As I understand it, the ultimate theme of the Jurassic Park films is this: dinosaurs are really cool but you shouldn’t like them because they’re not natural in our modern world. The latest management sim by Frontier Developments captures this conflict perfectly, letting you ignore naysayers as you mix up dinosaur DNA cocktails like a frenzied bartender.
One of those naysayers is Dr. Ian Malcolm. Jeff Goldblum’s sarky mathematician is a presence throughout Jurassic World Evolution, lending esoteric gravitas to your dinosaur dealings as his ruminations on life and nature pour into your ears like honey. He’s always ready with some glib line about how this exact venture has historically resulted in a substantial number of human casualties over the years, but that just makes me feel ever more the morally dubious John Hammond type, endangering punters for profit and swanning around in an all-white safari suit.
Goldblum’s appearance alongside other characters from the series is what makes Jurassic World Evolution feel authentically Jurassic, the sticky amber helplessly encasing me within a genre I usually avoid. Not only do the likes of Malcolm, Owen Grady, and Dr. Wu ease you in as vocal wrappers for rolling tutorials – teaching you how to send dig teams on expeditions for fossils, extract DNA, incubate hatchlings, then eventually release them into their comfortable new habitats of concrete and steel – but they enliven the story too, giving your actions context.
Here, entrepreneur John Hammond’s company has hired you as operations manager across his burgeoning dinosaur parks in the Muertes Archipelago, a Chilean island chain known as ‘The Five Deaths’. Sounds promising. Unlike most open-ended management games in which you’re endlessly building towards one grand ideal, Jurassic World Evolution gives you several distinct sites to develop, each finishable in just a few hours.
Isla Muerta is ravaged by tornadoes, Isla Tacaño starts you off in heavy debt, and on Isla Pena the real estate is at a premium. These restrictions keep you guessing. Can I cut costs by cramming a 70-ft-long Brachiosaurus into a corner behind the hotel?
How much space does one of the largest land animals really need? And what’s the statute of limitations on multiple T-Rex attacks? Attractions do tend to escape a little too often for my liking, but it’s never too much trouble to repair the damage, and no one holds it against you for long. Hey, the risk of getting trampled by a Torosaurus is part of the fun. Now just sign this waiver…
Across all your parks, three separate divisions offer contracts in bids to harness your expertise. Security contracts focus on shoring up the safety of your park, rewarding you for preventing power outages and attendee casualties. Science contracts range from fairly innocent fossil requests to making you play god with animal genetics. And the Entertainment division usually asks you to take exciting pictures of dinosaurs, or engineer fights by putting rival carnivores together. If anyone from animal welfare asks, it was an accident – one of many carefully calculated accidents.
I like how these divisions provide constant tension over how you should do your job – indeed, if you should even do it at all. But you definitely should do it, because dinosaurs are really cool.