It’s been a long time since I dipped my toes into the management simulation genre. Keeping crowds happy, lights on, and the water running has never really been my cup of tea. However, when I got sent a beta code for this adorable-looking zoo simulator, I decided it was worth a shot. During my short time with the beta, I walked away with mixed impressions.
As the game starts, you are given a bare patch of land with nothing but a management office. The game is presented in an isometric top-down view, and everything is captured in a cute pixel art style. This simplified presentation instantly helped put me at ease. As most simulators have complex, 3D layouts and sprawling areas to manage, the more basic look of Let’s Build a Zoo made the game much less overwhelming.
From the management office, I received my first objective. Which is, unsurprisingly, build a pen and get some animals. While the game doesn’t deliver these first steps through a traditional, hold your hand tutorial, it nevertheless was very intuitive to find the proper boxes to click to start building my first pen.
The player populates their pens in Let’s Build a Zoo from a world map that shows various other zoos worldwide that are currently offering animals for sale or trade. My first animals were some rabbits from an Australian zoo with too many and were happy to help me get my zoo started. During my playtime, I also came to have a goose, horses, a pair of capybaras, and some pigs I rescued. The inclusion of opportunities to rescue animals was a nice touch to me.
Along with providing pens for my animals, there were also expectations to provide food, water, and entertainment. While most of this was fairly obvious to grasp, there were a couple of stumbling blocks whose solutions did not so readily present themselves.
For example, water is provided through troughs that are placed in the animals’ pens. However, there is only so much of your zoo that is initially covered by your water pump. If a trough isn’t in this area, it won’t provide water. I didn’t even realize that the placement for water requirement existed; I just stumbled across the information. And while I assume you can build more water pumps to cover more area as your zoo expands, I never figured out how to do it.
In addition to acquiring animals from other places, Let’s Build a Zoo also gives players the option of gene splicing their own animals. Players can choose two different species to combine to create unique animals for their zoo. I found this to be an interesting angle for the game to take. And I can see it becoming an added incentive to keep playing, even once your zoo has hit its stride. Trying out different combinations of animals to see what comes from them could be entertaining.
Overall, there were only a couple of times where I really struggled with Let’s Build a ZooI’s interface. Things like how to hire a janitor to keep my little park clean were frustratingly unclear. It turns out I just had to click on the front gate of the zoo to find the menu that starts the hiring process. However, I had no way of knowing that.
Aside from some minor issues, I enjoyed my short time with the game. As my animal count grew and the visitor count continued to rise, I had a sense of satisfaction as my zoo came together. While not a perfectly smooth experience, Let’s Build a Zoo delivered a fairly intuitive experience that was much less intimidating than many other simulation games on the market.
Let’s Build a Zoo will be available later this year on PC.