First impressions of Parkasaurus 1.0

I didn’t put it in the subject line, but this is a post for Promptapalooza: Write that one post you wanted to write so often, but always postponed. Finally do it! This prompt was published by Glittering Girly Gwent Gaming. I have several drafts sitting here, going all the way back to 2014, but chose to finally write this one. I had originally only wanted to write about the current state of the Early Access version after the the Parkasaurus developers added breeding into the game, but never got around to finishing it – or well, write more than three sentences, actually. In the meantime, they have released the game already, so it ddoesn’t make sense to write about one new feature. Instead, I am going to take a look at the game as a released and finished one. I stopped playing it at some point because other newer games asked for my attention. At some point during Early Access, I always do that with games. I let them sit there, grow and get released, before I jump back. This also means that lots of things are actually new for me.

Parkasaurus is a park-simulation game with dinosaurs. There is a campaign available with several rather short missions as well as a sandbox feature. It also has a tutorial which explains the basics of the game like how to build an exhibit properly suited for a particular dinosaur. There isn’t really much else to say about the tutorial. It’s rather short, but explains everything you need to know to get started. After that, you can start the campaign which also, step by step, introduces you to more advanced features of the gameplay. Since they didn’t wipe my game progress, I can’t really tell you which campaign mission comes first, as I had played through several already. But it looks like you can choose and do not need to stick to a certain order.

Let’s get to the negative part (for me): The graphics. They are certainly not for everybody. If you expect something like Jurassic World Evolution from an indie team (the game was developed by only two people), then you’ll be disappointed. The colours themselves aren’t even that bad for me. They are bright and cheerful. But coupled with hats that you can have your dinosaurs wear, for example, and the tiny low fences, it is actually a bit too silly for my taste. However, sometimes silly is exactly what we need! Apart from that, the graphics are actually quite charming and I like the look of the cute dinosaurs with their big eyes. I just try to stay away from putting any clothing on my dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the hats come with stats. But so far, I have been safely ignoring them.

I usually turn off the music in games because I like to watch streams while playing in the evening. But if you do turn on the music, then I think the songs are rather nice, because they stay “in the background” and aren’t too distracting. The song also switches when you, for example, enter the shop to buy food for your dinos. It fits to the game and the atmosphere, but I think I’ll keep it turned off and just continue playing without it.

Keeping dinosaurs happy is very important, because they will try to escape – and kill visitors – when they are unhappy. I haven’t actually had any issues keeping them in their exhibits so far. You will need to hire enough janitors, though, who repair broken fences. There are also some campaign missions that focus on exactly these issues where you need to capture the dinos before they destroy your whole park or decide to hunt for their own dinner. Your dinos can also get sick in which case you need to give them the appropriate medicine.

When I first tested the game, you could earn a lot of money very fast. With money not being a limiting factor, the game was much too easy. But they managed to balance it out now. I also ran through the unlocks much too fast, which they also managed to balance. There is a science and a hearts tree. Scientists will earn you science points which can be spent on unlocks. Hearts are earned by having happy dinosaurs. These are spent on other unlocks. In order to unlock more kinds of dinosaurs, you have to spend both science and hearts. I don’t know yet how long it takes to unlock everything in the game, but I think it’s got a nice pace. And if you are impatient or just want to toy around, you can play a sandbox map and choose to have unlimited money or everything unlocked already.

Getting more dinosaurs requires you to go dig for fossils. Your staff will be sent through time portals to dig up the required parts. If you spend money on an expedition, you can also dig deeper and find more than just the fossils – hats, for example, but also money, science points and hearts. The expedition is a bit like a mini game where your staff gives you different digging shapes and a different amount of charges per shape. Then you can look for pieces by using these shapes. It is nice, but nothing exciting. You can also add items to a hatching dino egg which will result in the dinosaur having a different colouring or specific traits – being shy or even aggressive, etc. Later in the game, you will unlock breeding, but at the beginning, you have to take what you get.

I remember the developers not really wanting a pause feature in the game. They were afraid that as a player, you would pause the game, spend all your money on building and then there would be nothing else to do until the end of the day and you would be bored. To be honest, this is exactly what happens when I play: I pause, spend all the money that I have, then unpause and have nothing to do – with one exception: I don’t get bored then. I use the pause feature to focus on building. Then I unpause and focus on my park: I watch where visitors go, if they are happy or unhappy, if my dinos need anything else and so on. For me, it is perfect that they added the pause feature because otherwise, I would have to divide my attention between building and watching! And of course, it is much less stressful if you’ve got all the time you need to look at your park and choose what to build where without having to pay attention to sick or hungry dinos at the same time.

Even though the developers changed unlocks, balanced the money, etc., it is still not a challenging or difficult game! So if that is what you are after, I think Jurassic World Evolution is the better dinosaur simulation. Parkasaurus is for relaxing gameplays where you can focus on making pretty parks! Still, as much as I love the relaxing gameplay, I would like for a higher difficulty setting. Or maybe random events in your sandbox like earthquakes, etc. which could cause your exhibits to break. Basically, something similar to JWE with their tropical storms where you need to send your visitors to shelters. Speaking of the sandbox mode, there are quests that you can accept or reject. From time to time, you get a letter with one of these quests that, for example, ask you to sell a certain amount of hot dogs or cotton candy. Again, these are not challenging either. They are just a nice diversion from what you are already doing anyway.

As I mentioned cotton candy and hot dogs: There are shops that you can place on your map. Your visits will also want restrooms, benches, lights at night, some decoration around and so on. All buildings let you change their colours. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to manage about these items. Shops will automatically have their staff who you cannot control. You can unlock different kinds of wares that they sell and you can set the price for the wares, but that’s about it. Some of these special items can give you some perks and increase visitors’ time in the park which will make it likely that they donate more money to your park.

You can upgrade the skills of your staff (not the ones in the shops, but your janitors, scientists, security guards and veterinarians), but there is no way to specialize them. Sooner or later, they all have everything at maximum. And unfortunately, staff doesn’t need to be managed at all. You can’t schedule anything like breaks. There is micromanagement in the game, but nothing like this. Maybe adding this would also add more complexity and thus, some more challenge. Imagine staff being so unhappy, they go on strike and don’t feed your dinos anymore or don’t repair fences.

Even during Early Access, I never had the game crash. There have been bugs, of course, but I didn’t encounter any game-breaking ones. So I can report that it runs very smoothly on my PC.

Altogether, this really is a relaxing dinosaur simulation game. The missions are nice and add some variety, but they are not very challenging. My favourite part is the sandbox where I can just freely build, work on getting many different dinosaurs and making the park look nice. However, if you are looking for a difficult game with lots of challenges, then this is not a game for you. And even though I appreciate the relaxing gameplay and love this part of the game, I also wish there was a more challenging mode with more danger, to spice things up! I like to compare it to Cities: Skylines before the Natural Disaster DLC came. And without the traffic issues, of course. There is no visitor collision.

To summarize: I like the graphics, but would prefer not to have the over-the-top silly hats. I like the missions to play through once, but prefer playing the free play mode (without making it easier by unlocking everything from the start or having unlimited money). However, I would love to also have an additional mode with more more challenging content. But the game just released and there is always room for DLCs or other updates. When I just want to play something relaxing, though, Parkasaurus is simply perfect! I can lean back, enjoy my park, and keep adding nice things to look at! Overall, the game is getting a Wuselfaktor 8/10 from me! Well done!

Please note: I got to test the game early on and did get the game for free as a result. However, at no point did the developers ask me to write about the game, either positively, negatively or objectively! As a general rule, if a game is in Early Access and I don’t like it, I tend to just not say anything about the game at all (it may still change, since it’s in development, and I don’t want to diminish the chances of the developers). But if I do like a game, I write about it – and then I also do include negative aspects.

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