Whenever a developer attempts to create a sim game with a zoo setting, it’s always going to make you think of and compare it to the pinnacle – Zoo Tycoon. That’s certainly the case for Springloaded and their upcoming zoo building management sim, Let’s Build a Zoo. To be fair though, there’s a bit of Jurassic World Evolution about it too as it features genetic aspects like DNA splicing. Having gained Beta access to an early build, I must say the future looks very promising for Let’s Build a Zoo. Especially if you’re interested in taking the more questionable roots to succeed in management.
Before getting to the nitty gritty of the Beta, let me explain the game itself for anyone that’s unfamiliar. Coming from the publishing arm of No More Robots, Let’s Build a Zoo is an ambitious zoo management title in development by Springloaded. There’s expected to be over 500 animals included in order for you to create the perfect family attraction and become the most prestigious zoo on the planet. To make things even more interesting, you’ll be able to splice together animals that you know and love, thus discovering entirely new species in the process with more than 300,000 possible combinations at your fingertips.
Obviously though, an animal kingdom needs things other than cute and bizarre creatures to draw in the punters. As such, a whole host of decorative and practical items will be available to ensure the customers are happy during their visits. Essentially, every single aspect of growing this empire is under your control, including hiring staff and lifting morale. While that all sounds pretty normal, the Beta is eye-opening to the fact that there are other ways and means of reaping rewards from your zoo. You see, Let’s Build a Zoo has a darker side and it’s that which may become the most enticing factor.
The Let’s Build a Zoo Beta offers an enlightening glimpse of its many facets, despite being rather swift by only providing around an hour of gameplay. This equates to two weeks of in-game time in which you are given the reins of a fledgling zoo, possessing just a bit of land and cash to get started. Learning the ropes comes courtesy of a private investor, alongside a few other folks conjuring up tasks to perform. It’s straightforward enough as you build an enclosure, fill it with a rabbit or two, and begin making a profit when the customers rock up at your turnstiles.
Even in these early stages, growth and expansion leads to a lot of extra responsibilities falling on your shoulders. Hiring the right people, with a decent personality for the particular role, could make a difference between sending the guests home happy and them having a bad time. You can also put a bit of a downer on the staff morale by not paying what they’re worth, in a bid to save some money. But that’s not the worst thing you could do; not by a long shot.
Every zoo needs a variety of animals to attract attention from around the globe, and while you can trade with other zoos in a legitimate way, there are other ways. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with handing over a fee in exchange for a couple of pigs or rabbits, of course. Heck, just breeding one of these species can see you well-populated. When an exotic chap named Joe comes knocking though, wanting to buy and sell under the table, the waters become a little muddy. The choice is yours as to whether you’re willing to break the law in order to acquire more exciting and hard to find creatures. Needless to say, I sent him packing; albeit with a wad of cash and I received an armadillo in return. It wasn’t cheap, but Joe was nice enough to buy some new-born rabbits off me, which helped cover the deal.
And then there’s the small matter of playing ‘god’ here, after setting up a lab to create monstrosities through the process of DNA splicing. Mixing the genes of a rabbit and a snake to produce a rabbake is an enticing prospect because it’s not something you see normally and that could be the wow factor you need to draw in the massive crowds. This part is pretty limited in the Beta, however between the experimental combinations and the dealing on the black market, it’s good to witness the alternative side of achieving success.
Don’t worry if you think you’re too wholesome to partake in the shadier aspects, for there’s money to be made from simply doing the usual practices too – erecting gift shops, setting up food stalls and such. The way your zoo pans out and the moral code you follow is entirely down to your own personal choice. Going off the foundations of the Beta, it seems as though there will be plenty of tools at your disposal in Let’s Build a Zoo to create a wonderful and vibrant empire that suits you. Sure, there are a couple of minor bugs and a tad more guidance is probably required to ease less experienced players in, but the future looks brilliant for budding zookeepers.
Massive thanks to No More Robots for allowing us to get hands on with Let’s Build a Zoo via Steam. Now it’s a matter of containing our excitement until the full game arrives in the Summer with plans for launch on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. When it does arrive on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, we’ll be there with full review.