Jurassic World: Evolution (Xbox One Review)
The idea of a Theme Park World-esque game based on the Jurassic Park franchise has been a no brainer since its inception. The idea of filling your own island with tourists and dinosaurs alike was tantalising. There’s a delicate line to tread between man and nature and it would have been at your fingertips. It was destined for success, or at least that’s what you’d expect. Somehow, uhm, Frontier have found a way to circumvent those expectations.
As the gates open upon your first island and that oh-so-familiar theme greets you, you’re transported back to a better time. Dr. Malcom is even there to welcome you on your journey, but it’s not long before you discover it’s an aimless voyage. Instead of capitalising on the personal nature of the Jurassic franchise, Jurassic World: Evolution takes a far more clinical approach to the delivery of its very light story. Tasked with fixing the failing islands known as Los Cincos Muertes, you’ll progress through each and try to bump up their rating until you unlock the following island. Rinse and repeat 5 times and you’ll be greeted with the credits. The dinosaurs went out with a bang, and fuck me if it isn’t an injustice that they barely muster up a fizzle when the curtains close on Jurassic World: Evolution. While Business Simulators don’t often have the best stories, games like Tropico have shown that it’s possible to add some steer to the campaign and it’s something Jurassic World: Evolution should have capitalised on given the star studded cast and established characters.
Instead, you’re left with a progression of islands with little to no reason to invest in outside of pursuing new tech for your own post game island. Every island boasts 3 key missions: one science, one entertainment, and one security that are unlocked by progressing your relationship through mini missions. Obviously these missions circulate the idea of building and maintaining your park but, as the story progresses, these missions often feel like they fight against what makes a good park and can hamper the pursuit of a 5 star resort. Thankfully any damage done can be easily rectified by opening up some carefully placed safe houses for your guests and letting your AC pilots sink a tranq dart in whatever dinosaur is tearing through the park. Yet, no matter how the missions was framed they all felt like they ultimately built up to chaos either through internal sabotage of the park’s power, a storm wrecking the gates, or a concoction of dinosaurs that clearly don’t get along being forced into one pen for the sake of the mission. There are even times where you’re forced to monotonously grind out Jurassic World: Evolution’s excavation zones for hours just to ensure sourced enough fossils to obtain a fully complete genome. There’s no denying that it’s a slog.
When you do finally reach the end of the missions, there is very little left to do beyond tinker on your own island with all the toys. By that time the soundtrack or the one theme has more than worn thin, the forced and strained interruptions from silverscreen stars becomes grating, and the general lack of basic quality of life mechanics culminate in a tedious experience. I regularly felt like I was doing busy work, like refreshing food stockpiles and researching fossils, while I cooked up some dinosaurs in the lab. It never really hit the flow I’d hoped for and was further let down of how little you could really alter the dinosaur’s genomes.
While the recent Jurassic Park movies promote twisted franken-saurs, Jurassic World: Evolution plays it safe with some palette swaps and attitude adjustments. There’s no insane splicing of a raptor and a mollusc, instead you have the option to choose the skin colour and different attribute types that are almost absent from the actual game. Even the dinosaurs start to bleed into one another come the end to the point that I referred to anything that looked like a Diplodocus as a tall dude because I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference without checking. It was very disappointing.
I couldn’t even muster up the energy to photograph cool dinosaurs because they all felt so generic, which meant that I would rarely make use of the ability to cruise the park in my jeep or take to the skies in one of the ACU helicopters. While these vehicles can be used to manually resolve some skirmishes between dinosaurs, heal sick dinosaurs, or repair damaged buildings it was normally more effort than simply directing them and twice as frustrating.
Which means Jurassic Park: Evolution pales in comparison to the games it imitates, which is a terrible shame given how much potential it had. There’s no Tropico like charm or Sim City depth, and there’s certainly no Theme Park World mini-games. It’s hollow, bitty, and nothing like I’d hoped for. I genuinely never thought playing dinosaur god could be so dull, it was like spinning plates while a toddler furiously thrashed at your shins. I’ve dug deep into the soil of Jurassic World: Evolution hoping for my mosquito in amber and ended up with a worm stuck to a week old chewy sweet.