The goal of Zoo Palace is to create a thriving zoo by building exhibits to accommodate animals and keeping the guests and animals happy. Exhibit-building is one of the primary goals of Zoo Palace. To keep the guests and animals happy, exhibits should be suitable to the animal; for example, an African Lion is best suited to a savannah environment. Choices in terrain, foliage, rocks, shelters, fences, toys and the presence of zookeepers all contribute to the suitability of an exhibit and the happiness of the animal. Guest happiness is dependent on animal choice, animal happiness, buildings, and scenery. Buildings may include bathrooms, restaurants and food stands, shops, or entertainment buildings such as movie theaters. Scenery involves aesthetics that raise guest happiness slightly, such as topiary art, light posts, or benches. Keeping both animal and guest happiness allows the player to gain monetary awards and steady income. To help manage the expanding zoo, players can employ maintenance workers, zookeepers and tour guides.
There are three modes in Zoo Palace: Tutorial Mode, Task Mode, and Sandbox Mode. Tutorial teaches the player how to build exhibits and keep guests happy. Task mode has the player complete a series of objectives, sometimes within a specific time-frame. These objectives may include achieving a certain guest and animal happiness, achieving a certain exhibit suitability, displaying a certain number of animals, or breeding a certain animal. Sandbox allows the player to choose the amount of money and the map with which they start. They are presented with an open lot and a limited selection of animals, buildings, and scenery available for purchase. As the game progresses, more animals and items become playable. Additional animals and items may be researched, where money is invested to make them playable. Uncaged animals will cause guests to panic and scream --- even simple animals.
The Zoodex, an encyclopedia on the entire game and all of it's objects, will give the player information about anything they need to know. Animal's dietary habits, compatibilities, preferred habitats, real-world and in-game behaviors, as well as many other things, are noted on the Zoodex.
Animals each have their own biome that they belong in, and like animals, users can create biomes for Zoo Palace. A biome is an important feature in the game, as an animal in an unsuitable habitat will quickly become unhappy and may die if left there for too long, thus making proper biomes an important part of gameplay. Biomes include Savannah (Biome), Rainforest (Biome), Alpine (Biome), Tundra (Biome), Plains (Biome), Desert (Biome), Swamp (Biome), Open Ocean (Biome), Reef (Biome), Shore (Biome), Boreal Forest (Biome), and Temperate Forest (Biome).
There is no real plot or story, but it's implied that the player is a new Junior Zookeeper and must take charge in running a zoo.
- Zoo Palace is the only simulation game from Toshiko.