Welcome to Jurassic World — well, a version of it, anyway.
Developed by Ludia, who also developed the earlier Jurassic Park Builder, Jurassic World: The Game offers its players the opportunity to construct and manage their very own Jurassic World. Being a mobile game, it has its limitations, but, for what it is, provides a reasonably satisfying experience — if you can bring yourself to overlook certain issues.
I had only the most basic idea of what to expect when I launched Jurassic World: The Game for the first time. I've played its predecessor, but only for about five minutes. Back then, I was immediately put off by the style of gameplay. I hadn't the faintest idea of how to approach the game, and, rather than giving it a chance, I hit my iPad's Home button and forgot all about it.
With Jurassic World: The Game, however, I chose to have a little patience.
For me, the game's main draw lies in the fact that it offers tantalising glimpses into the lore of the upcoming film on which it's based. As before, I was totally lost during my first minutes with the game — but I soon got the hang of it. It wasn't long before I knew my way around the proverbial kitchen.
The first thing I noted was that, for being a mobile title, Jurassic is a very good-looking game. Having revisited Builder before writing this piece, I can safely say that it packs a huge visual upgrade from its predecessor. I guarantee it.
Vibrant colours, a satisfyingly detailed environment, and the ability to get up-close and personal with your parks excellently-rendered exhibits, make the whole thing very easy on the eyes. The only real shame about the visuals — and, given the limitations of mobile devices, it's one that's somewhat understandable — is that there are only a few models for the different classes of animals. Despite having entirely different forelimbs in the real-world fossil record, the only difference you'll find between the models for Majungasaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex — among others — is the head. (And the colouration, too, of course.)
This sharing of assets is mirrored by the games audio design, too. All your large carnivores will sound like tyrannosaurs, your small carnivores like Velociraptors, and so on. Like the animals' identical bodies, this isn't a huge issue, but it can be a little jarring if your a fan of full film-accuracy.
For the most part, Jurassic's gameplay consists of designing the layout for your park and placing your various attractions around it. Whilst it definitely doesn't offer the deepest of mechanics, I found there to be something genuinely satisfying about arranging and rearranging my park to fit my — admittedly ridiculous — standards. I'm a big fan of symmetry, me.
As it goes on, the game offers you to the ability to blend certain species of dinosaur to create entirely new beasts. Where as Jurassic World will feature the Indominus rex, the game lets you take the concept a step further. But there's a chance that we're entering spoiler territory here, so we'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that you can tamper with DNA, and the results can be quite interesting.
It's as you go about maintaining and upgrading your park that you get those little glimpses at the lore behind Jurassic World I mentioned above. Whilst I do have some doubts about whether or not these can be considered 100% canon, the tidbits are nonetheless tremendously satisfying for your average Jurassic aficionado.
Aside from managing your park, you're also going to find yourself spending a lot of time with an entirely different aspect of the game — the Dinosaur Battles.
Usually prompted by the same increasingly agitating message from Vic Hoskins — he's very confident that you'll like what he has planned — these aren't optional, and are required for the progress of your park. Setting aside the obvious fact that having the dinosaurs fight each other is a ridiculous addition to the park, I found these battles to the somewhat enjoyable.
Whilst initially a little daunting, there's some satisfaction to be had from managing to correctly manipulate the turn-based system, successfully choosing when to attack, when to defend, and when to pass on both, and reserve some Action Points to use on your next turn.
I haven't tried it, but it appears that you can also take on other players in these Dino Battles. Given how difficult going up against the game itself can be, taking on an opponent who can think for themselves doesn't really bear thinking about.
If all of the above hasn't made it clear, I was pleasantly surprised by Jurassic World: The Game — but for all its positives, it also packs a resounding, dinosaur-sized negative.
Microtransactions, which is a bit of a misnomer, because, here, there's nothing 'micro' about them, and they're everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. I'm surprised the game doesn't try to charge players each and every time it's launched.
In-game, there are four types of currency. DNA, which is used to grow dinosaurs. Food, which — you guessed it! — is used to feed said dinosaurs, levelling them up. Coins, which are used for various things — purchasing buildings and decorations for your park, mass-producing Food… the list goes on.
And that's where the in-game currencies should stop, but — as you might have guessed — it isn't. There are also Dino Bucks, which you can use to replenish your Food and Coins when they're running low. The process is quick, easy — but it'll cost you. A lot.
Given that I live in the UK, the smallest purchasable amount of Dino Bucks (200) costs £1.49, whereas the largest amount (8,500) will set you back a whopping £39.99. Microtransactions… micro. For clarity, 100 Dino Bucks will buy you 41,790 coins, or 20,895 Food. This might seem like a lot, but the rate at which the game consumes players' resources is insane.
And it only gets more insane as the game goes on.
You are, of course, under no obligation to spend real-world money. The game offers an alternative: time.* It makes you wait. Whilst this might seem like a perfectly valid alternative, it's not. The most basic of buildings can take fifteen minutes to erect — and, at Level 11, expanding my park by one negligible plot of land now takes an hour and-a-half.
And then there are the Card Packs, offering a lump-sum of resources and an instant alternative to fighting your way through the various stages of the Battle Arena to obtain some of your most desirable dinosaurs.
Every six hours — starting immediately after opening a free pack — the game will offer players a free Mystery Pack, containing various resources and common species of dinosaur. If you don't want to wait those six hours, you can spend 100 Dino Bucks on that Mystery Pack. No such luck wth each of the three other packs, however — these will cost you real money. £7.99 for a Rare Pack, £18.99 for a Super Rare, and a T. rex-sized £39.99 for a Legendary Pack.
Jurassic World: The Game asks you, quite literally, to spare no expense. I've never played a game more in need of a Coupon Day in my life.
I'm well aware that these microtransactions are a consequence of the game being free-to-play — *cough* fee-to-play *cough* — but here's the bit I can't wrap my head around: as I mentioned above, I live in the UK. Here, you can expect to pay anything from £40 – £50 for a Triple-A, current-gen game. Disregarding DLC, that's a one-off fee.
With Jurassic, however, you can buy resources over-and-over again, as many times as you like. That really doesn't sit well with me, because it opens the door for this 'free-to-play' game to cost orders of magnitude more than games with infinitely more depth and content.
I miss the days when your prowess in games depended solely on skill and dedication alone, not the size of your wallet.
If you're able to ignore the microtransactions, and have the patience to wait out the ridiculous time penalties, then for fans of the Jurassic franchise, there's an enjoyable game hidden beneath them. While I don't think I would have stuck with it for as long as I have were the film out and the story tidbits therefore unneeded, I've had a decent enough time with it.
* The game also allows players to earn free DNA and Dino Bucks by watching various advertisements or taking part in surveys or promotions for various other companies. This is barely worth mentioning, though, because, in my experience, the rewards I've gotten for giving some of these a go have been negligible.
2011. Yes, you read that right: 2011. That’s the last time there was a Jurassic game of any real significance. Whilst an enjoyable treat, LEGO Jurassic World wasn’t at all what the majority of fans have been waiting for, and with the commercial success of Jurassic World, it should have been but an appetiser for bigger, better things to come. Well… fire the waiter, and send some raptors into the kitchen to see what’s up, because we’re still waiting for the main course.
Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there's certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. Yes, there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let's be honest: it's going to happen.
Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?