Animal theme park games are an underserved subgenre of theme park simulators. Any new release in the genre is well worth exploring for this reason alone. In this Parkasaurus review, I'll be tackling a game that unreservedly puts fun and silliness over realism.
Parkasaurus, at its heart, is exactly what it looks like: a game where you build a theme park and stuff it full of dinosaurs. While games like Jurassic World Evolution take the realistic approach, Parkasaurus eschews that in favor of cartoonish silliness.
I first played Parkasaurus more than a year ago and instantly fell in love with the derpy dinosaurs and charming design choices. It had a fair few issues, though, and I was excited to see if Washbear Studio had gotten a handle on these problems for the full release on Steam.
Dino Wrangling 101
The newest and most significant introduction to Parksaurus is the campaign. A theme park simulator can certainly do without, but campaigns serve several purposes. They teach players the game, tell one or more stories, and provide unique challenges that you might not get in a sandbox map.
My first few hours of the Parkasaurus review were spent on running through the campaign. The story it tells is just as silly as the game: dinosaurs are actually from another planet and it's up to you to collect spaceship parts so they can go back home. These spaceship parts are used as a currency that can unlock buffs for your game (with bonus parts awarded if you can do it quickly).
After the tutorial, the campaign helps you better understand the gameplay. Some of the missions aren't unlocked until you've earned enough ship parts and there are some puzzling choices here. Essential gameplay mechanics are the central theme of some of the later campaign maps; it feels a bit backward.
Parkasaurus' campaign has several missed opportunities to truly challenge the player outside of the time bonus. Not too many maps make substantial changes to the game rules. As an example, one map makes fences cost ten times as much, incentivizing players to use existing fences. Other maps have pre-existing structures that you have to build around. Most maps don't mix up the gameplay, though, and it feels like a serious missed opportunity.
One of my earlier criticisms of Parkasaurus was that it was just too easy. This problem largely centers on the game currencies: money, science, and hearts. Players earn money by collecting donations from visitors, selling merchandise, and earning entry fees. Science is earned through research, and hearts are earned every evening from happy dinosaurs.
It's fairly challenging to earn money and hearts. Science remains tremendously easy to earn. Thanks to the bank and the ability to exchange resources, you'll have more money than you could ever need as long as you train up a handful of scientists.
Custom games aren't much better. The sandbox offers several options to change a few variables. Unfortunately, none of these really make the game more challenging.
A game does not have to be difficult to be fun, mind. I play plenty of games that don't really challenge my mechanical skills or strategy. That said, Parkasaurus doesn't even give you the option to create a serious challenge for yourself beyond the time limit bonus of the campaign missions.
U and I
As this is a theme park simulator, the user interface is an important part of the game. My Parkasaurus review was plagued with UI problems, some of which persisted from my 2018 preview of the game.
One such example is the notifications. A big message window pops up at the top of the screen. This obscures the top row of the fossil digging minigame and it gets annoying quickly.
When items go into your inventory, the pop-ups at the bottom left of the screen will also block view of your inventory. You can't dismiss these notifications — you have to simply wait them out. This is a problem that should have been remedied before launch.
Too Small a Sandbox
After I finished the campaign, I waved goodbye to the dinosaurs as they left our planet in a cartoonish rocket ship. My time with the game was not over, though — I wanted to close out my Parkasaurus review by building the best custom park I could.
I started things off with a handful of dinosaurs to raise some seed money. I then tranquilized the dinosaurs, closed down the park, and set up a team of scientists to start earning science (and consequently, money). I began to build as my researchers toiled away.
It was here than another user interface problem became apparent: Parkasaurus often lacks critical information. Yes, a Triceratops is a herd animal, but how many animals are needed to properly fulfill its social need? The game doesn't tell you, so I had to experiment as I went along to find the right number. This is information that should be in the Dinopedia.
I was also rather distressed to discover that the custom park is too small for what I was trying to do. There are 32 dinosaurs in Parkasaurus. I wanted to give all of them a home in Raptorland, but that just isn't possible.
You see, a dinosaur requires a minimum amount of square footage to be happy. A Carnotaurus, for example, requires 490 square feet of space in its exhibit. A Carnotaurus also needs a mate of the opposite sex, so the Carnotaurus exhibit has to be 980 square feet at the minimum. Herd dinosaurs typically require four members of its species, so some of these exhibits got quite large.
I carefully constructed my park, putting together dinosaurs in shared exhibits where possible to conserve on space. Unfortunately, I only had room for 13 of the game's 32 dinosaurs (along with attractions and guest amenities).
I'm sure I could have crammed some more dinos in there by being a little more careful with my planning. I'm certain there is no way to have every dino on one map without putting them in undersized exhibits. I found this rather disappointing.
Parkasaurus Review | Final Thoughts
I went into my Parkasaurus review hoping to find that Washbear Studio had fixed some of the game's more serious issues and fleshed out the gameplay. I find myself a little disappointed after 36 hours of gameplay.
That's not to say Parkasaurus is a bad game — it does a lot of things right. You're afforded a lot of freedom to build your park however you want, even if the UI occasionally gets in the way. Parkasaurus makes for a good entry into the theme park genre. It could do with some improvement, but I think you'll have a lot of fun playing it.
TechRaptor conducted our Parkasaurus review on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Charming Dinosaur Design
- Tons of Decorations and Silly Hats
- Generous Freedom to Build Your Park
- Campaign Rarely Modifies Gameplay
- Map Size Can't Be Expanded
- UI Often Gets in the Way