Planet Zoo: Console Edition Review

Planet Zoo Console Edition header

Zoos have an important role to play in the modern world. While their roots might be in the collecting of exotic creatures to show off a ruler or nation’s power and influence, the modern zoo has turned toward education and science, to preservation and even trying to reverse the thoughtless and destructive repercussions of hundreds of years of human expansion. When it comes to Planet Zoo the foundations are still those serious ecological issues, but Frontier has crafted a fun and enjoyable park management experience within them. Following the game’s launch on PC in 2019, the animal parks are now finally opening to console owners as well.

Planet Zoo was already a wonderful park builder, and Frontier has ported across the exact same experience to PlayStation and Xbox consoles. The key thing we’re really looking at is just how well it’s translated to being played with a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse.

It’s fair to say that the controller makes everything feel a little bit unwieldy at first, particularly if you’re coming across from the PC version. The camera controls are relatively straightforward, moving with the right analogue stick and zooming with the left and right triggers, but if you find yourself stuck on the floor you have to hold the Square button in order to raise the camera back up again.

Planet Zoo Console Edition panda

It works, but it doesn’t feel entirely natural, especially when the Square button is performing a multitude of other functions when combined with different buttons. That said, the camera swoops, pans and zooms with no hint of delay, and while there’s some minimal pop-in, you’ll appreciate just how slick the experience feels.

The central functions run across the bottom the screen and are accessed with the right and left shoulder buttons, and Frontier has done an excellent job of making a menu-heavy game as approachable as possible. Every element has a controller button prompt, and while some require button combinations to access particular menu items, they’re clear enough that you won’t find yourself getting stuck.

Planet Zoo Console Edition UI

Planet Zoo gives you a healthy range of options for just how you want to construct your zoos, but if you’re a newcomer the best place to start is the campaign, replete with a jovial tutorial that talks you through the start of your career in animal and park management. A series of challenges bring you up to speed with very little fuss, and although I’ve played the game before I was surprised how quickly I adjusted to the console version.

Fundamentally, Planet Zoo feels like a puzzle game, with most of your time spent juggling the desires of the particularly needy animals while also trying to expand your operation so that it makes money from all of the characterful customers meandering down the paths. It might be the temperature, the trees, or the enrichment toys, but you can be sure all of the animals will find something that’s not quite right, and it’s up to you to fix it all. You do that by working your way through a series of menu systems, and though they’re overwhelming at first, you’ll soon settle into the groove once you know where everything is.

Planet Zoo Console Edition safari

There’s the lingering sense that you’ll never quite be able to make facilities that look as good as the pre-built ones in the campaign, but you have all the same tools – it’s just going to take a bit of time, and that time is extended further on console, though not by all that much. There’s not the same immediacy or precision that you have when using a mouse, but for the majority of people, particularly those who’ve never experience the game on PC, it will do a good enough job and allow you to construct some seriously attractive exhibits.

Planet Zoo still boasts the same sort of limitations that all Frontier park games suffer from, so just like Jurassic World Evolution 2, animals will clip through each other, as well as through some scenery features. During the tutorial a lion lost half of its body while taking a swim, and that kind of thing continues to happen throughout. It does take the shine off what are otherwise some of the most amazingly animated creatures in gaming, but given the detail and customisation options, you can forgive the occasional rough edges.

Summary
Planet Zoo: Console Edition offers the same enjoyable park building as its PC forerunner, and though it’s a slightly slower experience, Frontier have done an excellent job translating the detailed park building to controller.
Good
  • Plenty of depth
  • Attractive visuals
  • Cheerful and endearing
Bad
  • Controller makes the experience clunkier
  • A few rough edges
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.