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Planet Zoo: Console Edition review – A mighty fine port of an excellent game

Planet Zoo: Console Edition screenshot
Image: Frontier Developments

More than four years since it launched on PC, Planet Zoo is finally available on consoles in the aptly-named Planet Zoo: Console Edition. Just like with Planet Coaster, developer Frontier has had its work cut out for it in converting such a deep, menu-heavy sim to work with a controller. But once again, it’s done it with aplomb: Planet Zoo is a joy to play on console, making this wonderfully rich zoo simulator available to a new legion of players.

There’s still a lot to get your head around, though. Planet Zoo isn’t the type of easy-going, cosy sim you can slip into with ease. There’s a steady learning curve, and a lot of options, menus, selectors and buttons to get to grips with. Like Planet Coaster before it, Planet Zoo gives you control over just about everything. Sure, you can use pre-made items from the game’s build menus, but if you really want to make your zoo your own, you’re going to want to customise everything from scratch.

It’s still a little fiddly to control, we’ll admit. Drawing lines to lay out an animals’ enclosure, for example, isn’t as easy as it would be with a mouse. But that’s the nature of playing with a controller, and Frontier has done the best job it possibly could have given the restraints of having a limited number of buttons. Everything works as flawlessly as it possibly could, even if it might take you a little while to learn how to access and use every menu.

Planet Zoo: Console Edition screenshot
Image: Frontier Developments

It’s worth taking the time to figure things out, though, because Planet Zoo really is the quintessential zoo simulator for all animal lovers out there. Sure, designing your zoo and managing it, ensuring your visitors have a nice time is one thing. But it’s the depth of animal care that really makes Planet Zoo stand out. You can’t simply stick them in a nice enclosure and be done with it: every animal is a complex creature with its own unique system of needs, and if you want to be the best zookeeper you possibly can be, you’ll need to ensure they’re all met.

They’ll need foliage from their home biome, for example, be it the African plains or the rainforests of South America. They’ll of course need access to food and drink — from feeders appropriate to their species — and they’ll need enrichment tools, too. Oh, and each different species will have preferences on how many fellow animals they can live with. Maybe you can mix some species together in the same enclosures, but you’ll want to pay close attention to make sure they can live harmoniously.

There are some elements of Planet Zoo that we could do without, though. You’ll need to consider the electricity flow of the park, for example, building substations to ensure your keeper’s huts and various food and drink outlets have access to power. It adds to the realism of the sim, we’ll admit, but we’d rather be able to focus more on the animals and designing our parks in general.

It’s a small price to pay though, and after a while, those menial tasks that come part-and-parcel with building a zoo will begin to come naturally. Especially if you choose to make your way through Planet Zoo’s Campaign mode first. There’s a large amount of content here — and that’s without considering the wealth of DLC that’s been released on PC over the years, all of which will eventually be available on console. Working through Campaign will introduce you to everything piecemeal, and there’s an in-depth and enjoyable tutorial to get you to grips with the basics.

Outside of Campaign you can select a timed scenario, where you’ll be challenged on meeting a set of goals against the clock. You can also create unlimited Challenge zoos, where you can build a zoo from scratch, or play an existing one, with a full economy and various challenges popping up. But for the truly creative amongst us, you’ll likely gravitate towards Planet Zoo’s Sandbox mode, which allows you to create your own zoo from the ground up, with no restrictions, timers or challenges to meet.

Pretty much every type of gameplay is on offer in Planet Zoo, then, and you can jump into any one of these modes whenever you want, all accessible from the menu screen. We’d recommend at least playing through the tutorial levels of the Campaign to get up to speed, but if you want to learn the ropes yourself in Sandbox, that’s fine too. No matter what mode you jump into, there’s a fully-fledged Help menu available from the pause screen, allowing you to get up to speed with whatever task you’re struggling with.

Planet Zoo: Console Edition screenshot
Image: Frontier Developments

There are some neat online features in Planet Zoo, too, such as the Frontier Workshop, which allows you to share blueprints or zoos you’ve created with other players, or access other people’s creations. It’s cross-platform as well, so whether you’re playing on Xbox or PlayStation, you’ll be able to access the same content. There’s also a Franchise mode, which allows you to trade animals with other players — although strangely, this isn’t cross-platform. It’s hardly a dealbreaker, though.

It’s safe to say that Frontier has done a fantastic job bringing Planet Zoo: Console Edition to life. Playing on console is just as joyous as playing on PC, even if it may take a little while to get used to the controls. It’s intuitive enough, though, and it’s a game worth persevering for: growing your own zoo, seeing your animals thrive in your built environments and watching your visitors have a jolly old time in your park is endlessly rewarding.

Planet Zoo: Console Edition review – GameSpew’s score

This review of Planet Zoo: Console Edition is based on the PS5 version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S (with a PC version of the game also available).
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.