Jurassic World won't hit cinemas until June, but the mobile game is out now. Against my better judgement, given my experience with Mortal Kombat X's mobile game, I decided to play it.
We haven't had a good Jurassic Park game since...Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis? That was 2003! Operation Genesis had natural appeal, letting players manage (and screw up) their own park. It's been a shit show since then. I'm still waiting for my dinosaur horror game in virtual reality, but until then, I'll keep playing (and getting disappointed by) what comes down the pike.
Jurassic World smartly takes cues from Operation Genesis, but I was more surprised to realise it's also pulling from Jurassic Park: Warpath. Yep, that's the Jurassic Park fighting game!
Was Warpath a good video game? No. Did I play it a lot as a kid? Hell yes!
It's why I was shocked when Jurassic World opened with dinosaurs fighting in an arena.
It's not exactly clear why this is happening. There doesn't seem to be a good reason for Jurassic Park management to be aggressively pitting its prehistoric inhabitants against one another in endless bloodlust (they're predators!), but that's the premise of Jurassic World, so whatever.
In any case, it's what allows Jurassic World to get a little Pokemon-y. You head into each match with a set of three dinosaurs, and you can swap between them mid-match. There's no real difference between the creatures, though, besides their stats. There are no special moves here.
While combat is understandably basic, there's enough to leave some room for basic strategy.
You're given a set number of action points per turn, increasing by one per round and capping at four, but you don't have to spend all of them. Red is attack, blue is defend, and yellow allows you to store points for the next turn. The more points you store, the more points you can spend. So if you want to play conservatively, you might spend two points on blocking and place two points in reserve, allowing you to try and minimise damage from your opponent while allowing you to potentially attack with six attack points next turn, which could be a devastating blow. If you roll the dice and dump everything into attack and they're able to block all (or some) of it, you've now left yourself completely open to a counterattack that could be equally devastating.
To get your dino pals ready, you'll have to continually dabble in park management.
(Yes, that's a lot of countdown timers. This is a free-to-play game, after all. We'll get to that.)
You acquire new dinosaurs for by birthing them in your hatchery, but you can't play god until you've found the appropriate dinosaur card. Packs are dealt out by finishing missions and levelling up, fighting against strangers and getting them as a random gift, or, as you might expect from a game of this type, outright buying them. If you'd like to spend money, you sure can!
It's unclear whether these packs are hiding ultra powerful dinosaurs or simply pocketing the iconic dinos from the movies, like the velociraptor or tyrannosaurs rex. That said, it's totally possible to acquire these packs by dueling other players and having lady luck bless you with the right prize, but if you want to relive Jurassic Park nostalgia ASAP, it's time to open the wallet.
I never end up doing down this path, by the way. I tend to play these games for a week or so, exhausting whatever I can from poking at them while on the toilet. Eventually, you tend to reach a certain point where not paying money requires waiting long enough that I'd rather move on.
Here's how the loop works: you level up dinosaurs by feeding them, but feeding them requires producing food, and that takes time. When they level up enough, they can evolve into a more powerful form, but evolution requires levelling up another dinosaur and combining the DNA.
That's my, baby. I wish I could name him! My favourite majungasaurus is level 17 right now, which requires more than 600 pieces of food per feeding, which means pushing him along requires waiting a long time. Then again, that's how this is supposed to work -- you come back.
What's really bothering me, honestly, is this god damn icon in the corner of the screen.
Let's zoom in closer.
Oh my lord, I want to destroy this icon. I'm one of those people who meticulously curates their notification icons on their phone. If there's a notification to be read, I'll check it out and clear it out. I like a clean screen! While it's nice to know there's stuff to see, I want that icon gone now.
Thing is, I can't get rid of that one. IT WON'T GO AWAY. Why? Because it requires linking Jurassic World with my Facebook account, which I refuse to do.
No, Jurassic World. Fuck off. I don't want to link to Facebook and I can live without the money. What I cannot stand is having to stare at that damn unread message on my screen at all times. I READ THE MESSAGE. I DEF KNOW WHAT THE MESSAGE IS ABOUT. PLEASE GO AWAY.
And, yet, it remains. The unchecked mail continues to haunt me. It gets worse, too. The "report center" is just a way for the game to nag you with new notifications that are ads for other games.
It'd be one thing if clicking on those messages resulted in you getting something to help you out in the game, but that's not the case. Hitting "OK" just opens the app store and removes the message. No matter what you do about the Facebook message, it will stay there. Forever.
When you exit the arena, the game takes that as an opportunity to bug the hell out of you, too.
Nope, that's OK. I'm good.
I am very, very, sure, Jurassic World. Let me get back to the game!
"No thanks" is an awfully polite way of describing what's going on in my head right now, game.
Like Mortal Kombat X, it's amazing to watch monetisation ruin an otherwise fun time waster. I like hanging out in the Jurassic universe, fighting and levelling up dinosaurs is stupid fun, and I'm willing to put up with some hangups to justify the lack of a price tag. Over and over, though, it's clear the money people don't know where to draw the line, and it ruins the game. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be as a developer, and it's terribly frustrating as a player.
Hell, at this point, I'd pay $US5 just to see the mail icon go away.
That sound, Mr Pratt, is me smashing my finger over and over to delete this app.