Game Review: ZooKeeper (Xbox Series X)

Management simulators are some of my favourite types of games. From having to run a theme park or hospital with the Bullfrog classics, to getting more ‘hands on’ in Zoo Tycoon and enjoying the hell out of Two Point Studios’ Two Point Hospital and Two Point Campus. The strategy involved in creating and managing a successful business has always massively appealed.

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Which meant buying ZooKeeper was a no-brainer as the promise of running my own zoo, caring for the animals, and turning it into a thriving business was right up my street. Alongside colourful polygonal visuals and nice music, this should have been a winner. So, why have I come away so disappointed with it?

On the one hand, ZooKeeper requires you to manage every aspect of your zoo. On the other, it is done in a relaxed and casual way that takes a lot of pressure off. In fact, once it reaches a certain point, there’s almost an idle aspect to gameplay. It’s as this point that the lack of depth becomes apparent.

At first, it’s simply about building habitats for the animals you buy, ensuring they are happy in their environments, and waiting for the crowds to come along. The bigger the zoo, the more popular it becomes, and the more money begins to roll in. As zoos expand, experience is earned, unlocking more animals, habitats, decorations, and shops. Of course, it’s all a balancing act as you have to ensure you don’t overspend.

Although there is little punishment for being low on cash, aside from potentially being unable to pay your employees. Those you hire can be assigned to care for your animals, and as they individually level up, will begin to take care of certain jobs themselves. Jobs like feeding the animals, cleaning up their environments, playing with them, and so on. It takes a lot of the stress out of the management aspects, especially as your zoo grows. Levelling up your staff is massively important though, as the early micro-management aspects of caring for your animals is extremely monotonous.

As the zoo grows, less and less input is needed, so to try and help stave off boredom, players can complete tasks to increase the overall appeal of the zoo and earn even more XP. Tasks that include building certain shops, placing certain decorations, and getting animal satisfaction to a certain level. Tasks that quickly become monotonous. Are you seeing a trend here?

Almost every aspect of ZooKeeper becomes monotonous as it goes on. The lack of depth to resource management and building really starts to become apparent and it all starts to feel soulless. Inevitably, the only drive to carry on comes from seeing the different level environments and earning all three-stars in each. Even the latter is uninspired though, and in the cases where you have to lead a VIP around, frustrating.

It’s one of many minor frustrations that build up over time. Frustrations such as having to reset the game because message text gets stuck on the screen blocking your view. Frustrations with the fiddly menus. Or frustrations with the limit on staff hires, resulting in your zoo becoming a mess if you have to much going on. Yet, you can’t do anything to change this because you can’t hire anyone else.

Over time, all of this, and the lack of depth to the management side of the game, ends up leaving a strong feeling of disappointment. ZooKeeper just never gets off the ground, and in an attempt to make something complex and casual at the same time, it misses the mark overall.




Author

  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!

ZooKeeper (Xbox Series X)
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