Movie tie-ins are a gamble that usually ends with a lackluster game. For every Spider-Man 2, there’s a dozen games that are clunky and not worth your time. Jurassic World Evolution falls somewhere in between. It’s not the most detailed park-building sim, but if you embrace some of its clumsiness, you’ll find yourself lost in the fantasy of being a dinosaur park mogul.
Jurassic World Evolution lets players run their own dinosaur theme park. While that usually ends in disaster in the movies, with some proper planning and management, it’s possible to have functional, relatively safe island resort in the game. The trick is to balance security, science, and entertainment. As the player builds their park and incubates various dinosaurs, they receive missions from the heads of various departments. Completing these missions earns money that can be invested back into your park. The fun of Jurassic World Evolution comes from balancing the raw building aspects and these optional missions. You might work to build a new dinosaur enclosure or research center, but you might also take on a mission to build a restaurant for guests. The result is a game that allows for creative building but is never completely aimless. There’s always something to do.
The game can be clumsy at times, tacking on an excess of systems and managerial tasks that distract from the core experience. You’ll need to gather fossils to increase the viability rate of your genetic experiments, research tons of upgrades for buildings such as improved output for power stations, and manage the satisfaction of guests and staff. There’s a lot of variables, and while that helps the game feel like a proper management sim, the building interface can make it hard to complete tasks. Landscaping tools sometimes fail to smooth out terrain, and it can be difficult to properly fence in your dinosaurs. The game is also terrible at explaining how anything works. There’s an assumption that you’ve played park sims before, so it can be difficult to figure out tasks as simple as selling extra dinosaurs. At times, this makes the experience frustrating but the fantasy of running a Jurassic Park wins out in the end.
It helps that Jeff Goldblum lends his voice to the game as the offbeat and skeptical Doctor Ian Malcolm. Unfortunately, actors like Chris Pratt could not be wrangled, so the immersion is occasionally broken by stand-in actors who sound nothing like the characters we know. That’s not too major an issues, as having Goldblum offer a quip when a dinosaur dies or another staff member proposes a particularly dangerous task brings a lot of color to the experience. Combined with the use of John Williams’ iconic score, the experience ends up capturing much of the film’s magic. There’s a surprising amount of character and charm here that helped me remain invested in my parks.
Jurassic World Evolution also escalates its challenges well. The tutorial island is something of a playground, with much of the necessary infrastructure in place. It’s easy to pop down a hotel, build some tourist traps and stores, and enjoy a relatively stable park. The early roster of dinosaurs are largely docile herbivores such as Triceratops or the duck-billed Edmontosaurus. By the time you unlock the second island, there’s much more work to be done. Many of the buildings have been ravaged by tropical storms, and it’s a battle to build it up and turn a meager profit. More aggressive dinosaurs like Velociraptors and Ceratosaurus draw big crowds but are harder to contain. You’ll need to prepare for the worst case scenario.
The chief message of Jurassic Park is that man’s hubris can lead to great downfalls. If you’re not careful, the park can fall into disaster as dinos breach their enclosures and attack customers. But there’s challenge and fun to be had there as well. Managing difficult situations such as escaping dinosaurs or diseases spreading in your zoo breaks up the more relaxed park building. If you want, you can even personally hop into a jeep or helicopter to take care of the situation yourself.
Jurassic World Evolution manages to be a pretty solid theme park game. Building can sometimes frustrate and there’s possibly a few upgrades too many, but managing the day to day operation of your own dinosaur-packed island retreat can be a relaxing experience. And if anything does go wrong, Jeff Goldblum is there to say “I told you so.”