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. While the genre tends to lose a bit of its charm in the transition from PC to console, the main gameplay usually remains intact. Most of the games based on the Jurassic Park license to date have been pure 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 and unique features.
Making park visitors happy is one half of the equation in running a successful dinosaur zoo.
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.
Operation Genesis' interface is probably its weakest aspect. The game has no visible cursor; selecting something involves trying to center the screen on the object. Although this isn't difficult for the most part, it can get annoying when you're trying to click on individual park visitors or on smaller dinosaurs that happen to be standing next to very large dinosaurs. Having a visible cursor might have made this process less difficult. 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 gameplay in Operation Genesis revolves around creating a park full of dinosaurs for your visitors.
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.
There are 25 different dinosaurs in Operation Genesis, each with its own unique behavior patterns and popularity rating among visitors. Keeping your dinosaurs happy is a complicated process. You'll be able to build feeding stations where herbivores can get bales of plant feed, while carnivores are fed live cows or goats. Watching a carnivore hunt hapless livestock is one of the more amusing parts of the game. However, your herbivores become unhappy if they don't have enough trees around them or enough nearby dinosaur friends to socialize with. Likewise, your carnivores have an innate desire to hunt other dinosaurs, so even a constant stream of cows isn't going to keep them happy. Thankfully, the game comes with a detailed "dinopedia" that tells you which other species your herbivores can be friends with, and which dinosaurs your carnivores prefer to hunt. Keeping all these details in mind is part of the fun and strategy of building a successful park. Aside from keeping your dinosaurs fed and happy, you'll need to worry about six different possible diseases. Vaccines for these dinosaur diseases are part of your research tree, and since the diseases are often contagious, it's useful to keep a small pen as a quarantine area to move sick dinosaurs to while you research a cure.