By Jacob Aron
You can run a safe theme park. Or you can unleash chaos. Which is more fun?
Jurassic World Evolution 2
THE original Jurassic Park was released in 1993, and as a dinosaur-obsessed 7-year-old, I simply had to see it. I badgered my parents to take me, even though I was probably a bit too young to watch people being eaten by monsters.
Needless to say, I loved it, and have had a soft spot for both the books and films ever since. So I jumped at the chance to make my own dinosaur park in Jurassic World Evolution 2.
The game adds dinosaurs to the template of classic management sims such as Theme Park or RollerCoaster Tycoon. You begin after the events of the fifth film, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, when dinosaurs were released en masse into the wild. Your job, working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is to round them up. This teaches you the basics of building enclosures, looking after dinosaurs and so on, but it isn’t particularly exciting.
Jeff Goldblum and Bryce Dallas Howard voice their characters from the films and offer advice, but it seems the developers couldn’t secure Chris Pratt, so settled for a substitute that sounds nothing like him.
While the campaign serves as a useful tutorial, where the game really shines is in Chaos Theory mode. This puts you in charge of parks from the five films to see if you can avoid disaster, and is much more fun. In the era of the first film, dinosaurs don’t exist yet, so you send scientists out to find fossils and extract their DNA.
“I hatched two T. rex. They began fighting. Then one killed the other, bust a hole in the fence and escaped”
I started with velociraptors, or at least the Jurassic Park versions, which are roughly as big as a human – the real thing was turkey-sized and had feathers. Despite this inaccuracy, it was a thrill to release them into their enclosure, ready for paying guests. “Every precaution has been taken, we’re following the science,” said one of the researchers, in what feels like a knowing wink to the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic – Frontier Developments is based in Cambridge, UK.
Keeping your park going involves balancing science, business, entertainment and logistics. You need a steady stream of research to create new dinosaurs and modify their DNA, but that requires a positive cash flow. Guests are your main revenue source, but they don’t only want dinosaurs: you have to build restaurants, hotels and toilets to keep them happy. Then there is the back end of the park – power stations, park rangers and medical teams – which supports everything else.
With all this to keep track of, it is no wonder that John Hammond’s original Jurassic Park was a disaster. I managed to hold things together, just. There is a fun moment when Hammond echoes the “we have a T. rex?” line from the original film, which he asks with a mixture of glee and surprise as you prepare to unleash one.
I actually hatched not one T. rex but two and plopped them down in an enclosure I had built to house them as the pride of the park. Unfortunately, I didn’t give them enough food and they began fighting. Then one killed the other, bust a hole in the fence and escaped. It was a scary moment, until I realised I could simply dispatch a helicopter to tranquilise it and ferry it back to the enclosure.
That moment highlights a tension that the game doesn’t quite manage to solve – you want your park to run smoothly, but to really recreate the atmosphere of Jurassic Park, you want to unleash chaos.
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