Image: Frontier Developments, IGDB

The Evolution of the Jurassic Park Games

The year 2018 marks the 25th Anniversary of one of the most iconic blockbusters of all time, Jurassic Park which spawned four sequels, the latest of which is coming out in May: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Like many lucrative blockbuster franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars there have been a variety of video games attached to the films. And with not only a new film coming out in June of this year, but also in the same month a new video game, Jurassic World: Evolution ,set to be released, now is the perfect time to look back on the highs, the lows and the future of the Jurassic Park gaming experience to determine what’s worked and what is missing.

Like many lucrative blockbuster franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars there have been a variety of video games attached to the films.

Beginning immediately in 1993, video games were released to coincide with the release of the first film on Gameboy, NES and SEGA Genesis, a mixture of side-scrollers and early action games that took inspiration from not only the film, but also Michael Crichton’s novel, with objectives often matching plot threads such as preventing raptors escaping the island and action sequences that were cut from the film in glorious 2D.

Over time various shooters and other games, many of which weren’t received well by critics came onto the market, including PC and arcade games. The franchise was never one to miss out on an opportunity with its video games that continued throughout the releases of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III. Some of the games made their own sequels to the original film using either Alan Grant or new characters usually from the genetics company INGEN. The focus was almost always on avoiding or fighting the dinosaurs (or in the case of Warpath Jurassic Park, having them fight each other), preserving the DNA and escaping perilous situations. Side scrolling platformer Dino Defender was one such game that worked for a younger audience and had players go up against the dinosaurs to immobilise them and keep the island safe. A similar title Danger Zone was a board game of challenges for two players that included raptor face-offs, avoiding a T-Rex to get stolen items and other fun mini-games.

The focus was almost always on avoiding or fighting the dinosaurs (or in the case of Warpath Jurassic Park having them fight each other), preserving the DNA and escaping perilous situations.

Prior to the release of Jurassic World in 2015 a number of games were released, most notably Jurassic Park: The Game, by Telltale in 2011. While the graphics looked great and provided its own interesting story, it was less well-received due to the gaming experience itself. There were also mobile games including one that allowed players to build their own Jurassic World, albeit with extreme limitations. Over the years graphics have improved, and a faithfulness to the films has increased, with fewer adaptations focusing on expanding the roster of dinosaurs to see in favour of keeping loyalty to the overall brand.

But while many titles have fallen into obscurity and are difficult to find nowadays, one game in particular stands out and is exactly what many players wanted, given the franchise is about a theme park gone wrong – making the theme park. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is so far the best example of the zoo builder the franchise has had to offer for years. Graphics-wise it still holds up having been released 15 years ago, its range of dinosaurs is large enough to make varying diverse zoos and it had a range of gameplay options, including housing dinosaurs, photo safaris and retiring rampaging reptiles. Jurassic World: Evolution aims to expand the premise this year, updating the graphics and options for players. Hopefully it will exceed expectations and give players the experience they’ve been craving.

Jurassic Park has created a diverse array of gaming experiences, many of which have not aged well but have worked to try and provide new angles on the films and novels, giving players a wide variety of experiences from old action games to zoo builders, playing on the thrill of encountering giant reptiles ready to devour you. With new games constantly being released, one of which may claim the crown of the best, only time will tell if the franchise will continue to evolve.

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