Roll up, roll up! Don't be shy ladies and gents! Come see Andy the Ankylosaur in her brand new enclosure, just build yesterday. Marvel at Rachel the Raptor and her shiny big egg, it should be hatching any day now! Tremble with terror as you view Terry the Tyrannosaurus during feeding time. Then you could enjoy a BrontoBurger, or maybe a DinoDog, at our high-quality food court, maybe wash it down with a SaurusShake afterward? The kids will squeal in excitement if you take them around our merchandise stores, and could learn something interesting by watching our engaging AND educational "entertainment experts" as they put on a show! There's so much to do, at only 20 bucks a person (prices may increase), so don't miss out! We all know that nothing could go wrong with this idea, even in fiction it always goes smoothly, so come on down to Big Jonnys House of Scaly Assed Monsters… It's fun for all the family!
Yip, that's right, Parkasaurus is a park management game where you're tasked with running a zoo. But it's a zoo with a difference. The exhibits here aren't your usual wild animals, no no no, instead of tigers, elephants, and penguins you'll instead be charging your customers to view creatures that were once thought to be long extinct. Like millions of years extinct… Your zoo will have dinosaurs! And right now you're probably thinking of the Jurassic World Evolution series, aren't you? You can't be blamed there I don't think, premise wise it's probably Parkasaurus main competitor, however, there's a real difference in tone and style between the two that sets them apart. While JW-E goes for a more serious and realistic take on the idea, here we get a game that takes things in the opposite direction instead, going for a cutesy wacky cartoon style instead. I mean, the fact you can put cute hats and funny costumes on your various dinosaurs pretty well sum up the angle they're going for.
The campaign story highlights this from the get-go too with a crazy story about aliens, who are also dinosaurs for some reason, crash landing their time traveling starship onto modern-day planet Earth. The only way to get back home is to repair their ship and the only possible way that they can think to do this is by opening a zoo. Because well you would, wouldn't you? It's a crazy framing device, nonsensical in many ways, but shows that this is a less serious type of experience than many other management games out there right now. Don't be fooled into thinking that it's not got some depth to it though, it does, and the tutorial (the first level of the campaign) does a good job of walking you through the basics.
The first thing you're taught is how to create enclosures for your different dinosaurs to live in. Each species requires a certain environment to thrive and be happy so you need to recreate a biome that suits them. Firstly you'll throw up fences to mark out the limits of the exhibit but after that is when things get more detailed. Instead of just laying out a certain tile type, you have to actually place different types, in different percentages, to create the needed biome. So a rainforest biome for instance needs a grass base, a certain percentage of water coverage, a certain amount of tree coverage, and a certain amount of rocks. Other environments might need rugged mountains, so you must adjust the height to create high ground. Some of your animals will need privacy to keep them happy, or things to interact with, so you can place trees, bushes, rocks, and many other decorative items (and toys too) which not only let you make an aesthetically pleasing park but helps keep the dinos happy too. It sounds like this could all get a little tough to remember, especially when you have loads of dinosaurs to place, but the UI does a good job of showing you what's needed to create each biome type, or how an existing one will change if you add a new addition, and of giving any other important details so it's really intuitive to use and understand.
But obviously, the enclosures won't run themselves. Someone needs to feed the animals, clean up the mess, and more, which is where staff come in. There are 4 different types, each with its own responsibilities, and you'll need all of them to have an efficient park. Vets will feed your animals, clean up their messes and heal any illnesses that they end up catching. Janitors will pick up trash dropped by visitors and do repairs to enclosures. Security stops any trouble from brewing and will dart any dinos who escaped from their enclosures, allowing recapture. Finally, scientists are available to do research, fund upgrades and new tech, as well as go on expeditions to collect fossils. All of this costs resources though and balancing that spreadsheet is all-important. Feeding dinosaurs, paying wages, doing repairs, investing in upgrades and everything else takes currency of one type or another. The most obvious of these resources is simple cold hard cash. Visitors to the park pay an entry fee but that's not the only way to fleece money from them. If you've ever been to a theme park in real life you'll know this. Customers will make donations, so put charity boxes up in easy-to-see places, but only if they're happy and sometimes this means more than just having animals to look at. Each visitor will show thought bubbles when they want something and can be clicked on to see what might make them happy. Quite quickly they'll start wanting somewhere to go and eat. So you can build burger shacks and hotdog stands. But this leads to rubbish being dumped around the park. So you build trash cans and maybe hire more Janitorial staff.
All that food and drink also means that people will need to "use the facilities" so providing toilets becomes a necessity. And of course, you'll also want to improve your park too, researching new facilities, upgrading existing ones and finding new avenues to earn money. To do this you need to take a step back from the park management screen and visit the town. Don't get your hopes up though, although well designed and pretty, it's really nothing more than a separate tab but here is where you can visit the store to buy meat and veg for your dinosaurs, buy different decorative items, get a loan at the bank, trade resource types, visit the barn to cultivate your dinosaur eggs and also visit the gem store. Now the gem store is unusual, it will feel like it's ripped straight from a mobile game (don't worry though, no microtransactions here), but it's actually where you unlock new types of dinosaur eggs. Each egg costs differing resources to unlock. Sometimes you'll need fossils from your scientists by sending them out on expeditions. Sometimes you'll need science points from their research. Sometimes you'll need to spend hearts earned by completing quests or having happy dinosaurs and visitors. But you'll always need gems as part of the mix, and these cost hearts and science points, making these 2 resources highly valuable too. So basically you'll be building exhibits and keeping the dinosaurs happy because this brings in customers. Customers mean cash and you'll try to get them to spend as much as possible. To do this you'll need to expand the park, which costs cash, science, and hearts. This is the basic gameplay cycle that you'll be doing always, whether in the campaign or the sandbox modes.
However, in the campaign mode, you'll also have some sort of overall mission in each level that you must achieve, usually with a reward if done within a certain limit. You might be put in charge of a park where rivers are everywhere and you need to build loads of bridges to cross them. Bridges are 10 times the usual price though and you don't have much spare cash. Or you find yourself running a huge park where all the enclosures are empty. You have a huge expenditure going out each month and must rush to get as many dinosaurs as possible to fill those cages. Or you inherit a park where the path system is screwed to hell and creating a system that allows visitors to see everything is the overall challenge.
In the end, it's all about management. It IS a park management game after all and knowing where to focus is important in this genre. And luckily Parkasaurus does very well here. You can click on any enclosure, shop, staff member, visitor, or whatever else you want to see every detail about it. You can see info on dinos and find out if they're happy and what they need to stay that way. You can see what visitors would like and what they don't. You can give orders to staff and a million other little details that give micromanagers a great big smile. At the end of the day, you also get a whole spreadsheet of profits and deductions, showing where you spent what, and where you earned cash. The game makes keeping track of all the numbers and goings-on easy and there are plenty of things for stat lovers to salivate over. It even shows reviews from different visitors, giving clues and suggestions to where improvement can be made. It's an excellent and easy system to take in and really helps keep things straight. Those who feel overwhelmed by this stuff might find it quite manageable here. Alongside the great management is a unique overall design. The simple grid-style layout, along with the bold character outlines and bright colors, gives a cutesy impression and you might even assume it's aimed at kids. Being able to buy hats and crazy costumes for your dinos adds to this feeling but don't be fooled, it's quite a deep management sim with loads to tweak and examine to help your park run smoothly.
It does have something that needs to be considered though. It's difficulty level. It's a relatively easy game compared to its competitors. You can trade resources at the bank in town and this means it's quite easy to make money in an emergency. By having plenty of scientists working in the lab to generate "Science" points, you can quickly end up with a huge surplus of them that can be traded for hard currency. This makes missions where money is the main thing holding you back pretty easy to get through by simply trading for the money you need. Now obviously difficulty is a subjective thing, and some people might actually like that it's less challenging, but it's something to remember when picking it up. This lower difficulty makes this a good "chilling" game, however, as well as one that's good for newbies or those just starting out on their gaming journey. Something that was much more annoying though was trying to select certain specific things when the park begins to get full of objects. I had many instances where trying to select something in order to check its details became a real hassle. As the park grows, and you have more things close to each other, the game has real trouble differentiating between them. For instance, I had a food court set up, with burger vans, hotdog stands, and more placed all along one side of a long path. On the other side were numerous exhibits, donation boxes, signposts, trash cans, and toilets. My visitors had many unhappy bubbles flashing above their heads when in this location and I wanted to click on them to see more details. However, no matter how much I tried, I couldn't get the window to show as it would think I was selecting something else close by instead. Even zooming in as near as possible, and highlighting the person EXACTLY, it would still detect that I was clicking on the food cart, or bin, or signpost, or anything BUT what I actually wanted. Even rotating the viewpoint didn't clear it up and I found it really frustrating. I did learn to not build things so close together but this isn't always an option as you expand the available services your park can provide.
Ultimately Parkasaurus is an interesting and fun addition to the park management genre. With a cutesy style and bold colorful aesthetic it really stands out from the crowd but it also has the deep management options you'd expect from a game of this type. There are plenty of stats and graphs to keep things straight and you can fine-tune details like ticket price to perfect the running of your park. Getting new eggs can feel a little strange, trading resources for them in a mobile game style, but getting each new type is a joy and opens up an opportunity for a whole new enclosure to be built. Missions in the story mode have varied and different objectives but don't put too much pressure on you to complete, while the sandbox mode allows you to focus on simply building your ideal park. A perfect management game to chill with, or for those new to the genre, Parkasaurus can provide a fun time!
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7/10
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