Let’s be honest: Frontier have pretty much the whole park management sim genre sewn up right now. Whether you’re dealing with housing endangered snow leopards, cleaning up customer’s vomit after a go on your octuplet loop rollercoaster, or the near-constant escapades of extinct creatures chowing down on a few visitors, there’s practically something for everyone – assuming they’re interested in making heaps of virtual money while they chase smiley-face icons.
The customers are far from the stars of each of the games you’ve opted into, and with the arrival of Planet Zoo: Africa, the zoo management sim gains a new set of animals to fall in love with as you painstakingly try to get their feeding bowl in just the right place.
There’s five new species in this update, and it’s immediately obvious that, just like those found in the main game, they live up to Planet Zoo’s impressive attention to detail. Of these newcomers you can’t help but fall in love with the Meerkats, especially when you can name one of them King Julien and watch in the hope they’re going to do something ridiculous that causes serious problems for all the other Meerkats. This hope has not come to fruition so far. They will however dig holes in their habitat and pop out of them, so there’s that.
The Meerkats don’t have the monopoly on being cute though, with both the African Penguins and the Fennec Fox (which totally looks like a Final Fantasy creature) giving them a good run for their virtual entrance money. If you don’t immediately say “Awwwww” the moment one of these new species appears on screen, then you shouldn’t have nice things.
Slightly less cute, but no less impressive, is the Southern White Rhino, which is one of the real-world species benefitting from humanity’s slowly improving attempts at preserving endangered species. In the real world it’s now at a ‘Near Threatened’ status, with its population increasing once more. Games like Planet Zoo do a great job of introducing people to species that might otherwise pass them by, while reinforcing the idea that these animals need, and deserve, our protection. It’s great to see that coming to fruition in this pack.
The final new arrival is the smallest of the bunch, the Sacred Scarab Beetle, though really it’s a Dung Beetle with illusions of grandeur. It still pulls off the signature move of rolling some faeces around with its back legs, and they do look suitably cool if you’re into beetles and insects, but as with this size of exhibit, the other members of the cast will likely capture your attention far more regularly.
This being the Africa pack there’s a host of new bits of scenery to get your zoo’s vibe just right for its new guests, and they definitely look the part. African-styled Meerkat statues give you an imposing addition to any area while the colourful new frontage for shops and buildings means you can turn any space into a vibrant African-themed spot. There’s over 180 new bits and bats here, and they’re distinctly different from the currently included African objects, adding some diversity from the continent.
The final new addition is a fresh new timed challenge scenario, tasking you with turning a hidden oasis bazaar into a thriving tourist trap while updating its power grid and amenities. It’s a stiffer challenge than some of the previous packs, but there’s every chance that you’re a Planet Zoo master by this point so that’ll probably be welcome. At this stage, Planet Zoo’s ability to transport you across the planet is the escapism we all need, and few games do so with the joy and vibrancy that Frontier have created here.