Genre: Theme Park Builder
Developer: Blue Tongue
Release Date: 3/25/2003
The Jurassic Park movie franchise has always had a steady but small array of video games on various platforms that let the player experience events similar to what they see on the big screen. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is the latest game to bear the Jurassic Park name, but while most other JP games cast the player into a role where the dinosaurs have already escaped Operation Genesis puts the player in the shoes of the head honcho at the park, where the goal is to not only prevent the dinosaurs from escaping in the first place but also to place the public and create the ultimate theme park.
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis borrows heavily from the Tycoon and Theme Park games with its style of play but adds various JP-flavored twists and additions to make it seem fresh and makes it more than just a me-too title. The basic gameplay puts you in charge of everything from building the park to finding the best fossil sites to get the DNA. At the start you have a limited amount of money, enough to make basic facilities and a couple dinosaur enclosures. You also have just enough DNA to create one or two of the dinosaur species, which you “create” inside of hatcheries. Dinosaurs don’t live forever, even with the best care and habitat. A dinosaur’s life expectancy can get gauged by how much of its DNA it contains, while a dinosaur can be created with only 50% of the species DNA it will only live for a short time. Thus, a careful balance must be maintained between having enough dinosaurs in the park to keep people happy but also making sure that you don’t make too many that have low amounts of DNA.
To get the DNA, you have to send your fossil hunting teams to good fossil sites. At first you only have one fossil team and one fossil site available. Additional fossil hunting teams can be bought but at a good chunk of change. You can unlock more fossil sites by getting better and better ratings for you park, but more on that in a bit. Fossil hunting takes time, so once you put a fossil hunting team on a site you can go and do other things. When a fossil team finds something noteworthy they will message you and let you know. Noteworthy finds can be dinosaur fossils, amber, or precious stones and metals. Fossils can be of varying quality and aren’t worth a whole lot if you choose to sell them, but the upside is you can tell what species they are of. Amber can also be of varying quality but is worth a lot more than fossils, but you can’t tell what DNA is inside until you use it. The precious stones and metals can only be sold, but a little extra money in the coffers is never a bad thing.
Once you have fossils or amber you have to send them to the genetics lab for extraction. Like the fossil hunting, extraction takes a chunk of time. Multiple items can be set to be extracted in a queue of up to 6 items, but the genetics lab wont automatically move on to other items if the queue becomes empty. Once an item is finished, the new DNA is added to the DNA you already have for the species, and if any new dinosaurs of that species will have a longer life expectancy, getting more bang for your buck.
Of course, all of this fossil hunting and genetics research wouldn’t mean a thing if there wasn’t a Jurassic Park to apply it to. Anyone familiar with games like Theme Park will pick up on how to play fairly quickly, and any newcomers to the genre can get accustomed to the game via a handy tutorial that goes over nearly every aspect of maintaining a park. In JP:OG the player has complete control over building pathways, concession stands, dinosaur pens, security measures, and attractions. While certain park designs will perform better than others, how your park looks and works is entirely up to you. You can do everything from changing the admission price, to changing what food the concession stand sells, to plotting the paths for the Safari and Hot Air Balloon attractions. However, since your job is not only to make money but also to please patrons, care must be taken not to overcharge your customers and make sure that they generally like your park and the dinosaurs therein.
Of course, in this idyllic theme park scenario where adults and children can marvel at creatures that went extinct millions of years ago, there is a fly in the ointment. While many of the dinosaurs in the park are quite docile when well fed and maintained they aren’t exactly the equivalent of Jurassic cattle either. When a dinosaur gets angry, whether it be due to lack of food, bad weather, or other aspects, you can expect to see it try go berserk and try to exit it’s cage via any means available. In bad weather scenarios twisters can rip open the electrified fences, and the bigger dinosaurs can just make their own escape routes, and that’s one of the main things that sets JP:OG apart from other theme games. Just like Malcolm said in the first Jurassic Park movie, “…if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don't eat the tourists.” Once the dinosaurs are out to play the theme of the game quickly changes, with people running and screaming in terror as dinosaurs stalk and devour them. With proper security measures in place the problem is lessened and the player doesn’t need to get too involved, but if it gets too messy the play can either summon a ranger helicopter to tranquilize or kill the dinosaurs, or even take control of the helicopter and weapons himself and lend a hand to save the tourists and control the dinosaur population.
In addition to the main game mode there is a handful of missions that the player can undergo, ranging from taking photos of dinosaurs in a similar fashion to the N64 game “Pokemon Snap” to taking out a pack of predators on the loose in a park. While the missions themselves aren’t bad they pale in comparison to the main game, once the player plays the main game a bit the missions seem a bit pointless since they are all things that happen regularly during the course of the main mode of play.
The graphics in JP:OG are very nice, with fully 3D rendering, great models and texturing for the dinosaurs, and lush landscapes complete with grass, swaying trees, and reflective water. The weather effects such as heat waves and hurricanes also lend a hand in giving JP:OG a very good overall look, when a hurricane is going on you can almost feel the tension just by looking at the way the rain is whipped around and the trees are moving. The models for the tourists and the buildings aren’t that stellar, but since you don’t spend a whole lot of time looking at them up close, let alone much at all, that isn’t really a bad thing. The one bad thing about JP:OG’s graphics is that they are a bit of a hog in terms of computer resources, even the higher end PCs will have to sacrifice a few things in order to get a decent framerate and responsive mouse movements.
The sound in JP:OG is nearly movie quality, which is a blessing. The Jurassic Park theme is in the game, as well as a musical score reminiscent of the movies. Rather happy music is player during normal play, but when dinosaurs are attacking the park goers and a hurricane is approaching the music really captures the necessary feel and pace. The sound effects of a dinosaur feasting on it’s prey, splashing through a shallow pond, and making various calls to other dinosaurs are all very high quality. For anyone who has seen the JP movies, the Velociraptor noise almost sends a chill down your spine.
By and large Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is not only a great Jurassic Park game but also a great theme park game to boot. There isn’t really any part of the game that is necessarily bad or a bit rough, sure some parts of the game are a of a little lower quality than others but as a whole JP:OG is commendable for the way it takes a popular franchise, adds a unique twist, and comes out not only looking pretty and utilizing a popular franchise but also with solid and addictive gameplay. Jurassic Park fans will snap this up in a heartbeat, and even those who just want a good theme park game will find that JP:OG really is worth the admission price.