Previews

Parkasaurus first impressions — The dinosaur park management game that has stolen my heart

Parkasaurus by WashBear Studio is the park management sim I never knew I needed, and it has quickly taken a place in my heart. A fellow Gaming Trend editor with too much on his plate passed me the early access alpha key for the game, which is currently $19.99 USD on Steam, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to give you my first impression, as it not only blew me away, but has easily earned a spot as one of my favorite games!

Initially I thought it would be a fun game to play with my four year old son, so I was happy to take a peek and give my thoughts. Twelve hours later that same day, Parkasauraus still held my attention, long after kiddo had moved on to other things. I am a sucker for simple city builders, starting way back in the day with the original SimCity games. Then I discovered Pharoah, followed by Zeus, and still play them to this very day. I’ve played all The Sims games, until EA decided to ruin the franchise with Sims 4. So this cute little dinosaur game was a perfect fit for me.

Below you can see some highlights of me playing the game, along with the basics of how to build an enclosure for a dinosaur:

Parkasaurus is a park management sim, where you have to find a balance between creating the proper ecosystem for your adorable dinos to live in, keeping your dinos themselves happy, and keeping your park guests happy. Don’t let the bright, fun graphic style of this game fool you, there is a lot of work that goes into making your park run smoothly. With that being said, it doesn’t feel like you’re micromanaging things too much either. I found the game to be the perfect balance of just enough to look after, but not so much it’s overwhelming.

Some of the highlights and features of the game, as per WashBear Studio are:

  • Exhibit Design: Each dinosaur requires a unique biosphere – the shape of exhibit, materials used, ecology, plants, elevation and humidity all make a difference
  • Park Creation and Management: Wisely spend resources to build the ultimate Dino Park and turn a profit to ensure future stability
  • Guest Monetization: By reading reviews and observing your guests, fine tune your parks flow and arrangement to maximize happiness
  • Employee Management: Level up rookie hires or bring on established veterans to help run your park smoothly
  • Time Travel for Dino Eggs: Go back in time to retrieve the hottest (and oldest) Dino Eggs
  • Chaotic Dino Escapes: Handle with care your Dino rampages by switching into first person view
  • Year Round Challenges: Manage unexpected weather disasters and the expected demands of each season

Parkasaurus has a simple, clean user interface that is very easy to learn. I jumped in using the tutorial, and found no issues at all navigating through the different menus. You start out with an empty park (which my son chose to name Cranberry Land) and an egg to hatch, but first you have to build an environment for your future dinosaur to live in. Here is where the balancing act comes into play. Certain dinosaurs want specific biomes, and the starter dino I got required a rainforest. While you can put dinos of the same family into the same biome, I found that most species within that family all want different biomes. Building up the terrain for each attraction is the trickiest part of the game, in my opinion. You can choose from three different tile types:

  • Grass: for forest, rainforest, or taiga biomes
  • Sand: for desert, savanna, or grassland biomes
  • Mud: for swamp, tundra, and alpine biomes.

Panel showing you information on your biome.

I chose the Grass tile, and mixed in some privacy grass for my new dino friend. You’ll quickly find out that most of the dinosaurs you hatch don’t like being looked at by guests, which is something you have to balance. Guests want to see the dinosaurs and will get very frustrated if they can’t, resulting in a negative review. Placing their feeding bins near the front of the attraction seemed to fix that for most of my exhibits, as the dinos are in full display when they come out to eat their food, but also get the privacy they need while wandering around doing other things. I added in some water, and then placed down the proper amount of trees, shrubs, and rocks to balance things out to turn the exhibit into a rainforest. Thankfully the game has a clear, defined panel that shows you once you’ve gotten things just right.

Before placing my first egg down, I went into the “office” to hire some employees. They manage your park in four different areas. Veterinarians supply the food you buy for the park to each exhibit automatically, which you can set up to be delivered at the start of every new day so you don’t ever have to worry about restocking. They also heal your dinos, and clean up their exhibits. Janitors clean up your park by picking up and taking out trash, repairing any fences that your angry dinosaurs have damaged, and cleaning the bathrooms. Scientists can be set to walk around your park to find fossils which you use to create new dino eggs, they will give presentations if you have a booth set up in your park for it, and if they are placed in a lab they will generate science points (which are used to obtain new items and perks for your park). Now that I had enough employees, I eagerly placed my egg in my rainforest exhibit!

Dinosaur information for the very first dinosaur I hatched, lil Amory!

Once your dino has hatched, caring for it is pretty easy. You can check to see if they are happy by clicking on them, and they will also display a sad or happy face above their head if they are leaning heavily one way or another. Most dinos in Parkasaurus are herd animals, and desire the company of others. My little guy was no exception, so I headed over to the Portal feature to start digging for bones. Essentially this is a time machine where you send explorers (your scientists) off to dig up bones for whatever type of dinosaur family you set before departing. It takes them a little while to travel to the location, and the game will notify you when you’re ready. Once they have reached the proper moment in the past, you can begin a fun little puzzle game to dig for skulls and footprints to create your egg. Designed in a grid pattern, some nodes are easier to mine than others.

The portal panel, this is where you choose which time period to travel to for your expedition.

The mini game dig!

After gathering enough bones to create an egg of the proper species to make my current dino happy, I headed to the Egg shop from the Town menu. Here, you combine your skull and footprint fossils and it gives you an egg in return. I plopped it down in my exhibit, and before long I had another adorable baby dinosaur!

Your dinosaurs will age, and grow…some of which get so big you might have to redesign their exhibit! I ran into this problem with one of mine, and had to re-plan things in order to move them into a more comfortable enclosure. Be sure to keep a close eye on the size of your species before planning out a biome for them so you don’t find yourself in my shoes!

The way to unlock more dinosaur families, and fun items for your park are through science points that your scientists generate, and from hearts you get from leveling up. Of course, like most dinosaur fans, I wanted to get the T-Rex as fast as I could! I was able to unlock all of the trees in both categories within about ten hours of gameplay. While I am sure this will be adjusted as time goes on, I was happy to get to see all of what the game is currently offering.

Managing the actual park has been pretty fun. In typical park management game style, your guests will complain about everything. My first initial daily review report, which you get at the end of each operating day, showed a lot of people complaining about how dirty the park was. I plopped down a handful of trash cans, and it cleared up pretty quick. Food, and decorations seem to be the other two hot topics with angry guests. I’ve been modifying Cranberry Land to get enough of both scattered around the park. I am still trying to figure out how to get my park rating to go higher than three stars, and I suspect it’ll take a lot more work to get there.

There’s always money in the banana stand!

Something else to note, is a lot of the small details and humor that I have found throughout the game! Such as the drop down menu text for how often a janitor should clean the bathroom: Smelly, Disgusting, or Poopacolypse. Or the description of the Banana Stand: A smart Parkasaurus owner knows there’s always money in the banana stand. You can also earn hats for your dinosaurs through the science and hearts system! Yes you read that right, HATS FOR YOUR DINOS! It is seriously one of the most adorable things I’ve seen in a game. I’ve currently got a pair of “Cool Glasses” on one of my T-Rex, a “Cone of Shame” on a Parasaurolophus, and a “Fedora” on a Triceratops. Fun stuff like this really goes a long way with me, and keeps things from feeling monotonous.

T-Rex…or unicorn?!

My Triceratops rockin’ a fedora hat!

Throughout my twelve hours of gameplay (and counting) I only noticed one obvious bug. After unlocking the toy ball for my dinos to play with, it would sometimes get lost in the terrain, which made their happiness sink. Although there is a reset button for it, the ball never actually reset, and I would have to purchase another one. I found that this happened more in the grass and mud tiles. My dinos living on sand tiles never ran into this issue. I did not experience any crashes, or anything that was game breaking while playing either.

I cannot express enough with how impressed I am with this game, having never heard of it before a couple of days ago, this game plays so smooth I had to keep reminding myself it is still in alpha! The fact this is being created by only TWO devs is beyond impressive, and other large companies should take note. It has easily taken over as one of the best games I have played in years. Even though some might think the graphics are too simple and cute, it blows a lot of bigger sim games out of the water. I can’t wait to see this game develop, and will support it eagerly along the way. My advice: don’t walk, RUN to Steam and pick this diamond in the rough up today!

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