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The Jurassic Park franchise has had a lot of video games dedicated to it. Some were good, and others were just downright weird– but there were a lot of them. The impending release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom means inevitable cross-promotions and video game tie-ins. Lucky for us, Jurassic World Evolution is its own beast, mostly disconnected from the current film, except for a few characters.
Did you ever watch the Jurassic Park films and wonder it would be like to design and manage such a park? Well, I didn’t, but it turns out this is exactly the type of thing I wanted to do. Jurassic Park: Evolution developer Frontier Developments has had a fair amount of experience with park management titles, including 2016’s Planet Coaster, so I was excited to see what they could pull off with Evolution. It certainly makes a good starting impression, with John Williams’ extremely ear-wormy Jurassic Park theme and Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as cynically sarcastic Dr. Ian Malcolm. In fact, Jurassic Park: Evolution’s first five or so hours are great.
In Jurassic Park: Evolution, you play as a park manager that is given the reigns to their own Jurassic World dinosaur park, eventually gaining control of more as you progress through the story objectives. The story cleverly acts as a setup to the premise, but also works as a tutorial early on then continuing to guide you throughout the game. After completing the objectives of the first island, you will gain access to a sandbox island—so the option is there, even if it isn’t available from the start.
If you have seen any of the films, a lot of the story beats are tied-in, sometimes as game mechanics or with cheeky references. Several characters from the films are referenced or have speaking roles, but don’t expect Chris Pratt and co.–the only celebrity voiceover is provided by Jeff Goldblum, who is a continuous presence throughout the game, often injecting his character’s philosophy and humor into various situations.
Driving most of the game’s progression is the relationship between the three major park divisions: Science, Entertainment, and Security. Each of these divisions will have objectives for you to complete, and most of the time these run in in opposition to each other. Doing an objective for one division will often slightly lower your standings with the other–if , for example, Entertainment wants you to make two dinosaurs fight each other, Security and Science might not be thrilled about that.
Managing the park, at first, is pretty neat. Everything looks great, from the island backgrounds to the dinosaurs in the park. The sounds are all spot-on—from the roars of larger dinos to the chirps of the raptors. You grow and hatch dinosaurs in Hammond Labs and release them (hopefully) into an enclosure. You have to attend their needs, providing them ample food and water as well as land to roam, and trees to hide in (if that’s what they want). The human element must also be considered, with the abilities to build hotels, transportation, and various entertainment and dining facilities. Despite needing the people to buy tickets and generate revenue, though, Jurassic World Evolution is mostly about the dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs can only be incubated and hatched if you have enough of their genome, so you must dispatch expeditions to uncover fossils. Getting a full genome helps authenticity, but it also gives you the ability to manipulate more of your dinosaur’s genes to make them better fighters, help them live longer, etc. There are multiple different enclosure types to house your dinosaurs, but these are mostly just fence options—from electrified to fortified, but nothing really ever keeps dinosaurs in if they’re determined enough to get out.
There is a lot of upkeep required to keep your park running smoothly in Jurassic World: Evolution. Sadly, automation must be too expensive, because you end up having to do a lot of micromanaging. To do normal upkeep for your park you need to have ranger stations. Each station is capable of dispatching up to three ranger teams that will refill feeders, fix broken fences, reboot power stations, etc. There are also helicopter teams with their own dedicated structure that act as dinosaur containment—they tranquilize rampaging dinos, and cargo helicopters remove dead or unconscious dinosaurs. You can take control of ranger or helicopter teams manually to perform tasks, if you want to take matters into your own hands or get a closer, hands-on experience either in the action, or just to take a look around your park. This is pretty neat, but ended up being more of a novelty than something I used very often.
As I mentioned earlier, Jurassic World: Evolution makes a great first impression. It’s extremely fun raising dinosaurs, building enclosures, and planning out your dream Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs are great: the way they interact with each other, and the danger and wonder they pose is translated pretty well. The dino behavior and comfort level is amusing as well. I swear, once they learn they can escape from their enclosure, they will continuously do it. There is even a great amount of educational information thrown in for every location, dig site, dinosaur, etc. as well as some sprinklings of movie trivia.
Unfortunately, Jurassic World: Evolution starts to lose its fun after a few hours. After the initial appeal of managing a dinosaur park starts to wear off, the tedium sets in: especially for larger parks. It feels like it takes too many steps to do things you want to do sometimes, especially after the park gets bigger and has more moving parts. Most of your time will be spent with micromanaging upkeep—directing your rangers to refill feeders, telling your teams to tranquilize loose dinosaurs, etc. There is also not enough warning for impending danger if things are going wrong. No early warning for dinos trying to break their pen except for a low thunk, thunk, thunk which is easy to miss over the rest of the game’s sounds. I’m sorry you were eaten , random guests.
After that, you discover that there isn’t much to do. You can’t really interact with the guests. They’re just props–lacking any of the individual needs and motivations like in Planet Coaster, and serving only to bolster the overall park happiness score. Most of the islands are extremely small in terms of buildable area. And as much attention that was given to the dinosaurs, the actual park guests aren’t very interesting unless they’re running in terror from a pack of raptors. Oops.
Despite dinosaur combat and guest eating, there is very little gore—though the image of someone being eaten in one gulp can still be disturbing. The game takes a very “you can’t make an omelet without a few people getting eaten” approach, which is in line with the theme of the films.
There also isn’t very much of a challenge in Jurassic World: Evolution. Despite not being able to pause, slow down, or speed up time I never really felt I needed to do that. Even when sabotage causes massive failure across your park during story moments, it never really took away from the massive amount of money I was constantly raking in. In fact, if I made it past the first hour on any island I was always so full of cash that I never seemed to come close to running out.
Jurassic World: Evolution isn’t perfect, but it does a good job invoking that Jurassic Park feel in a way I didn’t even know I wanted. I love the dinosaurs, and the concept, but I just wish there was more meat to chew on. Maybe I’ll just have to set up a dinosaur fight club with combat enhanced dinosaurs, or “accidentally” open up all of my carnivore pens in future playthroughs. Jurassic World: Evolution is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows.