With the game starting with a picture book-esque introduction that tells of how dinosaurs have visited our planet via a rocket ship (that they either found or built without opposable thumbs), Parkasaurus has the player managing a theme park for customers to come and visit them. As the manager of the park, you can make important decisions for its scale and growth, such as deciding whether to invest in guest satisfaction or dinosaur research and development (R&D). Maximise profits by observing all aspect of your park and become a tycoon of your very own dinosaur theme park(s).
Parkasaurus immediately made me smile at the the idea of running a theme park with a focus around dinosaurs. When I was a kid, I always thought dinosaurs were cool and I played EA's Theme Park on my PlayStation 1 to death! So imagine my excitement when I saw Parkasaurus announced in Nintendo's December 2021 Indie World presentation. In this game, apparently dinosaurs are from outer space and they're visiting Earth via rocket ships. It's a bit bizarre but if it allows for apparently-needed context for players to enjoy a dino-theme park, then I'm all for it!
The game boasts an impressive amount of customisation, giving players wonderful freedom of choice. This includes being able to customise the terrain, elevation levels, decorations, themes, park design, enclosure biomes and so much more! You can even choose which ingredients you put in your burgers (with each item having their own prices) and how much you wish to sell each burger for, ultimately balancing that line between maximum profits and customer satisfaction. If you've ever felt like starting a product-based business (from starting a shop to operating an e-commerce website) and want some practice first, I would actually suggest playing Parkasaurus.
This game has charm coming out of the dino-wazoo! Starting with its aesthetic, the game uses bright colours that gives it an almost picture book presentation. And then its the odd cheekiness, like the character portraits you'll come across when flicking through resumes and the funny reviews left by your customers. And lastly, there's no way I could have written this review without mentioning the fact that you can make your dinosaurs wear hats! Seeing my brachiosaurus wear a sombrero will absolutely be a highlight when I look back on 2022.
For a game initially designed with the PC's standard mouse and keyboard control scheme, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it has been adapted for the Nintendo Switch. The choice to completely avoid touchscreen controls was a brave one but in the end, it allowed Washbear Studio to put more focus on its physical controls. The menus are simple to navigate through, placing fences are surprisingly intuitive and the entire experience just feels natural.
- Theme parks with dinosaurs!
- In-depth business management
- Charming (dinos with hats!)
- Controls adapted well for console
I found the campaign to feel like a long-winded tutorial. There are 15 levels that take place across the world map and each has their own unique objectives that aim to teach you more about the game's functions, e.g. Make $5,000, Hatch three Tier 2 dinosaurs or Keep two dinosaurs with over 50% happiness. Each level had three groups of objectives and upon finishing them, you'll have completed that park, be awarded with rocket ships (which are used for bonuses for future levels) and if you beat all of the objectives within a certain number of days, you'll be awarded with a bonus ship.
After some thought, I think it's that last point that leaves the bitter aftertaste. Part of the beauty that comes from theme park tycoon games is watching the slow growth of your park and the payoffs of your long-term investments. Bouncing from one park to the next and the game encouraging you to do so as quickly as possible actively goes against this and instead opts for quick wins, ultimately going against the spirit of the genre. With that all being said, you can always go back and continue on with your progress in these levels and there is a traditional sandbox mode, so it's not as though the game forces you to play for quick wins, but it certainly encourages it and the main menu certainly drives the player's attention towards it.
Despite being initially impressed by the UI design and how well the controls had been adapted for the Switch, it certainly isn't without its missteps. There's often a lot happening on the screen at once and due to the Switch's small screen in handheld mode, adjustments were understandably made to the the UI, but I found that this occasionally resulted in screens and instructions overlapping each other, especially in the campaign mode when the player has objectives to complete.
- Campaign feels like a long tutorial
- Campaign focussing on quick wins
- Cumbersome screen messages
Final Score: 7/10
Parkasaurus is a delightful theme park simulator that, unfortunately, misses its mark in certain aspects. Its transition from PC to Switch is well done despite the odd UX blemish but overall, it has adapted to standard controller gameplay almost seamlessly. This is Washbear Studio's debut title and only game to date and the team is made up of just two friends/former Drinkbox Studio employees, meaning there is a lot to look forward to from this young team.
Thank you for checking out our Parkasaurus Switch review, thank you to Washbear Studio for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: