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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review: Jurassic World Evolution: Complete Edition (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S. 

Who wouldn't want the opportunity to run a zoo full of dinosaurs? I mean, assuming that you could manage it in a way that doesn't turn to hell (a la the Jurassic Park films). I remember being enamoured to a Game Boy Advance title, called Jurassic Park: Park Builder, which, primitive as it was, let you do that. Jurassic World Evolution is the modern attempt at that same thing. Given that the Nintendo Switch doesn't have that many great simulators on it, this thing arrives as something of a breath of fresh air. It's not perfect, but it's not bad at all.

The basic process behind Jurassic World Evolution is quite simple: You'll send exploratory teams out to various places across the world to look for DNA for a wide range of dinosaurs. When you've got enough DNA to form a complete "picture" of a single dino, you can then produce it, and let it out into your park. Then you've got to make sure that the dino won't escape, keep it fed and healthy, and then draw visitors (and money) into your park.

All of that is fairly standard stuff for simulators. Jurassic World Evolution throws an additional spanner in the works by having three different "factions" that you need to maintain a good relationship with; science, military, and entertainment. All three factions want you to complete objectives to further their own intentions for the use of the dinosaurs and research, and doing something for one faction will generally cause another to decline in their perception of you. As a balancing act, this does force you to spread your focus and make sure that you're taking full advantage of all the simulator tools, though that does come at the cost of the full sandbox experience; you'll generally feel like you're being led through the nose to success rather than making your own decisions to live or die by.


The other big problem that Jurassic World Evolution faces is that there aren't all that many buildings that you can construct, so the variety isn't quite there. A couple of different science and research-orientated buildings, along with a handful of recreational buildings and hotels result in parks that look impressive the first time, but by the time you get to your third or fourth park, you'll realise that they're all turning out much the same. Between this and the quest system, Jurassic World Evolution's biggest flaw becomes clear: it's a simulator that isn't always comfortable with letting people play it the way that they want to.

It's pretty, though. Very pretty. Each time you release a dino into the pen you get a little cut scene of it stalking out and roaring before getting on with exploring its new digs, and that never stops being fun - especially with a huge variety of dinos to discover and recreate. It's also possible to jump into a first-person view of each of the recreational buildings to see what the tourists would see, and that "on the ground" view is always rewarding. The game ties nicely into the film franchise too, with soundbites from popular characters interwoven in at key points. They don't tend to be contextual to what's actually going on (Dr. Malcolm's musings, in particular, seem to be rants from someone who's never even been to your park at times), but they help to set the scene nonetheless.

On the Switch there are some minor concessions to the hardware that are noticeable, but not game-breaking. The dinosaurs themselves look gorgeous (and it was right to focus on them), but the rest of the scenery suffers from some pretty significant pop-in and limited texturing. I also assume that this is an issue across all console versions of the game, but the UI was clearly built with a mouse and pointer in mind, and so navigating around with a controller can involve more steps than it should. The text is also a little small on the Switch screen, though it's still readable enough.


Jurassic World Evolution claims a victory of sorts in being the best "big-budget" simulator currently available on Nintendo Switch, though it cruised through there on the back of the port of Cities: Skylines being less than ideal. The fact that the game has a deep library of DLC built into the package certainly boosts its value, and when the only other options are the indies like Project Highrise or ports of the old Rollercoaster Tycoon titles, it's nice to have an option like Evolution for on-the-go play, though I am hoping that the port of Tropico 6 - a much more complex and detail-orientated simulator - proves to be the big one for the console. Jurassic World Evolution is enjoyable, but a little too simple to hit the peaks of the genre. 



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

The critic was provided a copy of the game for review.

Review: Jurassic World Evolution: Complete Edition (Nintendo Switch)
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