I just saw a video on YouTube by Let's Game It Out reviewing a new game called Planet Zoo, and while the video was quite funny, the game itself just looks like a depressing repetition of the past.
I faintly remember playing Zoo Tycon and trying really hard to enjoy it, only to later wipe it from my computer's hard drive and never play it again. Another game I tried as a kid was Sim Park – which still remains one of the best in the category today – Sadly, Sim Park also had many of these same issues, but we have to remember that this was in 1996.
The game claims to present "the most authentic animals in videogame history", but is still restrained from the lack of animals mating and attacking, which is very disappointing.
I find it horrible that these games still appears to be created based on the same blue print as past titles. Yes, there will be overlapping elements, but you should at least improve the areas where previous games failed.
What I expect in a good park game
I would expect visitors in the zoo reacting in a variety of ways to different kinds of events in the park.
For example, if animals die in front of visitors, there should be reactions!
In Planet Zoo, however, it seems visitors have very limited and fixed reactions to events. If animals run loose, visitors should not just panic. Some might act more curious towards what is happening, and if your park is build around allowing animals to run loose, visitors should tend to get more accustomed to that.
While not ideal for park performance, you should actually be able to play the game with animals running loose. Of course there should be consequences to having certain animals running loose. Lions should pose a danger to visitors when running loose, resulting in damaging the parks reputation when people get injured or killed, and ultimately loss of visitors and game over by bankruptcy.
Most of these games fail in the same ways, and it almost seems like they follow the same boring blue print of restraining the things you can do, and the reactions you can get from visitors.
Things you would intuitively expect to be in the game are not included, maybe because the creators are afraid the game will get an adult rating, or because they did not have the skill to implement it. Regardless of the reason, it just ruins the gameplay.
I also dislike the terrain and path tools, as they allow you to create terrain that defies physics, and just does not make any sense. Apparently, you can even create your park underground and on floating platforms. The engine does not even prevent you of planting trees on top of other trees, which is just ridiculous.
Inclusion of blood and animals attacking
In particular, I also miss inclusion of blood, and this is something that is either universally left out or poorly implemented.
When animals attack other animals or the guests in the park, there should be blood!
Yes! Animals should be able to attack visitors as well as other animals. It is one of the risks that comes with running a Zoo. A poorly maintained fence might mean animals excape and kill visitors.
A simulation game should be somewhat realistic to be interesting. The creative element is not enough to entertain in the long run.
You can simply not make another zoo or park game without including realism, because people will be disappointed when they find out it is just another of those static simulation games where only visuals seem to matter.
Good graphics, bad physics
I am surprised that anyone would still want to create a game that does not remove previous limitations in the genre. Maybe these games just follow the same blue print?
To their credit, the graphics is the best I have seen yet, and the game also looks like it has a lot of gameplay value in building and managing your zoo. Trees and fences are not just for looks, it will actually effect the mood of the visitors.
However, on the downside, it seems to be possible to plant trees on top of other trees, and placed objects can also "stick through" other objects. That is just ridiculous! Where is the collusion control?!
I have also seen visitors stick through each other while just walking around on the paths. In the review video, it seems it was even possible to "bug" animals so they got stuck in the came location, creating a "monster" with multiple heads. The latter only seem to happen under specific circumstances, such as when too many animals are confined in a small en enclosure.
Other problems include, visitors occasionally getting stuck, which has plagued even some of the earliest games in the genre. Also, roads that are build in thin air or floating "platforms" of rocks created with too liberal terrain tools. I think there should be limits.
If there is something this genre desperately needs, then it is more realism, and a more dynamic gameplay that focuses on core elements rather than the element of "creativity". Yes, creativity is important too, but not to the point where you allow defying physics and sacrificing realism.
Finally, animals arrive in tiny boxes that are carried to the enclosure to "pop up" and release the animal. The animation is quite ugly. It would make more since to have the animals arrive by truck, and then escort them to their enclosures like done in real zoos.