Developer WashBear Studio's unashamedly adorable dinosaur theme park management sim Parkasaurus is now available in Steam Early Access - and it's already shaping up to be something a bit special.
I've admittedly only managed to get a few hours of prehistoric creature wrangling under my belt so far, but Parkasaurus - which takes obvious inspiration from the likes of Theme Park and DinoPark Tycoon - arrives with a frankly astonishing degree of polish for an early access title.
The core of the whole thing is, of course, the dinosaurs that you'll be hatching from eggs and displaying proudly to hopefully paying customers, and there's already a decent selection of creatures to bring home. Each dinosaur has specific needs to meet - a favoured ecosystem (which you'll have to recreate from scratch by adjusting terrain types, water levels, and scenery), as well as privacy requirements, food preferences, socialisation, and more - giving you plenty to think about even before the rest of the park comes into play.
Once you turn your attention to park building, however, there's an impressively rich degree of park customisation available, including a whole range of layout tools and landscaping options, alongside more practical decorations, shops, and facilities - all offering plenty of scope for creating attractive, unique parks as your design whims take you.
Thankfully though, Parkasaurus doesn't call it a day at creativity tools, and puts plenty of emphasis on actual park management too. As with most games of its ilk, you'll need to keep careful watch of your customers' moods, tweaking your park - its amenities, exhibits, and so on - to ensure visitors are sufficiently satisfied and give you a decent rating at the end of each day. Then there's staff to be managed, food to be stocked, prices to be adjusted, research to undertake, marketing to be done, finances to be balanced, and more.
You can even send your scientists back in time to unearth precious fossils that can be used to create eggs and increase the variety of dinosaurs in your park.
And wonderfully, the extensive customisation options (more of which unlock through research) aren't just there as cosmetic flourishes - many have a tangible effect on your guests' experience, adding a welcome layer of strategy to your park designs. Varied decorations, for instance, maintain visitors' interest levels, lights encourage them to stay after dark, and so on.
What's more Parkasaurus' early access launch release is exceptionally well presented; although its hyper-cute art style obviously won't be to everyone's tastes, it has real personality and a wonderful eye for detail. It's impressively feature-rich too and remarkably stable.
Granted, the game does have its quirks - scale issues (such as bins that are bigger than the dinosaurs) can sometimes make for an extremely odd looking park, and it could really do with a few extra visualisation options to make it easier to see what's going on beneath the slightly busy art style. Additionally, a handful of elements, such as the archeology mini-game, feel a tad over-designed - but, as a sim fan, I've largely had a wonderful time with Parkasaurus so far. And with the game expected to be in early access for 6-8 months, there's plenty of room for the passionate, responsive two-person development team to finesse the experience.
If Parkasaurus sounds like it might tickle your prehistoric management fancies, it's available now on Steam Early Access for £15.49/$19.99 USD.