Avid Push Square readers will undoubtedly recall that we rather liked 2018's Jurassic World Evolution. Making an amusement park full of dinosaurs that occasionally escape their confinement and eviscerate the slack-jawed tourists is what we're all about.
Now the sequel is here — the imaginatively titled Jurassic World Evolution 2 — and at first we were a little put off by it. You see, the campaign isn't about building awesome amusement parks full of deadly creatures, but rather, building sanctuaries for dinosaurs that have previously escaped into the wild.
We appreciate the nobility of the cause — after all, dinosaurs have feelings too, and maybe if we just treated them a little better then they wouldn't be so bitey. But there's just no getting away from it: building a sanctuary that's not open to the public so that dinosaurs can live in peace and harmony just doesn't get our juices flowin' in the same way as building an amusement park in which the only thing separating chubby, khaki-clad families from the digestive tracts of gigantic lizards is a thin wire fence and sheer pig-headed optimism.
Like the original game, you've got advisors who pop up to guide you, and these early hours playing Evolution 2 can feel a little like it's on autopilot. You use simple fencing tools to create pens to house your dinosaur guests, and then assess what they need to truly feel comfortable in their new home. Some dinos love forest, others desert; some like eating leaves, while others like chomping goats. It's not ridiculously in-depth, but customising your pens and then later your sanctuaries and parks is incredibly easy thanks to streamlined mechanics and some smart tooling.
After five or six hours we thought we'd barely started the game, and were flabbergasted when we noticed on the menu that it listed our progress through the campaign at 90%. Sure enough, an hour later we'd finished the whole thing, and not a single person had been eaten. Not one. In fact, we'd never even failed a stage.
Preposterous! How could we have finished the campaign without so much as a single fail state due to too many people hilariously being savaged by marauding dinosaurs? How could the story be over, our work done, dinosaurs and humans co-existing peacefully without so much as a nibble? We wept, and raised our fists to the heavens in fury, cursing whatever dinosaur God is up there, demanding that they deliver to us the dinosaur mayhem we crave in the same way that Gordon Ramsay demands lamb sauce, and that God smiled back at us and through gnashing, pointed teeth it menacingly whispered, "Play Chaos Theory mode." It was dramatic.
What's foolishly labelled the "Campaign" in Jurassic World Evolution 2 is really just a tutorial with a bit of a story, and Chaos Theory mode is, as an early-oughties rapper on MTV's Cribs would say about their gaudily decorated bedroom, "Where the magic happens". Each level in the Chaos Theory campaign is a "What If?" alternate take on one of the Jurassic movies, like building the very first Jurassic Park under the guidance of John Hammond, but doing it properly, and without all of the screaming and terror and hiding and door-opening velociraptors.
Each of these five stages are bigger and more involved than any of the levels in the first campaign, and they're also a lot more fun, in part because they all feature more challenging and more satisfying park building mechanics, and also because each is tied directly to one of the Jurassic movies, featuring characters, locales, and lore from that film. For a Jurassic Park fan, Chaos Theory is a treat, but even if you've never seen one of the movies there's a lot to get out of it thanks to the streamlined approach to strategy gameplay and a higher probability for dinosaur-related hijinks.
On top of this, there's a Challenge Mode in which creating successful parks under different conditions and at varying difficulty levels unlocks cosmetics to make your cute wittle dinosaurs even fancier looking, and there's a sandbox mode so you can use everything you've unlocked to build the biggest and best dinosaur park in the world unconstrained by objectives or storytelling. There's a variety of ways to play Jurassic World Evolution 2, and while the initial campaign is certainly the least rewarding of them, the others do make up for it with aplomb.
The original Jurassic World Evolution featured an impressive array of prehistoric lizards, but Evolution 2 ups the ante by expanding the roster to include dinosaurs in both the swimming and flying variety. Avian dinosaurs like Pterodactyls require a specially built dome to house them so they can't fly off to Blackpool Pier and start nicking people's chips. The watery ones live in arenas like the dolphins at Sea World, only unlike those poor, imprisoned ocean-puppies, the aquatic lizards can on occasion fight back against their oppressors by swallowing a couple of kids.
Presentation-wise, the game does an excellent job of feeling like part of the Jurassic World franchise, featuring familiar locations and music, as well as boasting dinosaur designs that look like they're plucked right from the movies. Bryce Dallas Howard and B.D. Wong reprise their roles as Claire and Dr. Wu from World, while Chris Pratt's character is once again voiced by the world's worst Chris Pratt impersonator while the real Chris Pratt is off somewhere practicing his best Mario voice.
Jeff Goldblum is back as Dr. Ian Malcom and he's clearly relishing every moment spent playing the role, delivering each line of dialogue with his trademark fumfers and awkward inflections. Even for Jeff Goldblum he's pushing it to the point where at times he sounds like Jeff Goldblum doing an impression of Jeff Goldblum in some kind of Jeff Goldblumception.
We love Jeff Goldblum, and in fact made a case to the Push Square overlords that we should update the scoring policy to automatically award any video game featuring Mr. Goldblum an instant 10/10. Our request was swiftly denied, and so Jurassic World Evolution 2 is going to have to settle for an 8/10.
If we had to make a list of things that are totally radical then dinosaurs chasing and eating annoying fannypack-wearing tourists while we triumphantly hum the Jurassic Park theme tune would be top ten. Maybe even top five. We're here for that. Minor quibbles with the main campaign aside, Jurassic World Evolution 2 delivers an entertaining if simplistic park builder, that well-utilises the Jurassic World license, and throws in just the right amount of dinosaur-fuelled mayhem to boot.