reviews\ Mar 27, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis - PC - Review

OK … starting off, I am a big fan of Michael Crichton, and I loved the Jurassic Park books and movies that came out as well. I recently played the Dinosaur Digs expansion for Zoo Tycoon, and wondered how much different could this new “Sim Whatever” game could really be. Well, to its credit … it does add some things to the genre on its own, but also remains true to the mainstream style of the Sim building titles … minus some areas that others offer.


Operation Genesis puts you in the role of a new manager assigned by John Hammond himself to build and run Jurassic Park. In doing this, you have a cast of people from the film like Sam Neil and Samuel Jackson with you to help out by dropping info and hints, and of course you have the big boss … INGEN Corporation … to answer to in success or failure. Basically, build an amusement attraction to bring in as many people and as much cash as possible. Take care of the dinos, and you’ll do OK … but if they aren’t getting the attention that they need, they could wind up going into a rampage and may get out, which is cool as heck to watch but obviously won’t help you win the game.


Now, you might be saying “OK, I’ve been there, done that before” … and you’re probably right for the most part. You get a certain amount of money up front, and it’s up to you to build structures, clear land out, build bathrooms, fast food places, viewing areas, and other things that you’ve seen in just about every other park building sim that you have played at one time or another. On a down side, the total number and different look of the items you can build or place seems to be really limited compared to some other titles out there like Zoo Tycoon or Sim Theme park, which could hurt this one considering the expansive list of other similar games that are out.


First off, if you’re not much in a park building kind of mood, Universal added in a series of missions that you can play which revolve around things like snapping photos of dinosaurs in various conditions, rescuing people, or even herding gentle herbivores before they get eaten by a rampaging T-Rex. It provides a good distraction to break the monotony, and I personally found this to be the highlight of my playing the game … but also found it to be pretty short and quick to go through as well. There’s not much of a need to go back and play missions when their done either, since it’s usually trying to beat a best time or whatever.


Rather than focusing on rides or buffalo exhibits, this game of course revolves around getting dinosaurs into your attraction. One neat twist that they put into Operation Genesis is the research piece of the game. To get dinosaurs, you obviously can’t just run down to your nearest Petland and grab a few. Instead, you have to hire archaeologists to go to various parts of the world and dig for fossils. Once found, you have your research team extract DNA that you THEN use to create the dinosaurs or you can buy and sell fossils on the market if you don’t need the ones you found or are looking for something in particular. The research team in the park also is responsible for researching new rides or attractions like SUV tours as well to keep it fresh and entertaining for guests.


Another neat addition that they made to Operation Genesis is the use of the park rangers. When a dinosaur needs to be moved or “put down”, you actually take control of a helicopter to zip around the park and do what needs to be done. Hitting the left mouse button also enables a zoom in sniper kind of mode, and its pretty fun to play as you whoosh around looking for your prey. As a tip, make sure that you’ve closed down the park if you need to use lethal force to kill a dinosaur. If you don’t, people may get upset and find the treatment inhumane … even if that pack of Velociraptors was getting ready to shred them for lunch.


As far as “reasons not to get the game” go, most of the issues that I had with Operation Genesis revolved around a couple of things in particular. First off, the lack of item styles and types really dropped some points in my opinion, especially with some other long running titles that are out which have a lot more to offer park builders than this one does. Attractions are OK, like a balloon ride, but just don’t really seem to give a big sense of gratification when completed. Also as I mentioned before, I loved the missions … but they were a little too easy to beat and I didn’t really feel a need to go back and try them again.


Secondly, the island that you are building on is nowhere near as big as the one in the movie. OK, realistically I don’t expect something that is 5000 square video game miles, but since dinosaur enclosures have to be pretty big, you can quickly find your island getting filled up after only a few have been completed. In addition, you also can’t zoom out past about 5 stories up which can make it a real pain trying to figure out how big your enclosures wind up being or how much room you have left. There were a couple of times I had to scrap a whole map and start over because something was too big or I hit a mountain due to the camera. 


Graphically, JP does all right. The grass looks pretty good when you zoom in close, and the movements and actions of the dinosaurs themselves were well animated and well done, including the ones where one attacked and killed another. Want to see something cool? Spawn an herbivore in a pen full of carnivores and watch what happens. It’s worth the angry visitors to see it at least once. Other than the dinosaurs and grass, I was REALLY impressed with the water effects. Reflections of surrounding trees and clouds in the sky looked almost real. On a not so good note about the water though, driving an SUV through it didn’t do anything to disturb the reflections or the calm shimmer of the surface … nor did rain.


The sound to Operation Genesis was pretty good, including the orchestrated music from the motion pictures going in the background. The voices in the game also sounded pretty close to their movie counterparts … but got kind of aggravating at times since you get notified of things through e-mail and the e-mail went off A LOT during gameplay. I spent a lot of time with “We need to talk” or “You have new mail” going off to the point where I was looking for the little X to just shut it off and take my chances on my own. The dinosaurs are the true heroes in the game though, and they sounded accurate to what we heard while watching the movies.


Overall, I would love to recommend Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis to you gamers who are looking for another park building simulator … but I have to advise you to buy with caution. Kids who haven’t really had the chance to play some other “sim this” or “sim that” stuff yet and love dinosaurs will get a kick out of the graphics and the game. If you are a veteran player looking for another title to tide you over until the next Mall Tycoon comes out … you may want to pass this one up and instead grab an expansion to one of the titles you already own.  


Gameplay: 6.6
While everything is straight point and click and easy to set up and get into in building your park, the lack of items definitely leaves something to be desired and falls short based on some other sim building titles that are on the market. The mission mode is fun and was a big part of the enjoyment to me, but it also was a little too short lived and doesn’t have enough reason to go back and play again after all the missions have been beat.


Graphics: 7.3
Overall, not bad at all. The dinosaur animations are fluid and look good, and the environments also were done well. The water was particularly stunning in my opinion … but things that should have caused surface disturbance were not present. Also, the lack of camera zooming to where you needed to be was not present, and caused some spacing problems.


Sound: 7.1
The orchestrated music from the movies is here, and sounded good. Also, the dinosaurs sounded like they did in the films and added to the overall aspect of the game. The voiceovers weren’t bad, but the constant e-mails of info and requests got old quick.


Difficulty: Easy
The game is easy to figure out and easy to play and get into. To learn all of the ins and outs of owning your own dinosaur park are also explained in a series of tutorials that you can go through before getting in and playing the game.


Concept: 6.5
Jurassic Park has always been a really unique and neat idea from the get go. Operation Genesis also provided some fun and some neat entertainment, but it also doesn’t really offer anything new to the sim market that stands out, and there were some things that could have been done better.

Overall: 6.3
While it does get addicting to build the park, it also doesn’t do anything outrageously new from anything else that is out in a similar vein either. There were some areas that were also lacking and could have been done better, especially considering the 1000 titles out that offer the same overall experience with more option and items to utilize. If you are a big dinosaur nut or have kids who enjoy the prehistoric lizards, this game can provide some good entertainment and value. If you’ve already got something similar or are looking for another park builder to play, make sure to hang on to the receipt.


Above Average

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