The first few minutes of Let’s Build a Zoo‘s short beta were inconspicuous enough.
I built an enclosure for some adorable little bunny rabbits. I placed a couple of vending machines, and built a toilet block for my guests. Along with its top-down view and pixelated art style, it’s easy to compare Let’s Build a Zoo to Bullfrog’s 90s classic, Theme Park. From the designs of its food stalls to its ease of accessibility, there are a lot of similarities.
But then Joe Exotic showed up and sold me a horsit – an animal with the body of a horse and the head of a rabbit – and all comparisons went out of the window.
Yes, Let’s Build a Zoo is a quaint zoo simulator. You can build and manage the perfect zoo, making it look as pretty as punch for your visitors. You can trade animals from other zoos, and even rescue animals from an animal shelter. But it’s not all sunshine, daisies and… natural evolution. Splicing is the order of the day, and if you want to keep your guests happy, then you better have some unique animals for them to look at.
You’ll have some moral choices to make along the way, too. The beta only let me loose with a zoo for around 45 minutes, but in that time I was approached by a dodgy-looking organisation offering to paint my horses as zebras. You know, for a bit of extra cash. I refused; the hit to my zoo’s reputation if I was caught out wasn’t worth it. Besides, I already had a horse with the head of a rabbit. What could be more exciting than that?
You’ll be encouraged early on to build your own CRISPR, allowing you to combine the DNA of animals in order to create new ones. I crossed a hippopotamus with a rabbit, but providing you have the DNA on hand, there’s an almost endless amount of crossbreeds waiting to be discovered. Crocoducks, Owlybara, Pandowl and more await you in the full game – it promises 300,000 potential types of animal, in fact. That’s a lot of splicing.
The dark undertones of Let’s Build a Zoo make it something really special. But even on the face of it, as a straight-up park simulator, there’s a lot to love here. Menus are easy to navigate, and a steady stream of tasks to complete ensures you always have a goal to work towards. As always, you’ll need to manage your staff, employ new members of the team by placing adverts, keep an eye on your bank balance, and ensure your visitors have all the facilities they might need.
There’s no release date for Let’s Build a Zoo just yet – it’s scheduled to release on PC this summer. But if you’re a fan of Theme Park, and like the idea of creating your own weird and wonderful animal species, this is definitely one to keep your eye on.