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Jurassic Park III: Park Builder

Review By:  Chris Lee

Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Simulation
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  11-13-01

It's no secret around VGF that I'm a strategy/sim nut. I've played almost all of those games on just about any platform since I was knee high to a...uh...well just imagine some small country creature you've heard somewhere and insert that into the blank. Being somewhat well versed in the genre it's always a tossup as to how you'll see a game when you begin playing it. While PB has some great concepts and some decent execution, there are a few areas that keep it from reaching the heights it could have achieved.

The first thing I MUST mention is that the game has no tutorial/in-game instruction i.e. something to tell you what the heck to do when you first start! Essentially you flip the game on, watch the intro, start a park and WHAM! There you are. Sitting. Waiting. Waiting for someone, something to give you some direction. Whether it be the Happy park professor, Jim the dinosaur hunter or Charlie the T-Rex...I was waiting. It turns out that they expect you to know what to do from the get-go and honestly it's a shame for many reasons. Biggest of all, the game has a lot to it in the way of micromanagement and getting off to a good start can be essential. And by not having any idea of what to do you'll lose a lot of valuable time and your first park will probably be a bust. However if you carefully read over the manual a few times you'll see a few basics like how certain structures work and what they do but it's really not enough. With enough time and effort you can get past it, but it's a little daunting at first. That said, let's move on to the good stuff.

Park Builder is of course, a Dinosaur Park building sim. You're the new proprietor of an "amusement" park and being that it's more than likely your main source of income you'll want it to be successful. As I said, there's quite a lot to do in the game and it's pretty confusing at first. You'll want to build roads that lead into your park obviously but you'll also want to plan when and where to place structures. You'll want to set things up such that it's convenient and easy for your customers to get around and see the sites. You've got landscaping to worry about. Do you want this tree there? Will everyone be able to get from their hotel to the restaurant easily? And are the Dinosaur cages far enough from the hotels? All those things and more are always on your mind while you're building. You see, the main purpose of the park is to keep customers happy so that they'll keep spending money and you'll get more patrons. More patrons mean more people spending their hard earned cash which in turn means more money for you to keep the park up and add attractions.

Speaking of up keep, there's a LOT of micromanagement to be done. One of the first things you'll want to do is send out teams of scientists to uncover DNA. DNA, in the game, allows you to produce dinosaurs. There are over 140 types of DNA you can uncover on your digs. And of course the more outlandish and rare the type of DNA, the more the patrons will like it. So you've got to grow the little guys, keep them fed and healthy. You have to build pens around the park and make it easy for everyone to see them. All of this ties into the economy of the park, over which you have full control. Ticket prices, restaurant prices, concession stands, hotel prices...just money money money. And you control it all. Even the advertisements and commercials, you get to decide how much to spend on them and what target audience you're going for. Once your park gets rolling it can get somewhat hectic trying to keep an eye on everything but Konami implemented a nice pop up system of warnings and alerts so that you're always in the know when problems arise. Very good stuff all around in the gameplay department.

Graphically the game is as sharp as any of the other GBA titles on the market. As a Park sim on a handheld it's actually pretty impressive in some areas. I DO wish that the patrons would actually interact graphically with the buildings, as it is, they sort of walk by and their status (happy, sad, annoyed etc.) changes as a result. Fortunately it's easy enough to keep an eye on the general mood in your park via menus as well as the status bubbles that are present over the patrons heads. But in some areas I wish there was more going on graphically, it's not terrible, just simplistic. The dinosaurs in their pens also have nice variety in the looks department. The interface of the game is also well done, it's user friendly and makes it less a chore to navigate the menus than in some games. It's kinda neat also being able to trade DNA back and forth between you and a friend. You're not going to find them all yourself for quite a while so it's really cool that you can link GBA's up and trade. The sounds are also very minimal, to the point that they're almost not an issue one way or the other. But it's always nice to have sound isn't it boys and girls?

Highs:

  • Lots to manage in an entertaining way.
  • Great interface.
  • Sharp graphics.

Lows:

  • No turtorial, HUGE mistake
  • Not a lot of graphical interaction between patrons and structures.
  • Definitely not for everyone.

Final Verdict:

I'd have to say Park Builder can be an entertaining game...eventually. It's VERY annoying and frustrating without some sort of initial instruction. I really had to drop the game a point or so simply because of that. You'll waste a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to make everything connect and work the way it should. If you can get past that and you enjoy these types of games you'll have some fun. Good job Konami but next time T-U-T-O-R-I-A-L please. *smile*

Overall Score: 6.5

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