ReviewsReview: Zookeeper

Review: Zookeeper

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When I Grow Up…

When we’re little, we often have big dreams for our futures. Sometimes these dreams are inspired by the people around us. Like pursuing a career as a chef, following in the footsteps of your parent. We’re often inspired by people we see in the news, or on TV, like astronauts or celebrities. Other times we’re inspired by our passions, perhaps going down the path of the artist.

Long ago my dream was to be a game ranger. I loved nature, and I loved animals. It was all I was interested in. I’d watch every nature show I could find. I’d buy every issue of Nat Geo Kids as soon as the latest one dropped. I hardly ever missed an issue, and would pore over every page as if it were the gospel. My room was filled with posters of lions, bears, eagles, elephants and on and on. I wanted a career that allowed me to interact with animals and be a part of their conservation and protection. As time went on though, I started pursuing other interests. I never did end up as the game ranger that 10-year-old me envisioned, in a spiffy safari hat, dusty hiking boots and a crisp pair of khaki shorts.

We Bought a Zoo

However, that love for animals and nature is still there. And so, upon taking a quick glance at Zookeeper, it sure did pique my interest. A game where I could play caretaker to a whole host of animals and ensure their happiness, while getting the (virtual) public interested in the creatures that dominated my childhood. How could I pass this one up? Unfortunately though, this title fell a bit short of the excitement I was feeling.

Zookeeper is a simulator in which you take the helm of a zoo and build it up to the point of legend. Almost every facet aside from paying taxes will be in your hands. And while that may sound like a lot of pressure, it’s actually quite the laidback and casual experience. Up to a point at least. On one hand, there’s not much of the resource management usually found in this genre. Just look after your cash, popularity, and the wellbeing of your animals. Animals require attention, stimulation, food, grooming, companions, and a suitable environment. However, the game never goes overboard when it comes to being able to juggle it all. You hire staff members to take care of your furry friends, with each member of staff having a somewhat distinct personality and preference in the animals they work with.

Hands-On Manager

My one major complaint in this department however, is this game’s need to have you micromanage every little thing your resident critters need. Instead of allocating a staff member to an enclosure and have them automatically act if for example, an animal is hungry. You constantly need to direct your staff to perform specific actions, and not doing so results in negative consequences for the creatures that rely on you. There is, however, a saving grace. You can bulk order actions. So if the entire enclosure is in need or some playtime you can direct the staff to go ahead and make sure everybody has some fun.

The micromanaging in general did become a little tiresome as things went on. Especially when you start to engage with your other responsibilities. One of these very important responsibilities is building up the grounds, by adding enclosures, decorations, and amenities for guests. This is essential to increasing the popularity of your zoo. Adding attractions for guests and the increasing the number of animals available for them to view is paramount. At first, you only have access to a couple of decorations, amenities and animals. In order to unlock more you need XP. And the best way to get this XP is to complete tasks, such as building specific amenities, or planting specific flowers/trees, etc.

I Should Want More

Completing tasks for XP is a tried and tested way of allowing sustainable and enjoyable progression across a campaign. However, the “enjoyable” part of progression wasn’t really a part of the equation for me when it came to Zookeeper. The thing that was sorely missing was the excitement and anticipation one normally feels when it comes to a management simulator. You’re always chasing that next unlock, or resource or building plan to take your land to the next level.

While unlocks and the things you build would more often than not have a positive impact on your career, such as increasing popularity, the happiness of animals, or income. I was never as excited about my progress in unlocking new staff, animals and decorations as I should have been, or even wanted to be. The spark was just missing in many aspects.

The Good

I will say though, there is a fair bit of content to be found here. Between 7 different parks with their own visual idnetity and its array of animals from deer to dinosaurs, you can hardly say there’s nothing to do.

Somewhere else it really delivers is in vibes. A bit vague I know, but the combination of the colourful and vibrant polygonal environments and animals, along with the quirky and fun background music created a cutesy and laidback atmosphere that worked really well for me while playing.

At the end of the day, Zookeeper is not a bad game. It just falls a bit short on keeping the player’s interest for extended periods of time. Zookeeper has potential for sure. It’s cute, relaxing and there is some fun to be found. However, as it stands, things feel a bit too middle of the road to justify any hype.

SUMMARY

+ Appealing art style and atmosphere
+ Lots of content and animals
- Micromanaging was tedious
- Progression was no fun
- Gets old after a while

(Reviewed on PC)
Jonah Ehlers
Jonah Ehlers
A lover of films, dogs and cooking, even though I'm terrible at it most days. Ever since my first console (the legendary PS2) I have had an immense love for Video games. It has given me some of my favourite memories, my closest friends and countless hours of fun.

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Review: Zookeeper+ Appealing art style and atmosphere <br /> + Lots of content and animals <br /> - Micromanaging was tedious <br /> - Progression was no fun <br /> - Gets old after a while <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC)