Jurassic Park is as meaningful today as it was twenty-five years ago. Its wide array of sequels, games and dinosaur-based paraphernalia have kept those incredible creatures in the limelight, and Frontier Developments Jurassic World Evolution is proving to be just as robust eighteen months since its release.
Return to Jurassic Park aims to continue that, presenting players with a ‘what if’ scenario where John Hammond somehow manages to, not only get a handle on all those cheeky dinosaurs roaming about on Isla Nublar, but also convinces Ellie Sattler, Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm to return to the park to do things properly. Given that the whole franchise runs on a series of belief-suspending events we can probably forgive it another one, especially when it gives us the chance to finally build our own Jurassic Park.
The campaign that forms the main meat of this expansion starts by re-introducing you to old friends, and you can’t help but get a sense of their hopefulness as you fly to the island via an InGen copter. Of course, Ian Malcolm, voiced by Jeff Goldblum, isn’t so easily swayed, but he probably just wants to watch chaos theory eat everybody. Again.
You have to start fixing things straight away, and you’ll need to hop into a ranger’s jeep and go hands on to get things back up and running. It’s an immediate reminder that Jurassic World Evolution isn’t just a game about clicking on distant icons, and with this DLC you suddenly find that the dinosaurs aren’t so accommodating of you tootling about in their paddocks. A lot of what the Return to Jurassic Park DLC brings with it feels natural, and if there’s a more realistic timeline of dinosaur parks, this seems to be it.
The biggest selling point is that everything looks and behaves like Jurassic Park and not Jurassic World. Gone are the hatcheries, replaced by Arrival Helipads that fly in your newest creations from Isla Sorna. The Visitor Centre boasts the classic, thatched roof design of Spielberg’s film, and all of the supplemental buildings, from the Hotel to the Rest Rooms match up with that original vision. The attention to detail is fantastic, and there’s something magical about Jurassic Park that Jurassic World never quite captured.
Return to Jurassic Park also brings with it a brand new Aviary, filling a hole in the original movie that featured in the original Michael Crichton novel. Where Spielberg originally thought it to be un-filmable, it was eventually featured in the third movie, and Frontier’s version looks fantastic. You can stuff it full of Preanodons and peer inside it. It’s a great-looking addition.
Disappointingly there’s only one type of winged dinosaur to raise in there, and if (or when) they break out they just fly off into the sky rather than harassing your visitors. We expect mayhem from our Jurassic Parks and for once Frontier have only brought us mild inconvenience. Still, there’s plenty of chance for further updates on it, and any new addition to the formula is deeply welcome when we’re at hundreds of hours of dinosaur-rasslin’.
Your guests don’t get to roam around from one habitat to another anymore, but are instead taking their Park Tours via classic, green-liveried ’93 Ford Explorers. It’s gone from amusement park to safari park, and so you need to plot out the route around the park in a way that maximises their experience. It’s still a good idea to stick a carnivore feeder near to the track, but you’d better hope that you don’t have anyone with the last name Nedry lurking around in your security centre.
Just like in the film, occasional storms cause plenty of problems, and you need to be quick on the draw to repair your Geothermal Power Stations to prevent those pesky carnivorous inmates from escaping their enclosures. It feels as though you have to deal with fewer breakouts during this campaign than elsewhere in the game, but then we might just be old hands at this by now. It’s definitely a more soothing pace than the base game, and you can take a little more time just enjoying the dinosaurs and the setting instead of manically fighting tooth-filled fires every two minutes.
The conversations between Malcolm, Grant and Sattler help to sell the fiction, and the fact that they’re voiced by the original actors is fantastic. It’s a sad fact that there’s no Richard Attenborough, but the soundalike they’ve used does a pretty good job with the few lines he’s tasked with.
While it might all be personal choice, the dinosaurs now boast classic skins as well, and there’s just something that looks right about them. Jurassic Park set in stone what dinosaurs look like for an entire generation, and Frontier have done a wonderful job recreating them in-game.
Alongside the Pteranodon, there’s also the brand new Compsognathus, which are so tiny that they need special fences to keep them in, and while they might be small, completionists will be glad to finally see them in their parks. It takes the game to its logical conclusion, and for any lifelong fans of the books and films, it’s not likely to get much better than this.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving as well, as once you complete the campaign you can take all of the Park-themed malarkey back into the sandbox and challenge modes. It’s a shame not to be able to mix and match some of the elements between World and Park settings, but overall it gives the game a much needed refresh and should keep you going for a few more Cretaceous periods.