I've never been a big fan of Sim City style games - probably because I've never really invested any amount of time with them. On my quest to continually add appropriate (and appropriately fun) games to my iPad I stumbled across Jurassic Park Builder, and can honestly say that I'm totally and completely addicted. It more than likely started out as a free download from the App store or, at the most, the price was dropped down to that $.99 sweet spot. Either way, I'm glad I decided to give it a chance as it has become the one iPad game I go back to over, and over, and over again.
Based on the hugely popular Steven Spielberg movies, the concept of the game starts out simple enough - transform a jungle into a dinosaur habitat; but one that will bring in a steady profit from the tourists that take in these prehistoric sites. From directives and missions provided by a variety of the movie's characters - Dr. Ian Malcolm and John Hammond (just to name a few) - you'll see large sections of the jungle built up to include a number of herbivores and carnivores, flora and fauna, gift shops and security outposts, all in the name of the worlds most popular theme park.
As much fun as it is to witness the park's transformation there is still a good amount of planning and thought that goes into this mobile game. The object is to constantly expand with the scientific research and development of the individual dinosaur DNA found in the amber that is dug up as more sections of the jungle are leveled. However, you'll need to monitor the dinosaurs that already inhabit your park and ensure that they are properly fed, while providing for a safe and enjoyable experience for the never-ending stream of tourists - and this all takes money.
While you have the option to purchase practically anything you want from the App store to make your Jurassic Park an overnight success, I have taken the position that everything I do - all the money I earn - will be the direct result of in-game currency. For those that have the patience, this is an extremely easy thing to accomplish. Everything you do with your version of Jurassic Park - waiting for Dinosaur eggs to hatch, harvesting crops and meat from your harbor facility, or constructing new buildings - can be started and processed "behind the scenes". In other words, if you just created a new Dilophosaurus and the indication is that it will take 4 hr 30 min to hatch, all you really need to do is close the game and walk away; check back in the morning or after work. Of course, for the impatient, there's always the option to speed up this process. But again, that takes money.
Jurassic Park Builder works with two forms of in-game currency - gold coins and dollars (both of which can be earned from playing the game or bought with real money online). Gold coins are collected from every building and dinosaur a tourist truck passes by. The more tourists that have taken in the sights, the greater the payoff will be. Again, it's that play and walk away mentality that yields the most profit. Dollars, on the other hand, are the direct result of successfully completing missions (build this, hatch that, level up, etc) that are continually available. This form of money can be saved to purchase some ultra-rare dinosaur amber or, for the impatient (I sometimes fall into this category) can be used to "speed up" the building or hatching of anything newly added. Instead of waiting the allotted time it can be completed instantly.
Just when things begin to get into a routine the game introduces Code Red alerts that occur every 8-9 hours. It's an interesting timed - and somewhat frantic - minigame. When activated, your prehistoric paradise is hit with a tropical storm. The environment changes from sunny and serene to a torrential downpour with an impressive display of thunder and lightning. As a result your dinosaurs are in a state of panic - doing whatever they can to escape their enclosures. These 30-60 second segments put your nerves on edge. Each dinosaur cage or habitat pops up with a gauge. It's your job to "calm" the dinosaurs by simply tapping on them. However, when an individual gauge fills up (and that happens quickly) that specific dinosaur has broken free of its cage and is loose on the park grounds. On paper this experience doesn't sound too difficult, but consider this: the more dinosaurs you add, the more spread out they are over acres and acres of developed jungle, the more intense this sequence becomes.
Primarily played on The New iPad (I prefer to call it the iPad 3), the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The mostly top-down view is perfect for the park planning activities that you perform. The dinosaurs are active and intimidate with their roars, and it's a treat to see them grow when regularly fed and leveled up. Although the characters you receive missions from are nothing more than artistic representations of the actors, actual in-game dialogue isn't really needed. In hindsight, that would likely detract from the overall experience as the game is more about the dinosaurs - and your management of the park - than any relation to the individual movies.
Jurassic Park Builder is a winner for any iPad owner. Although I also have the game downloaded on my iPhone for quick park management while out-and-about (I told you, it's addictive), I wouldn't attempt to handle the Code Red alerts on the smaller screen - frantic may turn to frustration. As of the writing of this review Jurassic Park Builder was still listed as free on the App store. Even at a price of $.99 I couldn't recommend this game enough. It's great for very short play sessions and I enjoy visiting it throughout the day to collect gold coins, discover new amber, and develop the park into the attraction that it deserves to be.