Fresh Look’s Thoughts on the Jurassic Period of Video Games

We all love dinosaurs from an early age. Maybe it’s the fact that we enjoy imagining rampaging giant lizards wandering the landscape. We were all captivated by the drawings of a hungry T-Rex trying to pass the guard of a triceratops. I know there was a time when I was growing up when I wanted to be a paleontologist. That didn’t work out, but that’s okay because Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg made my childhood dreams come to life with the Jurassic Park movies.

While the games that followed those movies varied widely in quality, especially the Gameboy one that never saved your data, some of them were quite fun. One title that grabbed me was Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis on the Xbox that was released in 2003. It was essentially Zoo Tycoon with dinosaurs. You built enclosures and made a park with your dinosaurs. It was fulfilling and fun, and there was even a sandbox mode where you could just let them roam free.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, when I had downloaded Jurassic World Evolution 2 from Steam because it looked like the successor to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis and my college homework had left me burned out. I waited a good few hours for it to download (and played Gears: Tactics for the first time while I waited which is not a bad game, even with no dinosaurs).

When I finally booted Jurassic World Evolution 2 and got through the opening fanfare, I started on the tutorial island. I know I’m old, but does everything need a deep, hand-holding tutorial? This build-a-park concept has remained mostly unchanged since the 1990’s. Yet this tutorial felt like it dragged on for too long.

I started going through the very slow tutorial, and then I had to choose to help one of the three branches of the company in spite of the other ones. Oh goody, just what I want in my video games, garbage office politics. I just want to make a park and breed dinosaurs. I don’t want to have to worry about not getting a dinosaur because Heather in research is still angry that I didn’t arbitrarily choose her project for contract of the month.

While I understand they are going for the realism of working in a large corporation, I’m playing video games to not deal with that. Just let me build a theme park with an occasional carnivore escaping and eating a small family from the Netherlands. I think that is what divided me on this title.

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis was essentially Zoo Tycoon. You built a park and filled it with the dinosaurs that you liked most, and the guests all had a great time. As long as your dinosaurs didn’t break out too much and eat the equivalent of the population of Gibraltar, you were good. It was just a simple and enjoyable gameplay loop.

It’s just not quite the same with the newer titles like Jurassic World Evolution and Jurassic World Evolution 2. I mean, really, just let people have fun with dinosaurs, that’s the formula. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis released in 2003, and I’d bet my GiN salary that a majority of people don’t even know it exists. I promise, sometimes simple concepts work really well. Elden Ring was not a complex title compared to many other open world games, but it blew them out of the water in sales. Sometimes, people just want to build a simple dinosaur-based theme park that defies both science and common sense.

Or just let raptors chase an Australian family across the food court. We all have our simple pleasures. It is really hard to screw up a game with dinosaurs, but I have to say that I was kind of disappointed with Jurassic World Evolution 2. I might be in the minority on that however, because Marie Flanigan gave Jurassic World Evolution a respectable 3.5 GiN Gems (of 5) in her review of it back in 2018.

Maybe the complexities of it were just not for me. I have removed Jurassic World Evolution 2 from my computer and will have to get my dinosaur fix elsewhere, I guess. That means I better head to the last remaining video store in my area and grab some DVDs.

I have not beat Final Fantasy XIII, and I’m starting to think shame doesn’t work as a motivator.

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One thought on “Fresh Look’s Thoughts on the Jurassic Period of Video Games”

  1. My problem with the new games and even operation genesis was they felt lacking.

    They where good games but I was spoiled by zoo tycoon complete collection.

    Having things like aquariums, butterfly sanctuaries, a dozen different types of walls, dinosaurs, aquatic life, cinemas, various food stalls and restaurants, a wealth of decoration such as active volcanos and geysers, the ability to make places look like fossil excavation sites.

    Playing operation genesis was really cool but it always felt lacking in comparison to the dinosaur park I could make in zoo tycoon. And the same thing follows the newer ones. Every zoo game just feels lacking compared to the simplicity yet complexity of zoo tycoon complete collection.

    I don’t want to spend half my day hand place a dozen poles via something like planet coaster just to make something look perfect. I just want to design a nice looking park.

    After a while of playing zoo tycoon I started playing it more around designing good or interesting locations over actually designing a zoo.

    Rainforest restaurant inside the middle of a rainforest surrounded by a small village and an archeological dig.

    I still made a zoo of course. But that’s how I’ve felt about all Jurassic park Park builders. Good decent games. But lacking in variety compared to ztcc

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