Wildlife Park 3 PC Review
It’s easy to get sneery about lower-budget PC sims, especially if you’re reviewing one while an unplayed copy of, say, L.A. Noire sits on your desk. And yet, despite the circumstances, I have just spent an entire evening playing Wildlife Park 3, and not really regretting it. Join me as I attempt to explain why, and probably get it wrong.
The game casts you as the manager of a wildlife park – shocking, I know – and it’s up to you to keep the punters happy while making some money and, ideally, not letting any animals die. You can play the game either in campaign mode, or free mode. Campaign mode has a series of partially-built parks in different locations all over the world, each with specific rules and objectives designed to teach you the basics and, later on, test your skill in more difficult situations. Free mode, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds like; pick a location (there are loads), choose which rules you want to use and how much money you want to start with, and away you go. Being given the option to simply choose how ludicrously wealthy you are right off the bat is refreshingly honest of the developers; if you want to play it like a proper management sim, fine. But some of us just want to nob around building parks with loads of lions in, and we shouldn’t have to look on google for a cheat in order to do so.
Keeping animals happy isn’t too difficult, for the most part. This is a good thing, because unhappy animals die. Each animal in the game has a helpful information tab, telling you what they eat, what their favourite ground type is, how much exercise they need every day, and so on. So, you fence an area off and make sure it meets all the animals’ needs before buying them and dropping them in. From there, they will entertain your guests and, if you keep them happy enough, breed with one another to make these: more animals. If you don’t do anything daft, you’ll soon find your animals begin to feel their enclosures are a bit cramped, prompting you to sell off a bunch of them for a tidy profit. Or, just wait until some of them die of old age. You can also name the animals if you really want to, but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a fan of emotional turmoil and crying.
That said, you get a special achievement if you name one of your meerkats ‘Aleksandr’. You don’t get any points for it, though; instead, a masked gunman shoots you in the back of the head.
Sadly, having a load of amazing animals to look at isn’t enough for the irritating, malcontent punters that roam around your otherwise lovely park. They moan that there aren’t enough shops, you give them shops, they buy stuff then drop litter and complain that there’s too much litter. People, eh? Luckily, there are ways of dealing with every single one of their complaints, be it with shops, toilets, extra trees, or more giant statues of Jesus. You can never have enough of those.
You’ll also need staff. They come in various flavours, and carry out menial tasks like picking up litter, feeding the animals and making sure the trees don’t die of blight. That last one isn’t a joke. Each member of staff has a set area in which they will tend to their duties, but they can be easily moved around if you catch them doing bugger-all. They also have different skill levels, and their wage alters accordingly. I actually managed to find a litter-picker who was so bad at his job that he cost me nothing at all to hire, which is kind of funny, sad, and offensive at the same time.
The game features some pretty comprehensive landscaping tools, allowing you to make things a bit more interesting by creating hills, cliffs, lakes, and so on. As well as being cosmetic, this also has gameplay applications; for example, some animals like to swim, so you’d better dig them a pond or they will GET SAD and DIE. The landscaping can be fiddly at times, but it’s certainly no worse than we’ve seen in the likes of, say, Spore.
Presentation-wise, the game actually does okay. There are a lot of different species of animal in the game, and they’re mostly pretty fun to watch. I was genuinely moved when I first figured out how to put a pond in my penguin enclosure, and they immediately all started racing towards the water with their wings outstretched in that brilliantly idiotic way penguins do. I’m also pretty sure I caught a gnu mounting his partner at one point, so kudos for the attention to detail there.
There’s little hiding from the fact that the game is poorly-coded, though. You’ll have a pretty long wait every single time you load the game up, and the frame-rate was regularly dropping to around 10-15 frames per second once my park started to get busy. This is on a PC that can shift Crysis 2 at full-whack. Certain elements of the game’s text also appear in German, the developers’ native tongue. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it does suggest a certain lack of care.
Wildlife Park 3 is actually a half-decent game, though. It does what it sets out to competently, and certainly isn’t difficult to recommend to younger players if they find it for a bit less than the £29.99 RRP (and a quick google search suggests they probably will). It’s just that, for those who’ve played their fair share of management sims, it does nothing new. For a game of this genre to make you regularly think “oh, cool, it’s kind of like Theme Park” – in 2011 – there needs to be a serious lack of envelope-pushing going on.