I've Decided To Endorse Jurassic Park Builder

by Ben Hanson on Jul 29, 2012 at 08:49 AM

Every day in the Game Informer office I have to listen to Jeff Marchiafava ask Jeff Cork how big his Tiny Tower is. I am forced to overhear Joe Juba rave about and talk new strategies for Dungeon Village. I separated myself from that helpless pack, proclaiming myself to be a "true" gamer that cares about gameplay and not just mindless clicking to watch numbers improve. I spent two hours in Game Dev Story and enjoyed it, but did not feel a single itch to keep playing. I downloaded Pocket Planes and was immediately turned off by the UI. I was above the free-to-play sim genre. Then the developers over at Ludia found the way: Jurassic Park. Why did it have to be Jurassic Park?

As my favorite movie of all time, I've spent a lot of time playing Jurassic Park games. The Lost World for the Playstation was my first game for the system, and I've spent more time with it than any Mario game. I can't say that I loved the experience, but there were aspects of TellTale's latest game that impressed me.

I often find myself defending Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis as the greatest Jurassic Park game ever made. This is where Jurassic Park Builder for iOS hits me in the gut. It is a mobile and streamlined version of the Operation Genesis experience. Straddling that simplified line between SimCity and Tomagotchi, I've become wildly addicted to the experience of slowly expanding my very own version of Jurassic Park.

You receive missions from characters such as John Hammond, Alan Grant, Ian Malcom, and Kelly Malcom. I'm tickled that they include everybody's favorite scientist Dr. Wu but have zero representation from Jurassic Park III. Your mind will shatter if you try to cram this game into official Jurassic Park canon, so just sit back and enjoy. The missions have straight-forward goals like "build a new road" or "feed a carnivore" and completing these objectives gives you gold and experience. You build up the ability to create new structures and research how to clone new dinosaurs. The game rewards you for checking back on it every ten minutes or so and you will quickly run out of things to do if you stick around for too long. That said, the game continues to occupy 30% of my conscious mind at all times. I went on a bike ride yesterday and pulled off the trail four times so that I could collect gold from my Pachycephalosaurus paddock.

The most memorable aspect of Operation Genesis was the constant threat of dinosaurs breaking free and eating your visitors. The iOS game constantly hints that something could go wrong at any minute but, at level seven I have yet to see chaos erupt. There are no UI references to fence repair or anything that would lead me to believe this danger is a large part of the game, except for the ability to build a static security tower. It could be a late game twist, as I have yet to discover T-Rex DNA.

The sound design is the weakest part of the game, as I constantly hear a T-Rex roar despite not having created one. It seems like the developers just took all of the dinosaur sound files from the film and have them perpetually and play at random throughout the game. And, in case you were wondering, it looks as if they didn't get the license to the classic soundtrack from John Williams. Without spending a cent of real money on the game I have created seven different dinosaurs, including raptors. The brontosaurus (which never appeared in Jurassic Park) is available but it would be a hell of a grind to create without paying for in-game currency. I was expecting the worst, but am pleasantly surprised with how few pay-walls there are in the game.

God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, man destroys God, man creates the world's most addicting game about dinosaurs. This game came completely out of the blue and has consumed my iPhone's battery. It doesn't do anything exceptional for the genre, but if you have an ounce of love for Jurassic Park you might as well give it a shot. The worst case scenario is that the game consumes your every waking moment. My addiction to Jurassic Park Builder has taught me never to write off a genre. Except for third-person shooters, they are dumb.