THE only thing better than running your very own theme park is running your very own theme park full of dinosaurs.
Jurassic World Evolution 2, developed and published by Frontier Developments, is here to let you do exactly that on PC, PlayStation and Xbox
Frontier are well known for their pretty detailed park management games, particularly Planet Coaster and Zoo Tycoon, the star of the show in Jurassic World Evolution2 is the dinosaurs rather than the actual rides or operational aspect of the park. It’s definitely present, but not to the level of deciding how much ice goes in the drinks or how much to charge for a medium hamburger and fries meal (you want Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 for that).
There are 70 species of dinosaur in the game, including flying and aquatic ones, they are definitely the main feature of the game, however, and most of your efforts will be directed towards breeding/engineering them (for example, to make them more docile for tourists, or need less water, or even have different colour schemes).
The main campaign is very short and focuses on a scenario where dinosaurs have escaped into mainland USA (per the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and you (along with some of the characters from the movies) are now part of the US Department of Fish & Wildlife (Feat. The CIA, because why not?) trying to round up some of these wild dinosaurs and put them in some kind of dinosaur park, and charge scientists to come and look at them to justify the enormous expense involved in the whole undertaking, because charging obscenely rich trophy hunters to shoot a few of them for biosecurity and population management or getting the military to neutralise any that are threatening populated areas isn’t politically correct, apparently.
Voice-wise, Jeff Goldblum, Bryce Dallas Howard and BD Wong reprise their roles from the film, although the character of Owen Grady is voiced by a (good) soundalike since Chris Pratt appears to have been otherwise engaged.
In addition to the campaign, there are several “Chaos Theory” missions that allow to you essentially replay elements from the movies – such as establishing the first Jurassic Park in the 1990s – where the “theme park” aspect of things comes slightly more to the fore; I particularly enjoyed the Jurassic World setting which had a good mission structure, range of attractions, and dinosaurs to work with.
The review code I received was for PlayStation 5 and I was initially a bit disappointed since I’ve traditionally considered the idea of playing a building/management game on a console as one of the lighter blasphemies. However, Frontier have done an outstanding job of making the game feel intuitively playable using a controller and I didn’t have any issues with moving the camera, building the park, or controlling the hands-on units.
On a next-gen console and an 8K TV, the dinosaurs look absolutely amazing and there is a surprisingly relaxing time to be had watching them going about their dinosaur lives, eating and drinking and wandering around. At least, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming – especially if you don’t keep your dinosaurs content or the power grid fails and the bigger, nastier, more carnivorous ones get out of their enclosures and decide to snack on some guests instead of the goats you’ve so generously been providing them.
The ability to experience the park from the driver’s seat of ranger jeeps and rides is a really nice touch that really adds to the game experience (no, you can’t deliberately run over Velociraptors with a 4WD) and trying to tranquilise dinosaurs from a helicopter is a lot more challenging than it first appears, too.
The issue is that the “watch the dinosaurs be dinosaurs” novelty starts to wear off after a while, unless you’re going for a big sandbox type thing. Having to research everything from scratch each time you start a new playthrough isn’t an ideal state of affairs either, especially once you start wondering how come people who can genetically engineer smegging dinosaurs back from extinction still have to do some expensive R&D to work out how to build fairly straightforward stuff like a staffroom or a basic power plant.
Fairly minor annoyances aside, Jurassic World Evolution 2 manages to improve on its predecessor in a significant number of ways, and while it might be worth waiting for the price to drop a bit – it doesn’t quite feel like an AUD$80 game – if you’re a fan of the movies or want to run a theme park full of dinosaurs, you’ll very likely want to open the door, get on the floor (or couch) and play this game.