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Simulation Runs Wild

Planet Zoo is a zoo simulation game by Frontier Developments. The title was initially announced in April 2019, with a beta publicly accessible by pre-ordering the deluxe version of the game. It was released on PC in November 5, 2019. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions will be released on March 26 2024.

It tasks the player with creating realistic zoos with a focus on conservation; an important factor in gaining reputation is educating guests and releasing endangered species into the wild. Unlike most games of its genre, building isn't restricted to a grid.

The website can be found here.


Planet Zoo provides examples of the following:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Depending on what species you adopt, some barriers are more resilient than others. Almost anything short of a stone/brick/concrete wall is this for the bigger animals, and some walls are climbable, adding another way for some animals to escape. The Hedge barrier is more for decoration than anything, and the "Null" barrier is completely worthless against anything but guests, and is only there to "complete" barriers that are otherwise composed of rocks, cliffs, etc. Humorously, beavers can be kept in with almost any decent fences... except for wooden ones, for obvious reasons.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
  • A.I. Breaker: Animals sometimes escape, and since you can't manually move them yourself, you are supposed to call a vet to tranquilize them, and move them back to their enclosure in a box. If you don't care about messing with the layout of your enclosure and the surrounding area, you can simply extend the enclosure by placing fences around the animal and deleting the dividing fence, and the animal will not be considered escaped anymore. It's much faster than waiting for a vet to run over there, scares fewer guests, and is usually a lot cheaper than the $1000 emergency capture option.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Surprisingly, several default building templates in the Australia pack have cacti as decorative plants, despite cacti not being native to Australia. While this can be mitigated by the player simply deleting the plants after putting the building down, the habitat for the Australian Blue-tongued Lizard also has cacti in it – and they cannot be removed.
  • Alpha and Beta Wolves: Many social animals have "alpha" members of their groups, including wolves, but this just means the dominant breeders, be they a pair (in the case of mixed-sex family groups such as canines and beavers), a dominant male (animals that live in harems such as lions, pinnipeds, and most ungulates), or a dominant female (such as hyenas and lemurs). In the last two cases, having too many members of the dominant sex in one enclosure can lead to fighting.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: All of the animal models conspicuously lack external genitalia, likely owing to the game's family friendly nature. Despite this, in a trailer, a hippo can be seen visibly defecating and helicoptering its tail around to splatter it everywhere, as they are known to do in real-life for territorial reasons.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The sandbox mode menu has toggles for various things. One of the things the player can turn off is animal welfare, which keeps the animals from becoming unhappy from anything, like too many rocks, too much or biome inappropriate foliage, unsuitable terrain, wrong elevation, or not enough space. This is so the player is not hindered in making exhibits as they please by having to abide by exhibit requirements.
    • Pressing "L" gives the player a torch, which is useful when trying to build in a dark place, like underground, in a building, or anywhere at night.
    • In sandbox mode, the player can freely adjust time of day, which is useful in some situations like evaluating how the lighting effects exhibits and architecture, or just turning it back to day so you don't have to try and build in the dark.
  • Artificial Brilliance: One of the game's main selling points is that its animals have life-like behaviors and individual personalities.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In spite of the game's general accuracy, it has a few mostly minor errors, oversights, and simplifications for gameplay:
    • Baby mammals don't nurse from their mothers. (Nursing was present in Zoo Tycoon 2.)
    • The gharials use the same animations as the crocodiles, including "high walking" like them in order to move around on land. In real life, adult gharials are incapable of walking, instead pushing themselves around with their limbs like seals.
    • The patterns of the Nile monitors are much simpler and brighter in color than those of the real animals.
    • Giant tiger land snails can be male or female in the game just like any other animal, but in real life they're simultaneous hermaphrodites (i.e. all individuals have functioning male and female genitalia).
    • Birds, reptiles, amphibians & invertebrates don't lay eggs, their babies are just spawned. Although this may be because in real zoos, visitors don't see eggs in enclosures because they're taken away for incubation.
    • Titan beetles are present in the game, although they cannot be bred in captivity in real life.
    • Some snakes are modeled with scale texture on their heads instead of scutes.
    • Reptile and bird poop (with the exception of penguins) is brown: the real thing has white portions (urates), and bird poop is modeled as round mammal-like droppings.
    • Animals don't pee in this game, unlike in Zoo Tycoon.
    • Close scrutiny of the animations reveals the spotted hyena reuses canine animations for running. Despite their appearance, hyenas are not canines and have a different gait.
    • One player went through the trouble of testing and comparing every species in the game's running speed. They found that they are wildly inaccurate, with the ostrich being the fastest animal in the game, the cheetah only coming in eighth, and many of the other species being inaccurate. Although, it should be pointed out that animals in real life don't always run at their maximum potential speed, especially when they are not in any danger or hunting.
    • The info article for wolves uses the terms "Alpha male and Alpha female," which are now considered outdated.
    • Unless animal welfare is turned off, animals want certain terrain amounts (a range of a certain amount of dirt, tall or short grass, snow, etc., this is also seen in Zoo Tycoon.) Except...in real life animals aren't always so picky about the amount of what kind of terrain they have unless it is related to natural behavior. Polar bears, both real and in-game, need a lot of water and snow which makes sense, but a real lion is probably not so picky about whether the grass in its enclosure is long or short, just that it has plenty of grass. It also probably does not care if it has an exact amount of soil and sand or not, and it almost certainly does not care or even know if the plants in its enclosure are not native to Africa, but the ones in the game do.
    • The game's Malayan tapir was initially smaller than in real life, almost the size of the Baird's tapir, despite the info article correctly stating it's the largest living tapir. It also had an incorrect back and a far shorter trunk than the real-life animal. This is finally fixed in the 1.16 update.
    • Giant anteaters can be placed in walkabout habitats, despite them being potentially dangerous and aggressive towards humans.
    • Every animal in the game will happily mate with their relatives, and the player is encouraged to strategically use contraceptives to prevent inbreeding. In real life around 20% of animals display "inbreeding avoidance" and will refuse to mate with parents or siblings if it can be avoided, including ones featured in the game such as meerkats and wolves.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Elephants. Sure, they are an immense draw, and will net you an enormous amount of money and Conservation Points if you manage to get a breeding program running, but they also require a huge habitat with a large amount of water, large quantities of food, and since they can smash down glass barriers they need a non-transparent enclosure with a viewing platform, which is a pain to build.
    • Polar bears count too. One of the most popular animals in the game - right up there with lions, elephants, and gorillas - and unlike them, they don't have any social requirements, so just getting one is fine. That said, they have absolutely GIGANTIC space requirements (far larger than any other animal, even after a couple updates that reduced this requirement somewhat), have aquatic needs as well, and need to be kept constantly cold so they don't overheat (and they overheat at anything above 10 degrees Celsius). Consequently, most players find them more trouble than they're worth.
  • Boring, but Practical: On the flip side, a number of smaller animals don't require a bunch of space but will breed extraordinarily fast if their requirements are satisfied and are good for gaining Conservation Points early. Most of them will give five times less than elephants, but at the rate they breed and the cost it will take to keep them fit and happy, will likely reap the rewards well enough. Some of these are: saltwater crocodiles, fennec foxes, plains zebra, springbok, and almost any of the exhibit reptiles, and with the DLC now includes red foxes, raccoons, and wallabies.
  • Born as an Adult: Exhibit animals are adults and able to breed as soon as they're born/hatched, even if they should have a larval stage (eg: most of the amphibians).
  • Camera Abuse: Several opening animations can be seen with different animals interacting with the camera and the "Frontier" logo.
    • The Mandrill and the Grey Seal wander in, sniff at the camera enough to fog it up, then stroll/waddle away.
    • The Polar Bear wipes a big cloud of snow off the camera lens, sniffs at it, then wanders off.
    • The Ostrich runs past fast enough to shake the camera.
    • The baby Elephant takes the cake, smashing through the "Frontier" logo and shattering it before knocking the camera to the floor.
  • Clean, Pretty Childbirth: When an animal is about to have offspring, she lays down, and then her offspring fade into existence nearby.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The various Conservation Statuses.
    • Dark Green: Domesticated
    • Green: Least Concern
    • Light Green: Near Threatened
    • Yellow: Vulnerable
    • Orange: Endangered
    • Red: Critically Endangered
    • Gray: Data Deficient
    • Black: Extinct in the Wild
  • Command & Conquer Economy: A zoo-scale implementation of the trope, as the player takes on the role of the director of the entire zoo, yet is allowed to tweak things that would usually be delegated way down the chain of command, like the temperature and humidity in the individual terrariums.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Dominic Myers is an example of this trope, and you are the only person capable of preventing his greed from harming the animals.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The game has animals that breed fast and are cheap to easily rack up Conservation Credits for more expensive species. In particular, fennec foxes and the exhibit reptiles don't require too much room and their requirements are easy to fulfill, but fennecs and the pythons will give 40CC each upon release and will very quickly produce more offspring. This explosive breeding strategy is useful for gaining better quality animals.
  • Don't Look At Me: Animals classified as "Shy" get stressed after being viewed by too many guests. To deal with this problem, players have to install one-way glass in barriers so animals can't see the guests, and use a lot of plants to silence the noises the guests make.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: At the end of the Yamaguchi Prefecture Tranquility Zoo mission, Emma says that one of Dominic Myers' zoos had so many escaped animals that he replaced them all with papier-mâchés. You get to see this for yourself in the Twilight Pack's Castle Myers mission, where all the pre-made enclosures are filled with piñatas and the two real foxes have escaped.
  • Incorrect Animal Noise: Refreshingly averted. Since the game aims for a more realistic, immersive experience, many of the animals instead utter the same variety of noises their real-life counterparts emit. Lions and tigers don't share the same roars, spotted hyenas don't growl or bark like wolves, and so on.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence:
    • This is invoked with the staff paths, which the guests are barred from walking on by the game's internal logic, so you can place them down specifically to prevent the guests from accessing certain areas (usually the parts where the unsightly maintenance facilities are located.)
    • You can literally place invisible null fences that guests cannot walk through. note 
  • Justified Tutorial: "Stately Home Schooling", "The Ape-renticeship", and "Bear Essentials", the first three levels in Career Mode, take the player through their apprenticeship under Bernie after being recently hired. Each guides the player through more and more complex concepts of the game, by having them renovate and improve three established and profitable zoos.
  • Kangaroos Represent Australia: The red kangaroo is all over the decorations and marketing in Australia Pack to an even greater extent than the other Australian animals. Ironically, they're not actually particularly popular with guests in-game.
  • Lighter and Softer: Animals aren't able to attack guests unlike the Zoo Tycoon series, specifically because the game is intended to be family friendly. Guests will still react badly to animals being outside of their exhibit, so the player is discouraged from letting them out to roam.
  • Menagerie of Misery: While this game goes out of its way to avert this, making the captive animals' requirements as realistic as possible and encouraging the players to meet these, it still has some Video Game Cruelty Potential if you intentionally ignore these requirements and build habitats obviously unsuited for the animals or place incompatible species (such as predator and prey) in the same habitat. In Career mode, it's stated that Dominic Myers' horribly mismanaged zoos are becoming this in your absence.
  • National Animal Stereotypes:
    • The animals have names common in countries and regions where they occur: deers, swans, badgers and red foxes have British names, wisents have Slavic names, reindeer have Norse names, polar bears and arctic foxes have Inuit names, African animals like lions or elephants have African names, cougars and prairie dogs have Native American names etc. The interesting example of this trope are king penguins who have English/British names, due to Antarctica not being owned by any nation.
    • The players can also invoke this trope by building nation-themed habitats for their animals, like for example building the dromedary camel habitat featuring Egyptian pyramids, or English country cottage for European badgers.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The more cartoon-ish guests (which have been largely carried over from Planet Coaster) clash fairly harshly with the more photorealistic animals.
  • Not the Intended Use: The object of the game is obviously to make a normal zoo, but it's more than easily possible to do an endless amount of ridiculous stuff in-game. There is even a famous player that has made money on Youtube by making comedic videos of himself playing the game in the most hilariously ridiculous manner possible, including by:
    • Modeling a large and believable looking suburb, with houses, other buildings, a theater, a sewer, and a bar.
    • Making a prison.
    • Modeling the first level for Pacman, complete with Pacman, dots, and the ghosts.
    • Making a zoo "on the moon." note 
    • Using the spelling letters for weird messages, like making a "ingredients list" for the guest's food that contains a percentage of many different zoo animal species, like lions and wolves, and even human beings.
    • Spelling words by placing trees hovering in midair.
    • Abuse of the googly eyes object, like placing it on dead animals.
    • Making guests and staff traverse incredibly long and convoluted paths.
    • Placing so many giraffes in the same enclosure they begin to overlap and form a very monstrous looking "giraffe hydra."
    • Making incredibly tall platforms with animals on top, then deleting them to rain a ton of dead animals on guests.
  • Palette Swap: Many animals come in rare albino or leucistic variants (and in the case of jaguars, a melanistic variant); apart from their colour, they share the same models and animations as their regular-colored counterparts.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: You can create a habitat like this in-game, but unless you turn predation off in Sandbox mode, it's... not a good idea.
  • The Power of Friendship: Many social animals like penguins, capybaras, prairie dogs or some ungulates like red river hogs or wildebeest live in huge groups, and have cohabitation bonus with other animals.
  • Pretty Butterflies: The South America pack has colored lights shaped like butterflies that players can use for decoration. Later, the Grasslands DLC introduced five species of butterfly for walkthrough exhibits. They will occasionally land on guests, to their visible delight.
  • Realistic Species, Cartoony Species: In this zoo simulator, the animals look extremely photorealistic and as anatomically accurate as possible, whereas the humans are cartoonish-looking with Black Bead Eyes.
  • Reward for Removal: As you're managing a zoo, animals will begin to complain if there's too many in an exhibit or habitat space. While you could theoretically just move some to another exhibit, the game offers two forms of selling overcrowded animals: a standard cash sell or releasing them into the wild for Conservation Credits. While cash is important to keep the zoo growing and maintained, Conservation Credits let you purchase more impressive specimens. And the higher rated your specimens, the better donations you get and the better the offspring, so the more cash or Conservation Credits you get from the sale or release. A frequent strategy in the game is actually to find either cheap-but-explosive breeders or high-magnet animals that require a high price and then milk them for Conservation Credits to fund the best animals.
  • Sandbox Mode: It allow players to start zoos with unlimited money and resources, all animals available, and all research completed to let them be creative with zoo design from the get-go.
  • Scars are Forever: Animals can get permanent scars after fighting, and sometimes already have scars when adopted.
  • Shown Their Work: All animals will have accurate behavior for their species. This is a first for zoo games, as no previous zoo sim has attempted to model real animal behavior to this extent.
    • As an specific example, lions require a pride to be happy, and if you have more than one male, the males will determine who's the most dominant and he will be the only one allowed to mate your lionesses.
    • Some animals are social, and others are perfectly happy being the only one in an enclosure.
    • In an interview with Ollie Powell (animation programmer), he shows knowledge about elephant anatomy. He mentions that an elephant technically walks on the tips of its toes, which internally actually start around "where you think their ankle is," and behind the toes is a large fleshy, boneless "pad" to help support the animal's massive weight. This was all researched and kept into consideration when animating this animal.
    • The frozen blood pumpkin enrichment item. In real life, many zoos make blood popsicles for some animals, such as big cats, as a treat and to help them keep cool in hot weather. Blood is added as a flavoring and attractant because many of these animals will not naturally lick plain ice on their own.
    • Gorillas properly do their Primal Chest-Pound with their palms, instead of their fists like cartoon gorillas.
    • Hippos aren't efficient swimmers in the conventional sense, preferring to run underwater just like in real life.
    • Ostriches have the correct sexual dimorphism with the females being dull brown. And the peahens lack the trains of peacocks.
    • Crocodilians have proper claw configuration, with two of their five fingers being clawless.
    • Unlike in Zoo Tycoon 2, peafowl are allowed to approach guests as in real-life zoos, due to the game's system now including walkabouts.
    • The American alligator is depicted with an overbite, in contrast to the other crocodilians.
    • Axolotls come in brown and green which are their natural colors, as well as being leucistic which is a result of being in the pet trade.
    • After the 1.9.1 Update, platypuses close their eyes when they dive underwater.
    • The enrichment for sloths includes a heater more commonly associated with reptiles, as sloths are one of the few mammals to be poikilothermic and need to bask in the sunlight to warm up.
  • Speaking Simlish: It uses the same "Planco" language for various signs and guest audio clips as Planet Coaster. Lampshaded when Bernie Goodwin introduces you to Career mode speaking it, before apologizing and switching to English.
  • Swans A-Swimming: The Eurasian Animals Pack adds mute swans, who are safe enough for guests to enter their habitats.
  • Time-Passes Montage: Invoked in Eurasia Animal Pack trailer which gives a impression that the seasons are passing during it - it starts in early spring when snow starts melting, before ending during winter. This is achieved by use of autumn looking foliage and Sandbox weather mechanics.
  • Überwald: The Twilight pack DLC, released shortly before Halloween, has a Career mode scenario/map with this motif; it’s set in Transylvania around the crumbling "Castle Myers", surrounded by glowing mushrooms, strange purple water and a mist-shrouded forest. It also has an architectural style modeled after eastern European castles and villages. There’s a lot of overlap with Halloweentown, given the "spooky" seasonal decorations.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • The game's sandbox mode allowed for infinite possibilities, some of which are a zoo where the animals or guests are treated cruelly. There are even YouTube videos about this. However, unlike the Zoo Tycoon series you cannot sic animals on guests.
    • The player can pop the guests' balloons by clicking on them.
  • Wham Episode: Mission 6. Bernie went missing in the Arctic, the board of directors had him declared legally dead so they could sell off all his zoos, you are now working for a corrupt man that is blatantly trying and failing hard to sound like he cares about anything but money and himself, you are being put in charge of fixing an abusive zoo with a overwhelming laundry list of demands from your boss and absolutely barely any space to work with, and Nancy has been fired. In anything else, this Plot Twist wouldn't hit as hard, but it clashes with the previously very lighthearted, humorous tone of the game enough to be jarring.
  • Wintry Auroral Sky: As of an early update, maps in the Tundra biome will often develop auroras in the sky at night if the game’s graphical settings are turned high enough.
  • You Are Number 6: Unlike the game's spiritual predecessor this trope gets averted, due to animals having names common in countries in which they occur.

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