The Zoo Race Review

What even is this game?

So, this weekend we played through the Zoo Race from start ot finish over on the 16-Bit Dad Twitch channel. The Zoo Race is a racing game that is very loosely based on the Noah’s Ark story from the Bible (and when I say “very loosely”, I mean it, because Noah’s Ark story doesn’t involve dinosaurs, rockets to the moon, space shuttles, bombers, fireworks, exploding barrels trucks and suspension bridges. Nor did it include modern towns, cities and all the other stuff that you get in this game.

Oh, and I use the term “game” loosely as well. The Zoo Race is just downright weird… So, with that, let’s get to the first impressions!

First Impressions

So, when you first start The Zoo Race, if you actually want to know the story behind it, you’re going to have to do a lot of reading. And when I say a lot of reading, I mean it. In the menu, you have to scroll down to where it says “story” and then you’ll have to read the entirety of the Noah’s Ark storyline from the Bible.

This bit is literally taken straight from the Bible, and you will need to read all of it. Then, at the very end of that, there’s a little bit that says “fiction” and that paragraph or two is the game’s actually story.

To sum it up, there are a group of people spending time in the library and one of them really likes animals. He is reading the Noah’s Ark storyline and beings to imagine a world where, after the biblical flood, Noah decides to set up races for all of the animals. It is a very odd take on a biblical character, to say the least.

With the story covered, it is time to look at the main point of The Zoo Race; the actual races. I’m going to touch more on them in the gameplay section of this review, but the very first thing to note is that, graphically, The Zoo Race gave me some nostalgic feelings. I think that comes from the fact that building and locations look a lot like Half-Life’s graphics. However, when you look at the trees and other landscape aspects, they are more like something from Duke Nukem 3D.

Specifically, The Zoo Race seems to use some 2D images places onto a 3D plane. Then, we need to talk about the animals in the game. They look atrocious…

I think is the nicest way that I can explain it. The animations and designs of them are extremely stiff as if they were purchased from an asset store and then not correctly set up on an animation rig.

In short, The Zoo Race looks awful, sounds horrible, and you’ll be sitting there wondering why you even started playing the game. You’ll be questioning why you clicked install, why you even download it in the first place, and why you’re enjoying it…

Gameplay

Moving on to the gameplay, it is extremely easy to pick up. But then, you wouldn’t really expect anything less from a game like The Zoo Race. The controls are really simple; you press forward to move and you can turn left or right. On top of that, you can do a small jump, but that’s all of the controls.

That’s really all you are going to do in The Zoo Race. You can honk when pressing space, which basically turns out to just make the animal’s sound. However, I didn’t really see any benefit to doing that when we played it and we went to basically the entire game on stream.

However, there is one thing about the controls that is a little awkward; you can’t remap them.

Even though they are very simplistic, the fact that you have to use the arrow keys to move really bothers me. Even going back to the days of the original Final Fantasy 7 on PC, they used the arrow keys on the Num Pad rather than the standard arrow keys. This meant that the controls were nicely spaced out, almost like you have on a controller.

With The Zoo Race, the controls really aren’t comfortable, if I’m honest. They are using truly outdated PC controls, despite the fact that the game was released in 2007!

That said, you will probably forget about the discomfort rather quickly once you actually in the game and you are actually racing. That is because you’re just going to be sitting there thinking “what on earth is this game?”

When it comes to gameplay, it really is incredibly simplistic as I said; if you have played Need For Speed Underground, then the best way to explain the races is that they are just sprint races. You have to be the first person to get from Point A to Point B. This repeats over and over for every single one of the 8 levels of the game. However, along the way, there are obstacles that you have to avoid. For example, one of Noah’s helpers will start throwing exploding barrels at you, or there are giant flies which will run into you.

On top of that, at one point, there is a stampede of elephants that you have to run straight through! There are a lot of very strange obstacles that come up. Then there are some downright odd moments.

For example, at one point in the game, you have to jump onto a rocket and fly to the Moon! That should show the fact that the elements of each race are very different. Each track is entirely unique, which is always good.

It is important to note, however, that there is nothing to tell you what position you are in. So you never really know whether you’ve gone the right way or whether you going the wrong way and have put yourself in last place. Basically, you have no way of knowing where in the race you actually are compared to everyone else.

Despite all of these shortcomings, The Zoo Race was actually surprisingly fun to play for me.

I think that’s because it really works with my sense of humour. It is completely random and utterly ridiculous. But that’s both part of the game’s charm and also what could make it incredibly tedious for people. You have to have a certain mindset to enjoy this game.

If you’re the kind of person who takes life too seriously, you’re not going this! The Zoo Race is definitely a complete and utter joke of a game.

Entertainment

So, I’ve already explained how this is surprisingly fun for what it is, but that comes from the sheer stupidity of the game.

Because it’s so obviously not a serious racing game, you can enjoy it very easily. If they had decided to make this into a more serious game that you actually supposed to sit down and learn the tracks then it would be a whole different story…

That is because this game is objectively terrible. It really is an awful game and I should be telling you not to play it. However, subjectively, it’s so bad that it is actually it’s amazing!

At one point, we managed to break it by running past the finish line and then off the map. That lead to us falling through the ground because we managed to avoid crossing the finish line, even though we ran straight through it. On top of that, the physics in this game are basically non-existent.

In one race, I managed to find a shortcut across the obstacles by running up the side of a bridge.

The Zoo Race is an absolutely eccentric mess of a game. Despite the completely broken nature of it, The Zoo Race is enjoyable and entertaining. But, again, if you don’t like things that are just downright stupid then you are not going to like this game. You probably shouldn’t have a look at it, let alone actually try to play it – it’s not going to do anything for you.

If you do like stupid fun, though, then you are definitely going to find it with The Zoo Race. That makes it really hard for me to recommend it because I don’t know if you’re going to like it or not. It is incredibly subjective because, as I said, this game is objectively awful. I think the best way to explain it is that The Zoo Race relies on that irony; it is enjoyable because it is so bad.

And That’s All Folks

I really don’t know how to summarise my feelings on The Zoo Race in any term other than “conflicted”. It has simultaneously managed to be both one of the worst and one of the best games I’ve ever played.

Have you played The Zoo Race before? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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About


Hello there! I’m Gareth, the 16-Bit Dad; a retro gaming blogger, Twitch Streamer and Autism Parent. With a focus on great games, a wonderful Stream community and help for other Autism Parents, I review games, play them with the community and share my learnings about Autism!

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