Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis

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Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)

Did you know it’s been eleven years since the release of the first Jurassic Park film? Eleven years… and in that time, there have been two sequels, a few theme park rides, a mountain of merchandise and several games. And eleven years on, Konami still hold the licence for producing these games which, when all’s said and done, have been rather hit-and-miss affairs.

            But there’s something quite different about the latest offering, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis doesn’t follow the usual movie tie-in rules of putting you in charge of the lead character (or in Enter jpog3.jpg (13420 bytes)The Matrix’s case, a relatively small, rather two-dimensional character), instead it chooses to play quite a different game. In a move quite unlike anything I’ve seen since the days of the SNES (most recent offerings could be comparable to the appearance of Donkey Kong in Donkey Konga or Link in The Legend Of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, but on Nintendo’s behalf that was more of a calculated move to enhance sales) Konami have decided to place one of their beloved franchises into a new genre and are hoping the fans will follow. However, given the subject matter, this is one genre that I feel the fans should have been forcibly huddled into about eleven years ago.

            Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is Theme Park II. There – I’ve said it. It’s plain and in black and white and if anyone wants to argue the point with me, you’re more than welcome to try! Yes, it’s not strictly a Theme Park (you know, rides and stuff) but in essence it’s all there. You still have attraction, amenities, research and so on…

            The basic premise of the gameplay is to develop and maintain a bustling Dinosaur-theme Park, akin to that in the film. Your duties include everything from arranging your excavation teams and sites to producing dinosaurs to deciding how much to charge the little punters for use of your toilet facilities. The game’s menu structure is designed to some degree of comfort, allowing you to view the necessary information quickly, while the finer details of a specific dinosaurs health, or condition of a fence can be checked when time is at your disposal.

Building a successful park can be relatively easy at first. Using a minimal amount of common sense and listening to your advisors will get you to grips with the game’s fundamentals immediately. The downfall certainly comes with the Disaster System. With a seemingly random structure Tornadoes, Thunder Storms jpog1.jpg (8423 bytes)and Dinosaur Rampages will terrorise visitors of your park and test your ability. In essence, the feature adds a nice bit of spice to the mix, but in practice the “random” structure is far too erratic to contend with, and will eventually have you saving every tens minutes, just-in-case. A tornado may sweep across your park, causing immense damage and several hefty lawsuits as you forgot to use the Emergency Beacon before the eye hit, killing many of your visitors. As your cash builds slowly back into the positive, and you finally manage to contain those dinosaurs roaming around the back-end of your park without so much as a ranger in-sight, another hits… and rips your Park Entrance apart, as well as causing many more lawsuits. So you’re back in the negative, and get a warning from the Board; “Get out of the red next quarter or you’re fired”. Ok, you’ve pulled it back from this type of catastrophe before; you can do it again, right? But then… ohh… a third hits…

The title’s graphics, while not breaking any boundaries, are certainly dependable. Each item in itself doesn’t surpass some of the DreamCast’s better efforts, but these items, such as the visitors are barely visible when the camera is zoomed out, and the screen becomes full of thousands of these DreamCast-esque models. While the need for lighting and special effects isn’t ever going to be high on the list of priorities with a game in this genre, the sheer quantity of polygon’s the system is pushing show’s strength in development.

With a limited musical score on offer and the software not allowing you to create you own soundtracks, there isn’t really too much to discuss as far as the sound goes. Your advisors’ speech samples are clear but limited and the roar of your dinosaurs is presumably sampled from the film. It would have been nice to have a bit of mood music or just have been allowed to listen to your own ripped tracks, but for some reason, possibly due to licensing issues with Amblin Entertainment, Konami thought otherwise.

As far as Real-Time-Strategy park simulations go on the Xbox, they are severely under-represented. Not one other UK release actually comes to mind, with only RollerCoaster World, the “budget” title available on the PlayStation2 being worthy of praise across all of this generations systems. This should be considered both shame and an oversight – giving the popularity of Theme Park on the SNES and Mega Drive. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis does it’s best to fill the hole, but the seemingly glitchy Disaster System and mediocre progression rank it an outsider, even with big, bloodthirsty dinosaurs.

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