Welcome back to Planet Zoo! If you remember my review from last year, I liked it very much, enjoying the calming job of taking care of creatures in a way that keeps them happy while also helping to raise money to keep their species thriving. It’s unlike anything else out there. In an awful year full of awful things, a return to the simplicity of running a park where people can see amazing animals they’d never see anywhere else is exactly the relaxing game we all need right now. Let’s dig into the latest DLC (priced at just $9.99) — the Aquatic Pack.
The Aquatic Pack joins the three previous packs, namely the Australia Pack, South America Pack, and Arctic Pack. In this pack we get to finally introduce awesome aquariums full of amazing animals like Giant Otters, Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman, Gray Seals, Diamondback Terrapin (those are cute little turtles!), and majestic King Penguins into our parks. These creatures are eye-wateringly cute and it’s my sudden deep-seeded need to take care of every one of them.
There is a fresh new campaign entitled “Red Barn River Zoo” to test your zoological and park management mastery. This particular scenario is a small family zoo in Oregon. This zoo has seen better days, the park is tightly packed, and the owners would love it if you could restore it to its former glory, expand it, and breathe new life into it before the tourists arrive for the next season.
The objectives for this scenario are to build 12 habitat species, attract 2200 guests, get one animal habitat to a 5 star rating, rake in 65k in profits, and push the zoo rating up from a 2.5 up to 4.0 out of 5. Easy, right? Not with a budget of 13k it isn’t! You only have an hour of real-world time to get it done to get that coveted gold star. Time to get to work.
The first thing the park lacks is educational opportunities for the guests. While the park goers can see into the habitats, there is almost no signage to speak of beyond a handful of Habitat Education Boards. Bringing in educators and plunking down kiosks for talks can solve this issue, which leads to a new free feature that will launch alongside this pack — Animal Talks.
If you’ve been to a real zoo then you are familiar with the concept. Outside of a habitat you’ll have a zoologist of some sort that will happily and cheerfully tell you more about the creature you are looking at, offering tidbits of information you wouldn’t otherwise get and answering questions. Well, now you can do precisely the same thing. Hiring Educators, a new staff type, you can assign them to a kiosk and have them do “Animal Talks”. They will trot out, stand at the kiosk, and talk about the specific species you select from the dropdown (it’s nice that it defaults to the animals in the nearby habitat). These talks will pull in a number of guests, but you can only schedule them once a year. Honestly, it’s my only complaint with this pack — I’d love something more routine using my staff to help keep my guests happy, perhaps with special guests coming in for an annual fundraiser talk? Either way, it’s a cool addition and really adds to the conservation and education angle. Beyond education, there is a more important concern to address first, though — the animals, of course.
Just as before, you’ll use your Zoopedia as well as the animals themselves to tell you what you need to do to best take care of their needs. Most just need something like some additional long grass or a climbing frame, but others might need something more specific like a large enclosure to hide from leering guests. A new underwater feeder is great for penguins as it lets guests watch them munch on fish through the glass. You can also feed your Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman, otters, and seals this way, adding a whole new dimension for your visitors.
Also included in the free update is a new water regulator. Separating out your park to ensure each critter has the optimum temperature in their habitat can be a challenge. With the new water regulator you can set your temperatures and have the device regulate the temperature of anything within its reach. You’ll want to keep a mechanic at the ready though — if it breaks you may suddenly find yourself handling a lot of upset creatures. Cute little penguins escaping is one thing, but when the Jaguars get out everyone better start running.
It wouldn’t be Planet Zoo if you couldn’t make your own worlds. To help you construct whatever is in your head, the Aquatic Pack brings over 120 new scenery pieces large and small to bring your park to life. Since the DLC directly integrates into the existing package, this means you can immediately begin adding to your park without starting over.
This Aquatic Pack gives us five new critters, but it also paves the way for massive new aquariums in the future. Given Frontier’s ongoing support of this title, I can only imagine we’ll be building our own coral reefs and dropping in sharks soon enough. This pack provides a whole new way to engage your guests, and the little quality of life improvements and new creatures make it well worth the $9.99. Now, I’m going to go back to watching my otters swim around — I could do that all day.
Planet Zoo: Aquatic
With five new creatures, more than 120 set pieces, a new educational “Animal Talks” system, and a ton of quality of life improvements, this expansion pack is a must-have for any Planet Zoo enthusiast. Come for the Caimans, stay for the Penguins.