|Dinosaur Island box art|
Have you ever wanted to run your very own Jurassic Park? Well, now you can. In Dinosaur Island, you take on a similar role to that of the notorious John Hammond. Over the course of the game, you will invent dino blueprints, invest in additional staff and facilities, and lure small children into your definitely-safe-enough amusement park. With an art style brandishing enough neon colors to cause eye cancer, this game’s 90s roots are unmistakable.
I had the chance to playtest Dinosaur Island prior to its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. As the retail release date approaches, my anticipation and excitement has been growing proportionally. So, in an effort to justify my excitement, I have written the following preview that I hope others find helpful.
In Dinosaur Island, each player controls their own
park. The game is played over a variable
number of rounds. Players are competing
for objects; when enough of the objectives have been fulfilled, the game is
over and the players check to see who has the most reputable park. Each game round consists of four phases of
1. Research Phase – In this phase, players will acquire new DNA samples and Dinosaur Blueprints. In order to clone additional dinosaurs in the park, both are required, but only a limited amount of each is available.
2. Market Phase – I prefer to think of this as the Construction and Hiring phase. Players can purchase additional research facilities, park attractions, staff, and resources during this phase, if they have enough money.
3. Worker Phase – In order to make use of research facilities in your park, you must assign workers. It is in this phase that you can clone additional dinosaurs for your park, upgrade your security, or contract your extra labor for much-needed Dino Dollars.
4. Park Phase – Building and operating a park is great, but ultimately meaningless if nobody visits. In the Park Phase, you will attract patrons based on how exciting you have made your park. While dinosaurs are very exciting, those tea cup rides and roller coasters don’t hurt either. Be careful to balance excitement with security though; having too many patrons may result in dinosaurs breaking out and running amok.
|Playtesters don't get the deluxe treatment|
While dinosaurs are an integral part of the game, you are ultimately an amusement park, and the designers have spent as much time on the attractions as they have the dinosaurs. Part of running a successful park is managing your lines. Attractions provide additional space in your park for patrons to visit. If you do not have enough spaces for everyone, then people will leave your park saddened, won’t promote your park (i.e. increase your reputation). So, if you want to be the best, you better make sure you have that safari Jeep ride.
You’ll start by cloning smaller dinosaurs, and hiring your first staff (will it be a Muldoon to protect your park, or Barney to be your mascot?). Then, maybe you’ll build a roller coaster to dino-soar above the competition. Before you know it, your park will be filled with patrons waiting in like to view your murder of pteradons and you’ll be making money hand over fist. Because you are constantly researching new dinosaurs, combining DNA strands, and attracting more visitors, your park’s evolution provides a satisfying sense of progress.
The market and objectives provide a different experience each time. The dinosaurs, staff, laboratories, and attractions vary each game. Your favorite raptor-training specialist may not be available next time you play, or someone else may take them first. These factors manage to provide variability without the inclusion of chaos or frustration. Playing the same strategy in each game will not work. While cloning T-rex cubs may work for you once, you may want to file it under “bad idea” the next game.
In short, if you’re in the market for a 90 minute economic game with a fantastic theme, I can highly recommend Dinosaur Island. Despite its stellar integration of its theme, the European mechanics-first is equally evident. To build the best park, you will have to consider each of your actions, and watch the market carefully. If, instead, you prefer games driven by a narrative sequence, or if you have no love for 90s neon nostalgia, then I’d avoid this like it’s a raptor nest.