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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Parkasaurus Is the Most Adorable Game About Raising Terrifying Dinosaurs

A triceratops and a zookeeper in Parkasaurus

Some games are stressful. And you’d think that if any game raises your blood pressure, it’s the one wherein you keep squishy humans safe from gigantic dinosaurs. Parkasaurus (PC) defies those expectations with liberal application of googley eyes.

Broadly fitting in the “management” genre, and more specifically in the niche of Jurassic Park-inspired zoo simulators, Parkasaraus manages the impressive feat of making a game where you have tons and tons of stuff to worry about but somehow never feel too worried. Its tools and setup might feel simple to veterans of latter Sim City-style games, but it’s well worth checking out if you’re looking for a relaxing, adorable way to build a prehistoric petting zoo.

Spares (Almost) No Expense

When Parkasaurus plops you down into its undeveloped lot, you’ll do a bit of landscaping before hatching your first dinosaur and attracting a few timid visitors. Not too much effort is expended on the how and why of this: There’s a time machine and some vague paleontology fieldwork and a store that sells dinosaur eggs. The gist is that you get more money, make a bigger park, get more dinosaurs, which attract more visitors to get more money. Rinse and repeat.

The park building overview in Parkasaurus.

Taking care of the dinosaurs digital pet-style is the main focus of the game: Happy dinos means happy visitors. Some surprisingly accurate zoological principles are actually going on here. For the best results, you’ll need to tailor each enclosure to your dinosaur’s environmental and social desires, including adequate shelter and spaces for the dinos to periodically get some alone time away from the gaze of your visitors. This requires strategy: You can’t just stick a dino in a cage for people to gawk at.

And gawking isn’t all that your visitors do, naturally. They need the usual facilities (you WILL build bathrooms), places to eat and learn about dinosaurs, buy souvenirs, get some shade, etc. That’s all part and parcel of the amusement park manager, but Parkasaurus has a third column of basic gameplay: the vaguely-defined “science.”

Managing scientists in Parkasaurus.
Pictured: science.

In addition to standard zoo staff, you’ll need to hire scientists and paleontologists to take care of the dinos you have and find resources to unlock new ones. This involves sending them back in time to dig up fossils—wait, why do they need to go through a time portal to get fossils? Surely the point of fossils is that they exist now? This isn’t made clear, but the result is a surprisingly robust puzzle minigame that requires you to continually recruit and upgrade your science staff to clear grids of land for fossils to unlock new species.

Building’s a Treat

These kinds of games tend to live and die on the ease of use of their building tools; no one would have played the original Sim City if it wasn’t intuitive to actually build your city. I’m happy to report that Parkasaurus’s systems are robust, precise, and surprisingly easy—for the most part. In a few clicks (and with a minimum of wasted funds), you can move around builds or swap up terrain types in a habitat to adapt it to a new dino. The only exception is the topography tool, which can be a bit finicky in raising or lowering the level of the land.

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