Title image for Zoo Park Story showing characters riding an elephant.

Zoo Park Story Review

Game: Zoo Park Story
Genre: Simulation, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on iOS and Android. Coming soon to Steam (Windows))
Developer | Publisher: Kairosoft
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: US $12.00 | UK £10.79 | EU € 12,00
Release Date: July 26th, 2023

Review code used, with many thanks to Kairosoft.

Another month and, to my delight, another Kairosoft game. In Zoo Park Story, you build the zoo of your dreams and fill it with all kinds of adorable pixelated animals.

Will my zoo be a roaring success, or will I want to bury my head in the sand?

Starting Small in the Zoo Park Story

Your assistant in Zoo Park Story is Fauna Parker, and after naming your zoo (or keeping the default of Sunny Vale), it opens to visitors.

Two small pens containing a guinea pig and capybara with a visitor with a yellow (happy) musical note above them.
My first visitor!

Seeing the two cute animals, your first visitor is keen to share their photo on social media. The more social media likes you get, the more popular your zoo is. Popularity helps with visitor numbers and rankings.

The social media menu with a posted picture of a capybara and comment “At this famous zoo. Animals galore!”
Will it go viral?

Before the end of the first month, Fauna finds a duck and explains how to build pens and give treats. As well as how to place buildings and scenery which will increase popularity and entrance fees.

During the next four months, you will be introduced to most of the other features. These include the Animal Hub, where you can buy animals, Pumpkin Products to purchase treats; Bunbun and his explorations, campaigning which increases visitor numbers and the Zoo Guide.

Zoo Guide menu, listing the targets to increase popularity, e.g. getting 500 likes, 100 visitors, monthly revenue of 1,000G
Lots to aim for!

There are lots of tasks within the Zoo Guide. In addition to those shown, there are increasing numbers of and popularity for each animal. With so much choice, it’s not difficult to rank up. Although five stars are initially shown, you’ll need at least ten to complete the game. With each new rank, you receive some cash and animal points, as well as some special building or expansion opportunities.

You then start the cycle of increasing your rank to get more animals and visitors. More animals and visitors mean an increase in popularity and income; more popularity and income helps to raise your rank.

Talk to the Animals

The exploration info window with your character and a chicken.
We’re going on an adventure!

The main way to obtain more animals is by exploring the various locations which Bunbun has on offer. Initially, you start by exploring the Average Meadow. For my first exploration, I didn’t spot the ‘change animal’ button at the top, so I only took the chicken with me. However, you can select up to 7 animals, choosing those best suited based on their power, item finding and negotiation skills.

The exploration scrolling screen with an armadillo jumping from a bush. A dialog box with Fauna saying “A wild armadillo was sighted. Shall we befriend it?”
Of course, we should, Fauna!

The exploration happens simultaneously with the rest of the game. So whilst your animals collect items or animal points, you can continue developing your zoo. When you encounter a wild animal, the mini-game launches. However, you can choose to carry on exploring. Useful in the later years, if you don’t want the particular animal discovered.

Exploration mini-game window with an armadillo heading towards the success line.
Come to me!

The mini-game is all about encouraging the animal towards the success line by bombarding it with food budget rises, treats or play. The animal starts off being grumpy, and its mood improves as it receives items. However, it does need to be facing you for the item to be successful. It’s tempting to raise the food budget quickly, but this is will be the monthly maintenance you pay for that animal.

As with a lot of these chance-based mini-games, sometimes you’ll be successful with a really low budget. Other times even doubling the suggested budget will fail.

The animals available at the Animal Hub tend to be species already discovered. However, it’s a useful place to get a partner for one of your existing animals. The monthly maintenance is the default, so it can be an expensive method of increasing your zoo population.

Building Your Zoo Park

The capybara enclosure being rebuilt to house more animals.
Time to expand the capybara enclosure.

The build menu consists of 3 tabs: equipment, animals and environment. You will pay to move or remove buildings, as well as adding paths and empty pens. However, the buildings, animal enclosures and scenery are free to place, but they have a monthly maintenance charge.

As with other Kairosoft games, placing a special combination of pens, scenery or buildings will unlock a ‘combo’. These combos will either increase the entrance fee or the zoo environment rating. The higher the zoo environment, the more animal points are generated by the zoo inhabitants.

Animal evaluation screen showing 179 points made up from 3 categories.
The yearly awards.

At the end of each year, your zoo is rated according to the amount of treats and exercise your animals have received and the overall zoo environment. The overall points can be used to purchase additional buildings, scenery or to unlock combos. You only get this purchasing opportunity once a year, although leftover points will be carried forward to the next year.

Who’s Coming to the Zoo?

Unknown accessible area, which will open with 1000 likes from the school district and zoo rank 2.
Wonder who these visitors will be?

There are six accessible areas, each with five visitors. Most of the visitors will unlock as you acquire a certain animal. For example, a college student will come when you have a rabbit. However, you will need to fulfil social media likes from the previous area and a specific zoo ranking in order for the next area to open up.

They Think It’s All Over

Various zoo areas containing elephants, gorillas, red pandas, capybara, ducks and pigs to name just a few.
After ten years, my zoo has certainly grown.

At the end of year 11, month 3, you receive your high score. The score comprises various aspects of the game: popularity, number of animals and visitors, social media likes and combos found.

When starting a new game, the buildings, decorations and scenery from your previous game are available, as well as the previously found encyclopaedia entries and combos. However, you still need to rediscover all the animals and visitors.

Award ceremony for ranking up, the main character lit up on stage under 10 stars.
The pinnacle of zoo stardom!

This is usually the point I say that there are so many reasons to carry on playing your existing game. For example, achieving the highest rank, unlocking all the visitors, discovering all the animals or finding all the environment combos. But actually, there was very little left to complete after ten years. I’d managed to achieve rank 11, unlocked all the animals and collected most things in that time. I did let the game play on for a couple of years just to complete the encyclopaedia (I was missing a few baby animals), but I wasn’t actively playing, just pressing buttons to clear the messages.

Gameplay

The game works well in either docked or handheld mode. Although in docked mode, it is tricky to click on the icons (for animal points or hearts) which appear above the animals. There is an excellent use of the touchscreen functionality, making the icons much easier to collect in handheld mode. The font is large enough to easily read on a small screen.

The menus work well, and the ‘back’ returns to the previous screen in a lot of cases. Although when building, once you have placed the item, you return to the game rather than the option of placing something different. The music is the typical bouncy beat of Kairosoft games.

The game autosaves at the start of each new month, with a manual save also available. However, you can only have two instances of game per user.

Zoo Park Story is not as busy as some of the other Kairosoft games, although more frustrating with the number and duration of the on-screen messages. With no messages, an in-game month takes about 2.5 minutes. However, in reality, it’s more like 10 minutes, as it takes 10 to 15 seconds to click through the messages. These frequent messages appear for activities like item use, key animal friendship levels, courtship encounters and new arrivals. So it takes around 20-25 hours to complete the 10 in-game years.

Conclusion

I don’t get the same warm, fuzzy feeling playing Zoo Park Story as I have with other Kairosoft games. It shares a similar style, and the pixelated animals are adorable especially the baby ones. I enjoyed building my zoo and collecting all the animals. However, it isn’t as addictive to watch and too time-consuming clicking through the numerous on-screen messages.

Final Verdict: I Like it I like it

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