‘Return To Jurassic Park’ Puts the Original Island In Your Control
The new expansion for Jurassic World Evolution, Return to Jurassic Park, is a right squeeze of the nostalgia glands. Set after the disastrous events of the original film, you are returning to Isla Nublar to take back control of the park from the dinosaurs. This time, learning from the mistakes of the first attempt, John Hammond wants to make the perfect park where no one dies. (Well, maybe a few people.)
You're joined by Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, who reprise their roles as Dr Alan Grant, Dr Ellie Sattler and Dr Ian Malcolm - but this time they act as advisers rather than actually getting down on the ground proper. And it's not just the old cast that's coming back, as the whole game has been given a coat of 1993 paint.
Jurassic World Evolution was set alongside the new films, starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, so the park itself had a much more modern styling. You sent tourists around your park on monorails and all your buildings were made of glass and steel. The aesthetic of the 1993 film is much more like a theme park, with big palm fronds, braziers, and bold colours. In Return to Jurassic Park, all of the game's buildings have been redesigned to match that 1993 look.
The dinosaurs, too, have been backdated - which is odd, considering they're all millions of years old anyway. The velociraptor, T-rex and triceratops are now more in line with how they appeared in the 1993 movie.
If you've been playing a lot of Jurassic World Evolution and your love for the films goes all the way back to the original, this is a great-looking expansion, stuffed with nods and nostalgia to pique your interest.
However, if you were hoping for an overhaul of park operations, you won't find much for you in this expansion. When I reviewed Jurassic World Evolution - when I worked at PCGamesN - I enjoyed the game but found it to be an uneven management sim. Building areas for the dinos and finding the right balance of different species to create a diverse enclosure without them all eating each other was engrossing, but the tools for satisfying your park guests were pretty flimsy. Besides placing restaurants and shops (and keeping them from being eaten) there wasn't much to it. The only real addition to guest management in Return to Jurassic Park is that you can now place toilets.
And, unfortunately, you won't be seeing the bathrooms torn apart by T-rexes.
Also, don't read this as me knocking toilets. I was genuinely excited to learn that Planet Coaster was getting benches for guests to sit on when that was announced. Anything that lets you give life to your park is a good step; it would just be nice to see even more.
I played a couple of early missions in the expansion and got to see the old-style buildings and dinos in action. While it gave me a subtle thrill to see all the nods to the old films, I was distracted by some frustrating bits of game design.
One objective I had was chasing down three velociraptors that were loose in my park and eating guests. Rather than send the AI off to deal with the dinos, I tried going after them myself, taking control of a 4x4 and driving out into the park with a tranquiliser rifle. I'd have to get pretty close to the dinos because the drop off on the rifle is so high, making any shot from a distance a challenge. You can't drive and shoot at the same time, so I'd stop the car to switch to the rifle, then watch as my ranger reloaded the rifle, and... the dinosaur had run away. The time to stop the jeep, switch to your rifle, and load the gun was just too long to ever make dropping a dinosaur yourself viable. It took me ten minutes to take out one of the three, so at that point I gave up and got the AI to take care of it.
That had its own challenges, because the only way to find the velociraptors was to switch to the map view. So you'd open the map, locate the escaped dino, go back to the in-game view, move the camera, try to spot a green dinosaur in a green forest at night, and send the AI after it. Then there was working out where to put the things once I'd caught them - there was no marker on the HUD and... Look, if this all sounds tedious, it's because it was. It's not a major game-breaking issue, and this was a preview build. But with Return to Jurassic Park releasing on December 10, it may well still be an issue at launch and these are issues here that do distract from what should be a joyous game.
It's great to see Jurassic World Evolution not be limited to the most modern spins on the series, and this expansion is no small addition to the base game. But I'm going to need to play more of it to see if it's anything more than an old coat of paint.
Featured Image Credit: Frontier Developments