Jurassic Park Builder
Most video games based on Jurassic Park involve blasting dinosaurs or eating people, so it's good to see the management sim Jurassic Park Builder stomp its way to iPhone and iPad. The app immediately brings to mind Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis from 2003, where the goal is to build a five-star theme park filled with prehistoric attractions. One of the biggest differences, however, is Builder's freemium model that forces users to either wait hours and days to make progress without spending a dime, or speed evolution along by opening their wallets. Regardless of which path they choose, life, uh, finds a way.
With this in mind, there's a good chance that if you've played iOS games with a heavy reliance on in-app purchases before, there's little about Jurassic Park Builder that will seem unique. It's essentially a carbon copy of the typical sim titles populating the App Store, but with a movie license that makes the game more appealing than the competition. To that end, you have the familiar Jurassic Park logo, 30 species of dinosaurs to discover (including the favorite raptors) and cameos from the original film's characters, like Dr. Alan Grant, John Hammond and the paranoid Dr. Ian Malcolm, complete with actor likenesses. This definitely adds much-needed personality to the experience, but on the downside, publisher/developer Ludia was unable to secure the famous John Williams' theme music. Disappointing, to say the least.
That aside, and to get into the meat of the game, Jurassic Park Builder puts you in a constant state of expansion, where you clear as much jungle as possible to make room for dinosaur exhibits, exotic plants, water pump stations, restaurants, guard towers and other things designed to pull in as much dough as possible; you can even construct roads to help ferry visitors.
That said, success is heavily dependent on understanding the Jurassic Park economy. With this in mind, there are three resources of key importance: gold coins, dollar bills and XP. Dinosaurs and businesses earn coins, which you can then use to purchase more thunder lizards, plants and buildings. The amount of gold a dinosaur earns is directly tied to its current level, so it is in your best interest to upgrade these creatures by feeding them plants or meat, depending on whether the animals are herbivores or carnivores. Meat and plant warehouses are available on site, and you need to keep them active at all times by throwing gold their way.
Discovering new dinosaurs, though, is heavily dependent on bulldozing the jungle, and you need dollars to do that; dollars are inconveniently difficult to come by through normal play. Gaining XP, meanwhile, lets you level up, giving you access to new plants, buildings and even a couple dollars along the way. Finally, characters supply a constant stream of missions that run the proverbial gamut, from growing a set number of carnivores to decorating the park with fossils and/or plants. Completing missions results in gold coins, some XP and maybe (if you're lucky) a dollar or two.
On that note, some missions are a real pain in the butt, and may take days to complete. That is, unless you splurge via in-app purchase, and Ludia provides that option, with prices ranging from $1.99 to $99.99, but you can only acquire dollars via real world currency, which you can then use to buy more gold coins, plants and meat. A little weird that you can't buy gold outright via IAP. It's clear that Ludia wants players to buy as many dollars as possible, and this lack of choice when it comes to spending money is unfair. Buying money to buy money? Come on.
Aside from that complaint, we think Jurassic Park Builder is fun to a degree. The tutorial at the start of the game is very helpful, virtual buttons are responsive and it's easy to move things around through dragging. The only thing that annoys us is road construction. The tiny road pieces are so small, it's easy to misplace a section and have to delete it. Unless you have the tiniest fingers, this mistake will occur multiple times.
On the social media side, you're free to visit other people's parks (great for inspiration) and invite friends to help in the DNA extracting process, though we've been unable to see this in action, as our buddies don't play Jurassic Park Builder. There's also the option to brag about one's achievements through Facebook, if you feel the urge.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Jurassic Park Builder (as with all freemium games) comes down to how much time and/or money you're willing to invest. Personally, we think it's a good management sim that's worth pouring at least $6 into. That'll give you a solid foundation with a fast track to scoring resources at a fairly consistent clip; it also helps if you're a Jurassic Park and/or dinosaur fan. However, if the mere thought of in-app purchases makes you cringe, this simply isn't the game for you.
What's Hot: Free-to-play, you get to build and customize your own Jurassic Park, 30 species of dinosaurs to discover, a wealth of in-game missions, ability to visit friends'/random players' parks, characters from the original movie.
What's Not: No Jurassic Park theme music, you can't purchase gold using real cash, virtual dollars difficult to come by, heavy reliance on in-app purchases.