player to plan, design, and construct exhibits that maximize both their dinos’ happiness and the park guests’ willingness to spend money. Players have the option to play the campaign or in a sandbox mode. The campaign drops you into an abandoned park that has definitely seen better days and asks you to discover new technologies and attractions in order to bring it back to its dino glory. Now, I’ve been playing management sims for a while and when it comes to zoos and dinosaurs the goal is usually hyperrealism. While that has its place, Parkasaurus’s beautiful modernized 3D flat design graphics and vibrant color palette makes it stand out. But while Parkasaurus’s aesthetic leads with the cute factor, the game’s mechanics are more than challenging enough.

The currencies in the game are science, hearts, and good old fashion dollars. The first two are used to unlock aesthetics, elements to build your park attractions via a skill tree that increases in price, and can be exchanged to unlock new dinosaurs. And to put it simply, money buys new additions to the park that you unlock through the other currencies. It also pays for the salary of your park employees (which you handpick individually from resumes), maintenance, and of course, the daily supplies you need, more specifically, food for your dinosaurs. Balancing how you spend these three elements is the key to expanding your park and advancing your exhibits. The currency system in Parkasaurus does a good job of not relying too heavily on just one of them. Instead, being able to balance all three until you hit endgame-level generation of them is critical. Unlocking that dinosaur egg will mean that you can’t unlock the next tier on the tree and can keep you from getting more money-generating items to help your park grow.

Beyond currency management, the exhibits themselves, while easy to maintain, take time to develop. Each dinosaur requires a unique environment. To shape the exhibit, you have to make it the right size, use the right materials, and take into account ecology. Using a simple graph, each exhibit has stats that determine what it is classified as. This graph is decided by which of the three environment tiles you place in the exhibit: grass, desert, or mud. From then on, you must use the terrain tool to move the point on the graph up, down, and to the right. On the Y-axis, you have elevation (or roughness) and on the X-axis, you have wetness.

As you terraform, you can create just the right biome for your dino. When using the grass, adding more water elements with no elevation, you can create a rain forest. With the desert, you can change it to prairie by adding more elevation and more water, and so on and so forth for the mud titles which change into tundra and alpine. Once the biome is created, you have to provide the ideal living space for your dinosaurs by adding the perfect ratio of trees, bushes, and rocks.

While there is a lot to manage in the creation elements, Parkasaurus doesn’t throw you in blind and force trial and error. Instead, the plants and rocks are color-coded in the menu for the biomes that they fit. This adds a certain ease to the creative process that is much appreciated given the difficulty of using the terrain tools. While the tools themselves are fairly standard, they come with ample instruction and their mechanics can feel repetitive, even when choosing a seemingly different tool. That said, while these tools are hard to use, that frustrating difficulty is negligible especially given the color-coded system for adding other environmental elements to the exhibit. Each bush, tree, and rock is color-coded to match their respective biomes, making it easy to satisfy the exhibit requirements.

Parkasaurus

When it comes to keeping the dinos in your exhibits happy you have to monitor population size, exhibit size, enrichment through toys, their health, and their hunger levels. While each of these is fairly simple, there is one aspect of the exhibits that is difficult: finding the perfect level of privacy. Like animal mechanics in other games, the dinosaurs you add to your park will become overwhelmed if they have too much exposure to humans. On the other hand, your guests aren’t happy if they don’t have areas to view the dinosaurs. Learning how to alternate fence types between high privacy and low privacy is key. While this poses an issue when designing the layouts of the exhibits, it’s quickly solved by utilizing privacy tiles which is done by adding squares of grass to your exhibit to allow the dinos to hide when they feel overwhelmed.

On the other end of park management, at the end of each park day you’re given a summary of your earnings, expenditures, and reviews from your guests. By reading these reviews and observing your guests, you can fine-tune your park’s flow and arrangement to maximize happiness and even get them to spend more cash. This works from where you build rest stops to what food trucks and restaurants you put next to each other. For example, some foods will make people walk faster and others will cause your guests to want more of another product. Selling giant roasted peanut? Well, the guests who buy them will be driven to want sodas from that stall. In addition to each stall holding their own money-making elements, there is also a nice reference to Arrested Development. By unlocking the “Mister Manager” section of the science tree you open up a banana stand, you know, the one there is always money in, and you can even adjust the price and the profit to fit with the theme.

This is only the tip of the management iceberg and while there are some small execution bugs, the amount of customization for the park, the detailing in the management systems, and don’t even get me started on the hats your staff and dinos can wear to increase their skills, appeal, or change their sex or even the exhibit’s biome itself. The intricacy of Parkasaurus’s many management systems can’t be understated and it may be something you don’t come in expecting given the adorable dino art. This is no better shown than in the way the staffing system works.

In order to keep your park running, you need to hire veterinarians, security, janitors, and scientists. To do so, you flip through resumes that feature an adorable headshot (while they all have the same avatar while in the park) and their stats and levels. Each employee levels up overtime by just performing their duties which generates skill points. You can choose to have their points auto-assigned or manually add them to different skills. On the other hand, you can also choose to fire them if they aren’t up to snuff.

Finally, while it may seem like a small note to some, the dinosaur animations in Parkasaurus are one of the larger elements that kept me engaged while I played. While currency management is difficult in the beginning, by around the 12-hour mark you end up making so much of each currency that it’s easy to play on fast-forward and wait for the next unlocked tiers. That said, instead of checking out, watching my dinosaurs play with each other and their toys kept me wanting to make larger exhibits. While other management sims excel in realism, the cartoonish nature of the dinos in Parkasaurus seems to help facilitate their constantly active state in their exhibits. Each dino continuously interacts with its surroundings, especially the toys. This is a fun element that pushes the game’s aesthetic but also makes it extremely endearing.

Overall, Parkasaurus is a wonderful management simulator. There are intricacies to the management system that will delight hardcore sim players. That said, simplified building mechanics, specifically the grid feature and color-coding biome environment elements help to break down some of the more daunting characteristics of the game-type for newcomers. Plus, who doesn’t want an exhibit of T-Rexes in witch’s hats?

Parkasaurus is out now on PC via Steam.

Parkasaurus
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Overall, Parkasaurus is a wonderful management simulator. There are intricacies to the management system that will delight hardcore sim players. That said, simplified building mechanics, specifically the grid feature and color-coding biome environment elements help to break down some of the more daunting characteristics of the game-type for newcomers. Plus, who doesn’t want an exhibit of T-Rexes in witch’s hats?