We’ve all wandered into a zoo and wondered how hard it would be to run one. After all, you just need to put the animals in one place and prevent them from escaping, right? However, if there are a plethora of zoo management simulators on the market that is anything to go by, there are plenty of them. While many of the games in this ever-growing niche offer players the opportunity to dive into the nitty-gritty of zoo ownership, Let’s build a zoo It keeps things on the more cartoonish and fun side while providing a decent challenge.
After launching on Steam in 2021, Let’s Build a Zoo finally gets a Switch port, giving fans the chance to take their budding appeal on the go. The game is pretty much the same as the PC version, with the same pixelated graphics and increasingly challenging balancing act that all management simulation games have always become. Players start the game with an investor who expects to get their money back at the end but it also gives them a lot of freedom to decide how to go about it.
The animals at your disposal begin to be tamed, with rabbits, geese and the occasional python being potential inhabitants in the early days and weeks of the game. In the end, you’ll be able to trade off other zoos for more exciting animals like giraffes and pandas, but the game adds an offbeat twist early on after players unlock the CRISPR Splicer.
Have you ever wanted to know what could be called an unholy mixture of an owl and a capybara? The answer is owlybara (of course) and Let’s Build a Zoo is your chance to play God and bring this and other atrocities into the world for fun and profit. All sixty basic animals in Let’s Build a Zoo contain ten different types of colors to unlock through breeding. When you take into account the game’s DNA braiding mechanic, there are over 300,000 animals to include in your zoo.
Let’s Build a Zoo takes a well-established approach to not interfering with your in-game zoo’s working hours. There are missions to complete that can help introduce players to the mechanics, but they’re also free to get out of the script and totally experiment. Occasionally, moral dilemmas will arise and ask the player to do something either maniacally cute or cartoonishly evil, and earn or lose moral points depending on which option you choose.
These choices are not just for role playing purposes; They affect which buildings you can unlock and how you want to expand your zoo. Make “nice” choices and you’ll unlock the doors to recycling and eco-friendly buildings. Make “evil” choices and erect buildings like a slaughterhouse to “dispose” of unwanted animals. It’s a fun system that makes you really think about your choices. The downside to this is that if you’re less than totally good or totally evil, you won’t be able to unlock some of the more fun items in the game’s quest system.
The game’s hands-off approach in the early hours of playing time means that you’ll quickly spot some obvious issues in your zoo. Having more than a few rabbits in one pen, for example, is great for attracting clients but not so good if you don’t want a mountain of rabbits in a few weeks. The tutorial doesn’t tell you things like how to stop animals from breeding or what to do with them when they get older. We spent several hours in the game before realizing that we could donate or euthanize elderly animals to prevent them from dying naturally and lower our zoo’s rating. A touch more information would be of great help at some points.
Let’s Build a Zoo’s Switch port is similar to the original PC version, although the Joy-Con controls aren’t quite as intuitive as the keyboard and mouse. Sometimes the pointer gets lost in the chaotic mess of the bouncing rabbits that have become our zoo, even with a rainbow trail on display. Other controls, such as displaying the radial menu with “ZL” were easy to navigate and quickly became our favorite way to investigate issues with our zoo. Overall, these little issues with the game’s controls were largely balanced out by the fun of seeing our animal kingdom expand over time.
Visually, the game looks great on the Switch. Simple pixel graphics translate well on the device. Even on the smaller screen in manual mode, it was easy to navigate the game and see what was going on. The one area that Let’s Build a Zoo totally fell into is the music, which quickly became repetitive and unpleasant. Fortunately, it can be dismissed or turned off completely from the main menu of the game.
Animals, whether natural or man-made, are stored in containers that can be unlocked through the game’s search system. Different animals do best in certain enclosures, so having a variety of them is key to expanding your zoo’s offerings. You can also unlock decorations and food vendors for construction, giving those who enjoy designing the most beautiful gardens plenty to do. Furthermore, there are animal diets to balance, staff to assign, and ticket prices to adjust. There is always another board to keep spinning while you play the game. And because many of the game’s systems and features are interconnected, this means that a small change can have unforeseen consequences.
Management simulation fans will find plenty to keep them engaged with Let’s Build a Zoo. Despite the sometimes frantic activity on the screen, the game is comfortable to play, and the tutorials’ hands-off approach means you can play at your own pace – even if some information can be clarified. There are ways to blast through the first few hours and unleash loads of animals quickly, but it’s also possible to take your time and let events unfold naturally.
There is a lot to love about Let’s Build a Zoo. Players can get stuck in the nitty-gritty of managing their zoo or they can take a more relaxed approach to building an animal empire, but the amount of freedom is really what makes this game stand out among other management simulation games on the market. The huge variety of animals on display and the enchanting visuals make up the monotonous music and the scattered educational programmes. This is a solid choice for players who are looking for something fun to play at a competitive price.
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