Theme parks containing dinosaurs have earnt a bad rep over the last few decades. On the one hand, the toothy, terrifying, distinctly hungry residents always seem to escape and start chowing down on the guests – awkward! – but then again they’ve also given us Jeff Goldblum’s bare chest. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. Falling somewhere between these two possibilities is Parkasaurus, a dinosaur park management sim that offers the suggestion that dinosaurs are visitors from space. And that they can time-travel. While the setup is nearly as unlikely as Mr Goldblum’s torso, the key thing for you is crafting a park that’s going to keep these prehistoric pets happy. Don’t worry, though, I’ve heard that life finds a way.
Parkasaurus is Jurassic World Evolution by way of Theme Park. Its residents have had the cuteness slider pushed up to maximum, and the realism dialled down below ‘Bryce Dallas Howard escaping a T-Rex in heels’. It is delightful, both to look at and to play, and where Frontier’s more serious-looking park builder continually hits you with visitor-endangering drama, Parkasaurus is a much more approachable, relaxing affair. At least, it is when everyone is happy.
Once you open the gates, Parkasaurus is populated by a particularly narky bunch of inmates, and the visitors aren’t much better. When the dinos aren’t taking a swipe at the fences because people can actually see them, the customers are whinging that they need a bench to rest their weary legs. It is, of course, your task to keep everyone happy, mostly by adding new aspects to your park, from the right kind of bushes and rocks in each dinosaur’s habitats to items that beautify the paths and byways. It’s a constant source of activity, but with the ability to pause or fast forward the action you never feel that there’s any real danger of getting overwhelmed.
There’s the choice between Sandbox and World Map modes, with the campaign offering a series of bespoke challenges that present you with a pre-set park of differing levels of completion. It’s great for keeping you focussed, and for forcing you to approach your building in a different way, and ultimately it prepares you for the free hand you have in Sandbox mode. Here you can let your imagination run wild, filling it with extinct beasts and designing every aspect of the park’s design.
Parkasaurus offers a complete park-building experience, albeit one that’s relatively traditional. You build enclosures, tailoring them to your cretaceous creatures, and then work on your park’s infrastructure, from staffing and facilities through to pricing and decoration.
The transition from PC to Nintendo Switch has been done with some careful thought, and despite the host of menus and building options it’s all very approachable and functional. There are times where it is clearly slower to get things done than with the keyboard and mouse of a PC – deleting items from your park being a prime example – but on the whole it’s a very positive experience.
The performance of Parkasaurus has, however, suffered from the move. The chunky polygonal art style retains its charm, but there’s been a distinct drop in the game’s resolution in order to keep everything running on Nintendo’s mobile chipset. Even with that lower resolution, the frame rate can still chug away at times. This is the kind of game where that doesn’t really matter, but if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing you might want to check out the PC release instead.
Parkasaurus is a very different park builder to Jurassic World Evolution, and on Switch it’s the superior experience. It suits the handheld perfectly thanks to its clear visual design and more relaxed pace.