You know a game deserves a pat in the back once you started fighting over the controller with your kids. And it’s so true in Jurassic World Evolution, a game that mixes both city builder mechanics with breeding your very own, genetically modified dinosaurs. So to the developer and publisher Frontier Developments, thank you! For actually making parenting a lot worse… haha! Just kidding! In fact this is the only drive my kid has in order to do his chores without having to spend hours of convincing but more on blackmail and threats to hide the console.
But now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the meaty bits that even a tyrannosaurus rex won’t even be able to resist and that’s gameplay. Starting off, we get introduced to the first of five islands which is most commonly known as “the five deaths” and for a name like that, it’s sure in to bring a lot of weird people in the park and that includes you, the player. Being tasked with managing the park necessities like dinosaur attractions, entertainment facilities, electrical lining and handling security is no easy task but as a game it does it in a very simple yet effective way that even a kid can manage one on his/her own.
While it is simple at first, it does give certain levels of complexity like genetically modifying your own dinosaur eggs, if they really did come from eggs! From their average traits to skin color that can be mixed and matched but comes at a cost of lowering their chance of success during incubation which can be remedied with research upgrades one of which can increase success rate or reducing incubation time. And that’s not even half of it as there are tons of upgrades and unlockables just waiting to be researched in your facility most of which are locked until you meet certain requirements or unlocking new islands to have more research facilities. This alone makes the progression rewarding despite not having a narrative story to follow.
The status bar which includes a dinosaur type’s overall comfort, needs and required environmental conditions makes the game fairly easy to manage without having to do a trial and error to which one goes to which enclosure. Then again, the only take away from this is there’s no way of knowing their status before incubating, even to known dinosaurs without having to check one already released.
But to even start incubating or modifying dinosaur genomes, one must explore the world in search of fossils that can be done using the exploration facility then transfer said fossils to another facility to begin the DNA extraction process which takes a bit of time but nothing as crazy as hours to days which free-to-play games are notorious for. With most things only going from a minute to somewhere along ten maybe? Which is just enough time considering you’ll be tasked with more things to do in the meantime.
And while the main hook of the game is the vast selection and combinations of dinosaurs, it doesn’t do all too bad with the other things too. Operation facilities from ranger and ACU units can be manually controlled to give the game a different feel from your average simulation games. Want to take a picture of a tyrannosaurus rex within arm’s length? Go ahead! Just be careful not to piss it off then have it break out of its cage to swallow your average park-goers. Something that I carefully try to avoid but can’t help wanting to do either way. The ranger jeeps are in charge of taking care of their well-being, curing contracted diseases as well as changing their feeder supplies and all of them can be done manually or just appoint a ranger to do the task. However, the ACU unit is responsible for tranquilizing dinosaurs whether they’ve escaped or just needed to be transferred or sold with the transport chopper.
Other than that, there’s also some facilities that handle everything else from power stations and pylons to power up every facility to hotels in order to bring in even more guests as well as facilities for their daily needs like restaurants, gift shops and entertainment centers because only being there for the dinosaurs can be a bit boring without retro arcade centers to mix it up. But your guests walking all the way from point A to point B is a bit of a chore and one that my kid and I just won’t do so transportation options like a monorail station is such a great feature that does it’s job well and looks awesome from above.
And in case you’ve spent hundreds of hours already towards the game and still wanted more, you also unlock a sandbox island to which you will not be hurdled by fulfilling contracts in the main islands which honestly, I didn’t care much about. And in case you want to know more about contracts, it’s simply a way to increase progress towards an island in order to unlock more stuff and get even more cash but let’s get back to the sandbox bit! You get a fairly huge island to which you have unlimited resources to build to your heart’s content or simply get away with releasing every dinosaur in the wild and letting nature do its thing. Although you don’t have access to every undiscovered dinosaur or upgrades which is understandable to keep you from playing the main islands first before going crazy in sandbox.
Now graphically-speaking it’s an awesome treat from the world itself and its weather effects to the dinosaur’s behavioral patterns. Each and every single little detail is perfect… well mostly! As there are a couple of minor things that grinds my gears and that’s overlapping on areas, mostly on walls, and at times when two dinosaurs duke it out which sometimes just doesn’t do it justice. But when it really comes down to weather effects, the rain effect is as serious as it gets as it does make a whole lot of difference and is highly visible in the dinosaur’s skin to the greenery surrounding the island. At times I fail to realize I’ve been staring way too much to the point it would count as sexual harassment if it applies to dinosaurs as well.
Hearing a dinosaur’s roar is such a great experience especially when you finally get to see its first release into the wild or in this case, in its new cage! Not only do I get to see whether it would fit in with everyone else within it but just having it let out a striking roar strikes fear in some as something as huge as a T-Rex or a ceratosaurus can induce panic towards smaller carnivores like a dilophosaurus. Not only that, their roars and cry also act as a sign something isn’t right in most cases.
For such a great game, it does have its share of negativity and one of which is that accessing the left-hand side menu doesn’t work in certain conditions especially when the cursor or circle in the middle on my console version is pointing towards anything that isn’t grass. The other thing that makes the game a bit less fun is the bugs although rarely. There’s one time that the transport chopper was carrying a velociraptor but instead of lifting it like normal, the raptor end up staying on the ground and only having the cables to lift it up extend until reaching the destination. And that would’ve been all fine if not for the fact that it still brought it in its cage but sadly, it went straight back to where it was tranquilized just to wake up and terrorize more of the park-goers. And probably one of the minor things I find was a little bit disappointing is the lack of variation towards buildings, one type of hotel which is so huge that there’s going to be wasted space one way or the other as there’s not a lot of smaller buildings other than your average entertainment facilities that offer food or leisure.
Should you even ask? Its dinosaurs meet Sim City. There’s no doubt it’s one of the best games I played this year despite only being halfway through. And for a game that can be catered to children and adult-alike this one deserves my recommendation, hands down! A simplified builder and breeding game while also offering manual controls of vehicles give the game a bit of depth that wasn’t present on any other game, I think? Then there’s the status bars of each dinosaur, which is a great way to simplify and keep track of their needs from food, environment and social aspects.