HomeReviews4.5/5 ReviewPlanet Zoo: Console Edition Review

Planet Zoo: Console Edition Review

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I’ll be honest, during my recent trip to the Frontier Development Studios, there was only one game on my mind. Whilst Warhammer 40000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters was a ton of fun, Planet Zoo: Console Edition was the headline act for me. I was eager to get my hands on the full release to play more. That time has now come, and it was worth the wait.

Planet Zoo: Console Edition comes to Xbox Series X|S almost five years after it debuted on PC. It comes with all the updates up to this point, with more promised over the next twelve months.

Planet Zoo Console Edition review 1
The detail in Planet Zoo: Console Edition is incredible

After creating your avatar, your first port of call should be the three tutorial zoos in the career menu. Three may sound excessive but they ease you in at a pace you should get used to in Planet Zoo. Two doddery old people who are more interested in telling you anecdotes rather than rushing you through the tutorial are on hand to help you out. You can’t deny their charm however.

I was delighted that one of the first things you are told to do in the tutorial is to select the animal camera for one of the animals in the zoo. You can straight away see the impressive amount of detail that has gone into not just the way the animal looks, but its wants and needs as well. On the animal info panel you can drill down into almost anything and get a real understanding of what is missing from the habitat you have built for them. If anything is red, you’ve got work to do. If all is green, then congratulations, you can spend more time simply watching them roam around their habitat.

A word of warning though: it won’t be long before you see one of them poop. It does feel like they’re saving that kind of behaviour specifically for when they are on camera…

As a big fan of Planet Coaster: Console Edition, getting to grips with the control scheme for Planet Zoo: Console Edition was easier than perhaps jumping in fresh. The bar at the bottom of the screen where you can find everything you need is almost identical between the games. So, if you’re comfortable with the former, the transition is a lot smoother to Planet Zoo.

If you are coming in fresh though, it will take some time to adjust to. A welcome tutorial helps ease you in – and is highly recommended – but doesn’t give you the full picture. The tutorial will only give you the items you need for that particular moment, as opposed to the thousands of options available in a typical setting. It is absolutely imperative to make use of the search function on the Y button when in these menus selecting enrichments, environment items and more.

Planet Zoo Console Edition review 2
Create the zoo of your dreams

And, no matter how much time you may have spent in Planet Coaster, Planet Zoo is a different beast entirely. It’s not just a case of building a ride and letting it run, in Planet Zoo you need to make sure habitats are connected to power transformers, water treatment facilities, temperature regulators and a host of other variables. Heatmaps are useful for seeing where your attention is needed for a variety of different things, right down to the likes of “Yearly average animal visibility” or “staff traversable area” in a habitat. Is it too granular? For some maybe, but I am one of those that if I am doing something right, I want to do it properly too. That means if a member of staff cannot traverse my habitat, then that needs fixing.

But even with many hours under my belt, placing items can still be fiddly in Planet Zoo: Console Edition, and that’s likely due to the terrain. Because you can place anything you like anywhere, I have at times accidentally stacked trees on top of each other when trying to make a habitat more suitable, or placed an enclosure outside of a habitat because the blueprint was off by a millimetre. User error perhaps, but it can be incredibly frustrating when you cannot place an object in the exact location you want for seemingly no reason. Too many times I have been told an object is ‘Obstructed’ because the terrain has the tiniest bit of gradient to it. I could flatten it out a little bit with the tools I have, but maybe the object could also perform that job for me?

Planet Zoo: Console Edition comes with the modes you would expect it to, such as Career, Sandbox, and Challenge. It also has Timed Scenarios for Career mode to add a layer of complexity to proceedings. Honestly, as someone that wants to enjoy the zoo as it builds over time, I wasn’t too keen on being kept to a time limit, but I appreciated the challenge.

Where I did spend a lot of my time though was in Franchise mode. Similar to Sandbox mode, you start off from scratch, but as you progress, so does your zoo empire. Open zoos in different biomes to have themed zoos to expand your franchise, but know that this is a mode that can chew up time. You won’t be able to get the crowd-pleasing animals in your zoo at first, but by researching and saving up, the time and effort will be worth it.

Planet Zoo Console Edition review 3
The Giant Pandas in the best zoo simulation of all-time.

With zoos and roller coasters successfully ported over to consoles, the question now for the Planet franchise is what’s next? There is no shortage of simulators out there, but few can match the warm feeling you get from playing Planet Zoo and Planet Coaster, and I’ll be there awaiting whatever they decide to Planetise next.

Not since Planet Coaster has a simulation game drawn me in so much. But Planet Zoo: Console Edition does so even more than its predecessor, all by being much more in-depth and engaging. It is impossible to not grow attached to the animals when you see them thriving in a habitat you have built for them. And in terms of modes, you will be spoilt for choice. Yes, Planet Zoo: Console Edition can be fiddly on controller at times, particularly when placing items, but the UI works very well on the whole. 

Planet Zoo: Console Edition is Frontier Developments at their finest, creating the best zoo simulation game of all-time, and one of the best simulation games in general.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Incredible amount to discover
  • Animals look amazingly detailed
  • Franchise mode is a highlight
  • Able to download other user creations
Cons:
  • Might be a bit too granular for some
  • Some fiddly aspects on controller
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Frontier
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5
  • Release date and price - 26 March 2024 | £39.99
Richard Dobson
Richard Dobson
Avid gamer since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Grew up with the PS1 and PS2 but changed allegiances in 2007 with the release of Halo 3.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Incredible amount to discover</li> <li>Animals look amazingly detailed</li> <li>Franchise mode is a highlight</li> <li>Able to download other user creations</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Might be a bit too granular for some</li> <li>Some fiddly aspects on controller</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Frontier</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5 <li>Release date and price - 26 March 2024 | £39.99</li> </ul>Planet Zoo: Console Edition Review
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