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Xbox Review - 'Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis'

by Eric on April 19, 2003 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

This world-builder title is inspired by Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment's Jurassic Park franchise-the studio's most successful film franchise. Jurassic Park allows you to fulfill Dr. John Hammond's dream by successfully designing and managing your very own Jurassic Park. Create the most amazing dinosaur theme park the world has ever seen, OR battle your way through 12 intense missions that will truly test your skills against the awesome powers of nature and its most dominant creatures.

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Blue Tongue Software
Release Date : 25-Mar-2003

There have been many games based on movie licenses, 98% are slapped together just to captatiolize on the movies name and often do not come close to the excitement that the movie it self offered. Games based on the Jurassic Park license are nothing new, there has been quite of few of those already. Ranging from the 16 bit systems all the way up to high powered arcade machines and now current PC and console hardware. While some of these games did fall into the lines of what I said above, over all most of them were pretty damn good. Can the same be said about Operation Genesis?

Right after booting up, you will be greeted by the now famous JP gate at the title screen. From there you can tweak different options for the game and then jump right in and get started on your very own Jurassic Park. The first thing you will do is design the look and landscape of your island. You will be able to pick how much vegetation you want on the island, how rocky or flat you would like it and the amount of water on it. While you are not able to go into great detail in designing your own island compared to other games in this genre, you will still have more then a few different layouts to pick from. After you are done tweaking your island and are happy with the way it looks, it is time to get down to business and start building your park. There is a great deal to actually do in JP:OG. Right off the bat you will need to build a park entrance, some basic buildings such as rest rooms, places to eat and so on. The developer Blue Tongue really did a great job capturing the JP feel with all of the buildings you can build in the game. All of them have the same look and feel from the movies, right down to the smallest details.

After you are done setting up the basics, it's time to really get into the heart of the game play and start building some dino attractions. You will first need to design safe enclosures for your dinos so they don't break out and start eating your visitors. There are 3 different grades of electric fences for you to pick from, the weaker ones are designed for the smaller dinosaurs and work well for most of the herbivores. The medium and high level electric fences are needed for the larger carnivores to help make sure they do not escape.

In JP:OG you do not just pick what types of dinos you put in your attractions, just like the movies you have to build each dino from it's DNA collected by your fossil-hunting teams which are scattered throughout the world. You can deploy your fossil-hunting teams at various dig sites that are currently unlocked, with more being opened up to you as your park increases in size. This really adds a great deal of depth to the game, since you have to manage your teams and keep up to date on the dig sites conditions. After a while the dig site will become exhausted and your teams will find little to no fossils there and it will be time to move on. You have to get at least 50% DNA of a dino before you can grow one, but the more complete the DNA the longer they will live. At first this is not to much of a problem, but later in the game when the better dinosaurs cost a great deal more money to grow, it's better to hold off till you can ensure them living for a few years instead of a few months so you will not have to replace them as often. Once you actually have a few dinosaurs in your park, you will need to keep them happy and well fed.

Feeding the dinos is a pretty simple task. You can build food dispensers that will either dispense live food for the carnivores or bails of plants for the herbivores, but you have to keep in mind that the more dinos you have the more food they need, some often more then one will be needed per attraction. Water is a very important part as well, and if your attractions do not have any rivers or ponds already in them you will need to build them your self to ensure your dinos have a fresh source of water at all times. Keeping them happy is not as easy as feeding them. All of the dinos need a pretty big area to roam in, but for the bigger dinos this is a must. Also the herbivores need to see lots of plants around or they will get depressed. You also have to watch what kind of dinos you group together, if you put large carnivores with smaller carnivores the smaller ones will get really scared and not eat much. Also there is the added problem of the larger carnivores fighting with or even hunting and killing the smaller ones. So its best to group the dinosaurs based on size, but even then there will still be some fighting which can lead to the death of a dinosaur. Most of the time they will get along fine though.

There are also six different diseases that can effect the dinosaurs and you will need to research vaccines for every one of them. Researching plays a big role in JP:OG at the start. This is the main way for you to unlock new Technologies and things to build in your park. At the start of the game it really takes a lot of work keeping up with all the dinos and keeping them healthy, but as you research more and more things will get much easier and many, like vaccinating your dinosaurs, will become automated.

There are 25 different dinosaurs in JP:OG and each one has it's own unique AI. Once again the developer really did a great job bringing the dinosaurs to life. You can see them doing all kinds of different activities like eating plants, sleeping, drinking water, fighting, hunting and stalking the live food and so on. It really makes you feel as these dinos are really alive and have there own personalities.

Keeping the dinosaurs happy is one thing, but you also have to keep your visitors happy as well which is just as challenging. Your visitors will need many basic things such as rest rooms and places to eat, as well as more advanced necessities. You will need to build many viewing towers and other contraptions to give your visitors a closer look at the dinos since that is their only way to see them. Also needed are cleaning stations that employ park cleaners to help keep the park nice and trash free. Benches and rest areas are required to give your visitors a nice break from walking around on this, often hot, tropical island. Places to buy food and drinks is also very important. As the park grows you will need to add more of all of these to help keep your visitors happy and coming back as well as your park rating high. You can track all of the stats for your visitors and see who is happy and who is not as well as see what they do or do not like about your park. Often one of your park helper will inform you that your visitors are unhappy for some reason, even though your park seems fine with nothing wrong with it. Many times I checked the stats of the visitors when she informed me that they were unhappy and the stats confirmed almost always that was not the case and that they were indeed quite happy. Not sure what the problem is with this but it seems better to ignore her and just check the stats your self.

A lot of park builders tend to have pretty simple graphics and don't really do a good job of making the parks feel alive. JP:OG is a totally different story. It has a great engine that really pushes a lot of details. The island is very lush with lots of different types of plants, all nicely detailed and even sway in the wind. All of the buildings, as stated before, look just like they do in the movies with lots of little details and moveable parts. The water in JP:OG is of special note and looks stunning. It reflects the environment nicely and in times of high wind, waves will even form on it and it will become choppy. The visitors in your park are finely detailed as well. You will be able to spot some of them carrying toys that they bought in your gift shops or using umbrellas when its raining. There is a whole host of small little details like this, details that most developers would over look, that are in this game and just add even more to the whole atmosphere of a park that is alive and ever changing.

While over all the graphics look good, there are some problems areas that need to be addressed. This game is not using any really advanced effects that the powerful Xbox gpu is capable of. The game still looks great with out them, but it would have been nice to see some bump mapping other advance effects used. There is a fair amount of draw in, although the level is pushed pretty far back it's still quite noticeable. While most everything looks good with lots of details, the dinosaurs could have used more polygons and better textures. Also there is some slow down here and there, but not really noticeable and it never effects game play in anyway. It would have been nice to see more of Xbox's power being used in the form of some nicer eye candy, but for a multi-platform game it really looks good.

The sound in the game is also very good, with all kinds of ambient noises from both the dinosaurs and the visitors in the park. It really does a good job of bringing the park alive even more. The music is nothing to special, but it does fit the game nicely and you will even hear a little rendition of the Jurassic Park Theme song every now and again.

It's not very often a game based on a movie license turns out good, but Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis has done just that. The developer has really put a lot of love into this game and it shows. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis has a lot more depth then most park builders and the game play really shows this. There is always something to do, something to check or something to fix. It starts off pretty hard and seems pretty complex, but once you understand how things work it flows really well. This is a must buy for all park builder fans. Most Jurassic Park fans will also enjoy this title as it will bring back a lot of memories from the films. If you are not a fan of park builders or the Jurassic Park films, then you may want to give this one a rent first. But even if your not a fan of the movies or a hard core park builder fan, you might be surprised how much you like this game and get drawn into it.

Score 8.5/10

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