Jurassic World Evolution Review: Going for Goldblum

Jurassic World Evolution

Welcome to Jurassic World, you thundering morons.

True, that’s not how you’d traditionally greet visitors to a theme park, but given the abysmal safety record of Jurassic World and its predecessor it boggles the mind that anyone would want to visit. Fortunately for players of Jurassic World Evolution, the park’s customers either have no sense of pattern recognition or are so utterly dunderheaded that they disregard any danger the dinosaurs present. As Jurassic World Evolution‘s budding park-owner, it’s your job to separate them from their hard-earned cash while keeping the screams and sprays of arterial blood to a minimum.

What could possibly go wrong?

Starting small

To its credit, Jurassic World Evolution doesn’t merely ride on the coattails of the film series. There are a number of quirks and oversights that prevent it from being an absolute smash but you’ll be so distracted by the dinosaurs (and the dulcet tones of Jeff Goldblum) that you often won’t notice. You will need a degree of patience to get past Jurassic World Evolution‘s first couple of hours, thanks to the game’s insistence on locking away its more appealing dinosaurs and the amount of busy work that is involved in setting up your first park.

The films, unsurprisingly, focus on saurian show-stoppers such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Brontosaurus but as a newcomer to the business you’re starting small. While all the dinosaurs are superbly animated, you’ll still feel faintly short-changed when your dinosaur lab’s colossal doors swing open to reveal something the size of an ostrich. But the more time you spend building your tiny park (you’re given more space as you progress through each of the game’s six islands), the more invested you’ll become in its success. It doesn’t matter that you’re not fielding the heavy hitters right away; people have still come to see your park. And just watching the dinosaurs interact is a real joy.

Various advisors pitch in to offer guidance, including Jeff Goldblum as Doctor Ian Malcolm, though you’re always learning from your own mistakes. My biggest blunder was failing to realise that releasing a carnivore into the same cage as the plant-munching dinosaurs might be a mistake. My glee at seeing this magnificent  beast lumber out of the lab quickly turned to horror when it started devouring the other dinos. That said, I became significantly less squeamish two islands later when I realised that pitching dinosaurs against each other was a great way to up my park’s rating.

The first rule of Dinosaur Fight Club

Sorry, Sandra the Struthiomimus (you’re able to name each individual dinosaur), you’re T-Rex fodder now. Yes, there’s every chance Jurassic World Evolution will turn you into a monster. Even if you’re not starting your own Dinosaur Fight Club, you’re able to tweak your dinosaurs’ genetic make-up to increase their appeal to visitors, though this carries with it its own pitfalls. Upping your T-Rex’s aggression may earn you more cash, but when he’s lumbering through the park, devouring visitors, you might regret it.

And make no mistake, your dinosaurs will escape at some point. Each island offers its own challenges, such as a tropical storm that risks damaging your dinosaur fences as well as saboteurs who can shut down your power. You can minimise the risk through various measures but there’ll always be that occasional moment of panic when a dinosaur runs rampant through your park, forcing you to call in your rangers to sedate it. You also have the option to drive your rangers’ cars, which affords you the opportunity to view your park from the ground. Though one of Jurassic World Evolution‘s more irritating flaws is that your rangers always need to be told exactly what to do. One moment you can be grinning with glee as your expedition teams bring you enough DNA to complete your brontosaurus genome or gasping in awe as two tyrannosaurs get into a brawl. The next you’re having to poke your staff with a stick to get them to do something as basic as refill dinosaur feeders or heal a sick dinosaur.


A ‘saur point

Your barely competent staff aside, the people who visit your park are also something of a disappointment. One of the most satisfying aspects of Bullfrog’s Theme Park, and many subsequent theme park games, was the way you could peer into your visitors’ minds and discover how they were (or weren’t) enjoying themselves. Being able to follow one individual and observe how they interacted with the park gave you valuable insight into how to tweak its appeal. Jurassic World Evolution, on the other hand, fills your park with glassy-eyed automatons who only express any degree of emotion when they’re fleeing a rogue dinosaur.

Otherwise, they just shamble around the park, mumbling, not even pausing to look at the dinosaurs. Any feedback comes through your advisors, though it can be hard to acquiesce to your visitors’ demands thanks to the baffling shop system. You can construct shops to sell items to your park attendees but each shop can only sell one item at any time. Create a Fast Food restaurant and your visitors will only be able to buy burgers and nothing else, not even fries. If you want to sell something else you have to instruct your staff to switch to the new item. As design decisions go, it’s truly baffling.

Another odd oversight is that there are no flying or swimming dinosaurs. given that the mosasaur played a significant role in Jurassic World, it’s disappointing that it’s been left out. One for future downloadable content, perhaps?

Jurassic Lark

The Jurassic Park movies have always been about the dinosaurs and in that respect, Jurassic World Evolution certainly delivers. Actually creating your park is a piece of cake, thanks to the game’s intuitive and console-friendly interface. Keeping it going is another matter entirely, as is avoiding lawsuits from the families of deceased park goers, but that’s all part of the fun.

Jurassic World Evolution may not be the deepest management sim ever, but it embraces its subject matter with gusto. I defy you not to gawp in wonder as your first carnivore emerges into the daylight or feel a tweak of pride as your park income hits the $5,000,000 mark. Claw your way through Jurassic World Evolution‘s quirks and you’ll discover an engaging, exciting and sometimes brutal take on the theme-park management genre.

Jurassic World Evolution is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. We reviewed the PS4 version.