STAFF REVIEW of Let's Build a Zoo (Xbox One)

Sunday, November 20, 2022.
by Kirsten Naughton

Let's Build a Zoo Box art Calling all animal lovers! Have you DREAMED about making your own zoo? Thinking about every detail as to what it looks like and which animals you would put in your zoo? How many concession stands? What kind of decorations would you put up? STOP! Before you tell me, you can now bring your dream to life in Let’s Build a Zoo! Developed by Springloaded and published by No More Robots, they have created an immersive top down 2D simulation strategy game, and I think it’s a fantastic concept with a few quirks here and there. Come on into my zoo, let me show you around!

Congratulations! You’ve been given your own plot of land to build your zoo. I have to admit, I struggled for the first little bit of playing Let’s Build a Zoo. Not to start this off in a negative light, but the tutorial isn’t very thorough. The base concept is with this empty plot of land, the 'tutorial' takes you step by step through of how to build your buildings, such as a research building, nursery and of course, the animal enclosures. I find that I struggled most with how big I should make the animal enclosures. For some reason, I had a bunch of questions with regards to different animals that didn’t necessarily make things easier on me. Luckily, I didn’t put as much energy into those questions as I had more things to keep me occupied.

You have a task wheel where you can see all your functions of managing your zoo including your main build function, world map, management office, tasks and literally anything that pops up on the screen telling you something’s wrong, you can find it in this wheel. I found myself in the build function, world map and the management tasks functions more than anywhere else the majority of the time though.

One of the main things you will build in your zoo will be your animal enclosures. First, you go into the build function and select what kind of enclosure you want. For example, you can build a concrete, grass or desert one, as those are the beginning options, though you can unlock more as you continue your journey building up and expanding your zoo. As you proceed to build the plot, you have to freehand build it. It’s not a set amount of pixels and size, so to those who are magicians at organizing and fitting things exactly how they want, this will be a dream come true. You may be like me though, as I am not a magician in freehand building enclosures. I found there to be many times I asked myself “How do I do this, why wasn’t I shown this?”. But, despite it being not my preferred type of building experience, I took the next step and put animals in my enclosures.

Let’s Build a Zoo is the type of simulation that you have to unlock things as you go. At the beginning, you have rabbits available to you. Rabbits are cute and all, but no one goes to see just a rabbit at a zoo. If you don’t see the animal you want, you can go to the World Map in your task wheel and see if you can trade a rabbit for another animal. You cannot trade without meeting the animal requirements though. There are certain requirements such as ‘you need a rabbit to trade a kangaroo’. There is a whole different part of Let’s Build a Zoo that involved breeding and such, and I’m not going to lie, I didn’t get that far indepoth with this portion. I bred a few animals, but I spent more time in decorating, building other buildings and enriching my animal enclosures so my animals would be as happy as I could make them.

To me, the animal enclosures you can build are a bonus. If I wanted to talk about the real thing I love about Let’s Build a Zoo, it’s decorating my zoo just the way I like it. There is also a major benefit to decorating your zoo to the nines. Each one of your customers that walk into your zoo basically rates your their experience at it. If they don’t like something, they will let you know and it’ll generally pop up above their heads. If you build a building that they don’t like, the customer morale goes down. If you add an animal that customers seem to love, then your morale goes up for example. Customer morale is very important in Let’s Build a Zoo. If you’re customer is happy, they will spread the word and more customers will come. The more customers that come, the more they will spend. The more they spend, the more you can charge for ticket prices so that YOU make more money. Just like real life.

You can enrich your animals by giving them toys to play with, have a shelter to sleep in, water dishes and ensure that the enclosures are clean as you research more in the research center. The better the enrichment, the better your animal will be. You can also unlock more beneficial buildings that earn you more money in the long run also.

The overall experience of Let’s Build a Zoo is very colourful and energetic during the day. With your customers going in and out of your enclosures, walking around, interacting with the animals and such, there’s a lot of activity during the day. At night, your game saves and a new day begins shortly after. The overall vibe of Let's Build a Zoo is keeping up with the hustle and bustle of owning a business. Managing staff and their work flows, ensuring your business isn't in the red, making customers happy and hosting for VIP's are all important. If the VIPs like your zoo, they will tell their friends and followers, thus more visitors.

As for if I'd recommend Let's Build a Zoo, I certainly do. I enjoyed it once I got through the first few hours of figuring things out. If you're looking for a simulation that has an immersive tutorial that will walk you right through things, Let's Build a Zoo doesn't have that. But, once you get through the first few hours, and if you are patient, you can find your happiness like I did. Those who enjoy management style simulations will love Let's Build a Zoo, as most of what you do during your time playing is making sure the zoo doesn't fail and makes money. I've gotta go now, time's a ticking and there is money to be made!

**Let's Build a Zoo was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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