Parkasaurus is available on Steam. Joseph Pugh conducted this review.
Parkasaurus is a tycoon game where you are in charge of building and maintaining a zoo filled with Dinosaurs. You must build proper exhibits for each species, keep guests happy and dig for fossils.
Parkasaurus leans heavily on the cute and silly, as the Dinosaurs literally arrive on a crashed rocket ship. But underneath the adorable veneer is a deep park builder. Yet, while no expense may have been spared, the game is certainly in need of more teeth.
Parkasaurus features a set of goal-oriented missions in a campaign mode and a sandbox mode where you can tweak settings to your liking.
A Paleo Palette
Parksaurus is all bright colors and a feel-good atmosphere. The entire game lights up with the charm of a coloring book mixed with Disney Land, but instead of Mickey Mouse, you get a T-Rex, a solid trade if I do say so myself. The game is incredibly upbeat and quirky from it’s visual presentation to its music and sound effects. It invokes a pleasant and joyful feeling, and I am always for games using more colors as long as it fits the concept.
The campaign missions are pretty much tutorials, each one can be completed very quickly, and they usually teach you a new concept. The real meat is the games sandbox mode where you simply build a park, with or without constraints. It’s up to you.
This can make the campaign missions tedious. They are over so quickly that there is little point in flexing your creative muscles when you will be moving on from each park in short order. There is also a mechanic where each objective you complete grants you ship parts. You can spend these on perks to carry over into other campaign missions, but they are pretty unnecessary.
The good news is, nothing is really gated behind the campaign except for being taught different aspects, most of which are straight forward enough to learn on your own. There is also nothing stopping you from continuing a campaign level after you already won.
Sparing no expense
The park building itself is pretty deep in Parksaurus. Different dinosaurs have different needs, and you have to craft every exhibits biome to fit that species of dinosaur. Adding grass might make it a forest, add a bunch of water, and it becomes a rain forest. You then have to fill up its biodiversity with various trees, bushes, and rocks. This helps keep your new prehistoric pets happy and healthy.
Additionally, they need to be fed and cared for, and you have to balance out a dinosaur’s privacy, with your guest’s need to actually see them. This means making exhibits that are somewhat closed to the public eye, except where you want the guests to view them. You can also place tall grass and shelters for the dinosaurs to take refuge in if the spotlight becomes too much. Interestingly your freshly hatched dinos start as cute little baby’s and grow over the span of an in-game week.
Higher tier dinosaurs have more complex needs but more appeal, leading to much larger donations from guests. The dinosaurs themselves can have special traits based on what items you splice with the egg before they hatch. A chubby dinosaur eats more but grows larger, for example. You can even breed the dinosaurs passing on a mixture of colors and traits from their parents to the new baby. You can spend a lot of time trying to get a dino just right and it’s pretty entertaining.
The prehistoric beasties also have various levels of aggression and damage and a bunch of other neat little stats. The guests are equally as diverse and are fully simulated. They have different needs and personalities. You have to keep them fed, keep bathrooms plentiful, and your park beautiful. Even something like shade is taken into consideration.
You can place all kinds of stuff in your park outside of the dinosaurs. One really neat feature is how many buildings had gamified effects. Different sized hot dogs sold from a shop would make guests stay in the park longer while others types of food could influence donations to certain species. Sure it’s not realistic, but it adds a lot to your design and decision making.
You also have to hire staff, janitors, veterinarians, etc. They each have different skill levels in speed, ability, and personality that they can level up in to run your park, but also digging skills. You use your staff to dig up fossils in a small mini-game, and their stats help determine how well they perform. It’s a neat little mini-game, and you can have it automated if you aren’t feeling up to it.
As you play, you accumulate science and hearts. Both of which are spent on two entirely separate tech trees full of new buildings and other things. Science can be generated, but hearts are earned by having happy dinosaurs. Both tech trees are substantial and help allow you to guide the direction of your park.
Amusingly you can also acquire hats and place them on your staff to increase their skills or on your dinos to increase their appeal. There is just something special about putting a pair on bunny ears on a Brachiosaurus.
With the vast array of options available, you can run wild with park designs. At the end of each day, you observe a daily report with all sorts of details about your park, including reviews left by guests.
The simulation side of the game takes all kinds of factors into account. The sandbox mode is where most of the fun is, and I thought it was neat that the game still gave you optional daily objectives to complete and be rewarded for doing so.
What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is, well, nothing. Parkasaurus falls into a common pitfall of simulation games. There is no need to strap on a manager’s hat and run a park with any degree of nuance or skill. Parkasaurus has a wonderful variety of subsystems weaving itself into a solid park sim but underutilizes all of it.
To succeed in Parksaurus, you simply need to plop down a single exhibit with one dinosaur, and you have done it, go make a sandwich and let the money roll in. Cash just gets kind of thrown at you, and once the ball gets rolling, it doesn’t stop.
Once an exhibit is finished, you can pretty much forget about the dinosaurs in it. Higher tiers require stronger fences, as they do periodically attack it. But if you have the right fencing, they will never escape. Even if they do break free, I couldn’t find any penalty for allowing your dinos to escape and chew on your guests.
You would think that would be the number one problem you need to prevent. But I didn’t see as much as a slap on the wrist for my Rexs going Rambo. There is an in-depth medicine system that you rarely need to pay attention too, and all the special effects from different buildings are never needed.
This dampens the Park Building strategy a great deal as the business side of things never influence your actions. Creatively, you can do whatever you want, which has some appeal sure, but it wastes every other system in the game.
There is a decent selection of Dinosaurs too, but they are kind of dull. They don’t do much beyond wandering around, they are bright and cute but not really fun to watch. Guests suffer a bit from this as well, I noticed they don’t actually enter bathrooms, they stand outside them while their bathroom bar fills up, gross.
This makes Parkasaurus feel kind of static. Dinosaurs feel less like animals and more like objects. With zero challenge, your longevity with the game will depend on much you like making unconstrained cartoony parks. The game really needed some emergent event system to throw a wrench into your fine fossilized oiled machine, or at least a reason to care about your dinos escaping.
Parksaurus definitely comes on strong, its charm can’t be denied, and the simulation aspects are surprisingly detailed, it just seems to be afraid to use them in any meaningful way.
The dinos are adorable, but one note and the guests are highly detailed but, it doesn’t matter within the games grand design as you would have to purposely try to fail. Success falls into your lap simply for the park existing at all.
Maybe in a way, that’s realistic. If you put a real-life Stegosaurus on display, you can take all of my money right now while I squeal like a giddy child. But it’s not compelling for a game. It really feels like Parkasaurus wants you to strike a balance between your dinosaur’s happiness, and that of your guests. But you never struggle to do either.
The bones are there, Parkasaurus has a lot going on for it, and I want to love it. It’s about building a park with dinosaurs after all, what’s not to love? It’s a great creative park builder, with a deep simulation system that the game fails to ever properly use, the lack of challenge means you never need to use any management skills which is missing the point of a business simulation game. Even if it’s one about cartoon dinosaurs.
A copy of Parkasaurus was provided for Gideon’s Gaming by Washbear Studios for the sake of review.
You might be interested in checking out my reviews of Parkitect
- Cute, colorful and upbeat
- Guests are fully simulated
- Dino traits and breeding is neat
- Parkasaurus has a solid simulation system with neat gamified effects from different objects
- Two large tech trees
- Dinosaurs are a little lifeless
- The lack of any challenge undermines the simulation aspects.
- The campaign is just a glorified tutorial
- Dinos chewing on your guests isn’t visibly penalized