Xbox Game Pass first impressions: Let’s build a zoo
Let’s Build a Zoo is now available with Xbox Game Pass — here’s what we thought after a few hours of exploring the good (and bad) aspects of running a zoo…
It’s funny how quickly your moral compass becomes skewed in Let’s Build a Zoo – when your establishment only has geese and pigs to its name and isn’t exactly raking in the money, way too soon these merchants of black market animals that you had reported to the police and their exotic hybrid animals start to look more appealing. Let’s Build a Zoo gives you the choice of turning your zoo into a successful animal sanctuary or forgetting about any ethical issues and turning to the dark side of business, and it’s a choice that will come up time and time again as you take on the reins of zoo management. Add to that the chaotic fact that you can too merge animals with over 300,000 combinations, and you can imagine how Let’s Build a Zoo promises to keep you busy for quite a while. Let’s Build a Zoo doesn’t wait for you to catch up but bombards you with getting started – at first it was a bit overwhelming; every time a tutorial or info box disappeared, I didn’t even have time to try what it was asking me to do before another suggestion popped up, and more after that. However, once you get familiar with the basic controls and mechanics, you start to realize just how much the game has to offer. The simplicity of the pretty pixel art style of Let’s Build a Zoo in no way reflects the complexity of the game; you manage everything from your employees’ salaries to the research you can do (there is a plot to look for) and the size of the buses and coaches bringing potential visitors. And then, of course, there are the animals themselves – their food and enrichment needs must be met, and you’ll also be busy figuring out how many variants of each animal you have, what breeding pairs you have, and well sure, which animals will be assembled.
The controls are also a bit fiddly at first, but once you get the hang of them it feels much more seamless. Almost everything you need is accessible from an options wheel that you can view at once, allowing you to quickly check for alerts, new tasks, and more. The quantity of Things you can research is awesome and gives you even more goals to complete as you rack up research points. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the way these search options are laid out, with them all looking mixed up, but there is a handy tool you can use to highlight options for particular categories; If you are looking to buy a new type of bus, you can highlight the transport search options to see where they are scattered.
The humor and silliness of Let’s Build a Zoo are also enjoyable. Purchasing a trampoline as an animal enrichment item at my zoo has allowed all visitors to see the pigs and geese bouncing happily around their enclosures, or diving into piles of leaves or playing with a ball. Visitors will also need to be catered for, with benches, places to buy food and drink, and toilets. They’ll also complain if you don’t have enough decoration, giving you more goals to work towards: first research new decorative items, then design scenic spaces for your guests to enjoy. That’s on top of all the tasks you’ll have anyway, with everyone from your investors to a local elderly complainant piling up more items on your to-do list. From time to time, you will have the choice; for example, if your zoo isn’t doing too well and a savvy visitor suggests painting your animals to make them look more exotic, say yes and choose not to worry about the ethics of that, or reject their idea and keep plodding along with your zoo? Some choices give you what appear to be morality points: if I did things like report illegal animal traffickers, for example, I earned more “good” points that could be used to invest in more research options. ethics. I tried playing this way at first, but the possibility of placing an illegal goat-duck hybrid in your zoo, for example, or placing robotic animals as decoys, becomes even more appealing.
You can also visit the world map to trade animals with other zoos. There will always be more mundane animals, like pigs, available for acquisition, but more exotic animals like hyenas will need to be traded for something just as valuable, like some snake variant. It’s a good way to keep yourself busy trying to collect and breed all the variants of one species to trade them for another. Plus, your choices and actions will be highlighted in the local newspaper. It was a fun addition – the newspaper was praising my zoo for entering into a clean energy partnership, for example. The result of this partnership were tasks related to wind turbines and others; I left them out for a while as I was busy trying to get more interesting animals for the enclosures, and it was a nice surprise to see the game keep track of that lack of interest – a future edition of the article clearly indicated this. d made no progress in my promises, and spoke very plainly about this inaction.
Xbox Game Pass is a great way to let you try out games you might have otherwise missed. I love zoo games, yet I wasn’t sure about Let’s Build a Zoo; a few hours later, though, and I know that’s one I’ll keep coming back to – so it’s definitely a Free Pass from us! We also have the Build a Zoo achievements – achievements seemed to unlock fairly regularly at first, but it looks like we’ll have to embrace both good and evil to unlock them all.
Heidi spent several hours trying to manage the chaos of her zoo on Xbox Series X, earning seven achievements as she went.