Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is an enjoyable game that should appeal to dinosaur buffs and park simulation fans alike, thanks to its attractive graphics engine, unique features, and surprising gameplay depth.
Amusement park simulations are among the best-selling games on the PC market today. Their popularity should come as no surprise, because these simulations can appeal to such a broad audience--men, women, and children alike. What is surprising is that almost all games based on the Jurassic Park license to date have been action games, while the premise of the original movie was the creation of the world's greatest zoological park. Universal Interactive has finally taken the logical step with Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, a strategy game that lets players create and manage a dinosaur zoo. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is an enjoyable game that should appeal to dinosaur buffs and park simulation fans alike, thanks to its attractive graphics engine, unique features, and surprising gameplay depth.
The game allows a very wide field of view.
Operation Genesis' 3D graphics engine does an excellent job of rendering the lush terrain of a tropical island. The dinosaur models are very detailed, allowing players who have even a passing knowledge of paleontology to immediately spot the differences between similar-looking dinosaurs such as the brachiosaurus and the camarasaurus (also known as the brontosaurus). The models are also scaled accurately--small velociraptors are dwarfed by the much larger tyrannosaurs, for instance. Weather effects like rain, wind, lightning, and tornadoes add to the overall effect. The engine lets you rotate your view in any direction and also has a wide range of zoom, so you can get in close to examine individual dinosaurs, or get a much wider view to manage your park comfortably. Though Operation Genesis also has special effects like reflective water, we found that the game had a tendency to lock up with the more advanced graphics settings turned on. Fortunately, the game still looks good even at a medium level of detail, though the game's dinosaur animations still aren't particularly smooth.
Operation Genesis sounds almost as good as it looks. Each of the game's dinosaurs lets out different types of noises, depending on whether it's playing, hunting, sick, or frightened. Your park advisors provide some audio cues, and they even visually resemble the actors from the original movie (though their voices are provided by stand-ins). The in-game music is the very same score written by John Williams for the original Jurassic Park film. Williams' songs do contribute to the game's atmosphere, but die-hard fans of Mr. Williams' music may be disappointed to find that the game doesn't use CD-quality recordings of the tracks.
Operation Genesis' interface is probably its weakest aspect. The game's mouse control is imprecise, so you'll sometimes click on the wrong button. Also, the game provides no way to cycle between the different dinosaurs in your zoo, which can make trying to keep track of them more annoying than it should be. Picking out larger dinosaurs is easy because they're so large, but some of the smaller ones like velociraptors can be hard to spot from a zoomed-out view. Thankfully, you can see the location of all your dinosaurs on the game's minimap, but the game probably could've benefited from a "cycle to next dinosaur" button. The game's interface also has no quick buttons to bring up your park map, so if you spend most of your time controlling the game with your mouse, you'll have to reach back to your keyboard and hit the Tab key to bring up this important screen.
The gameplay in Operation Genesis revolves around creating a park full of dinosaurs for your visitors. The game provides several different kinds of challenges. First, you'll need to create secure enclosures that provide a safe environment for both dinosaurs and park visitors. To keep your park secure, you'll need to build electric fences of varying strength, security cameras, ranger stations, and even sentry guns. Tornadoes and rampaging dinosaurs can cause breaches in the fencing and also damage buildings, but thankfully, the game's map interface makes it easy to spot any holes in your defenses.
Using the viewing towers from the first-person mode is a great tool.
Secondly, you'll need some dinosaurs--unlike games such as Zoo Tycoon, in which you simply purchase animals, Operation Genesis requires you to literally build your menagerie from scratch. You'll hire fossil-hunting teams in various parts of the world and then place them at dig sites to seek out dinosaur bones or amber. You'll then send the artifacts to your genetics lab, where you'll extract DNA until you have enough of one species' genome to create a dinosaur from a hatchery. Though it's possible to create a dinosaur with only a 50-percent-completed genome, he won't live long--the more complete a genome you have, the longer your dinosaur will live. This contributes to the game's strategy, because it costs you time (and money, if you choose to buy fossils and amber from the fossil market) to find more pieces for a particular species of dinosaur. However, the time you put into completing a genome results in a longer-lived investment, since hatching a dinosaur costs a lot of money as well.
Even though children will be attracted to Operation Genesis because it has dinosaurs, parents should take note of the ESRB "T for Teen" rating on the box. There's some blood in the game--carnivores can kill livestock, other dinosaurs, or park visitors if they get loose. You'll also need to put down rogue dinosaurs from time to time by shooting them. The violence is never gratuitous, but parents may want to consider these facts before getting this game for a young child. For dinosaur fans who are mature enough, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis provides an enjoyable experience, with attractive graphics, strategic gameplay, and unique features that provide up-close looks at the dinosaurs in action.