Frontier Developments is notoriously good at building great simulation games. Whether you're a fan of Planet Coaster or Zoo Tycoon, the studio offers plenty of different management proposals for you to try your hand at, with one of the most recent endeavors being Jurassic World Evolution. Bringing a whole range of unique Jurassic Park themed scenarios, Jurassic World Evolution took what made Zoo Tycoon so fun and replaced the boring mammals with the ancient, hefty reptiles we know as dinosaurs. In a few weeks, this title will be evolving itself by launching once again, except this time on the Nintendo Switch. Boasting a namesake as chunky as a dinosaur, it's Jurassic World Evolution: Complete Edition for Switch.
So, what makes the complete edition, well, complete? Simply put, it's because it contains everything relating to the title - the base game, all three major expansions, four dinosaur packs, and even the Raptor Squad skin collection. But, that's not what makes this edition special, rather, it's due to the fact that this is a Nintendo Switch title, and somehow, Frontier has managed to condense all that dinosaur goodness into a 5.6GB package.
Now, I'm not going to go deep into a look on what Jurassic World Evolution is - we did that when the title first released, if that's what you are looking for, here's our review. Instead, I plan on focusing primarily on the technological adaptation to the Switch, and let me start by saying, it's not bad at all.
The game, whilst not the prettiest of all versions (you can thank the Switch's limited hardware for that) holds up well. The visuals look decent, not amazing, but clear enough to define an Ankylosaurus down to its beady, lizard eyes. The graphics, in general, perform well for such an expansive title with a small file size. The accents on the buildings can be recognised, and the effects of dinosaurs moving through water is easily noticeable. When you zoom out, the game looks pretty great, seeing your island from an aerial perspective lets it shine, however, when you zoom in, things can get a little ugly. Usually, this isn't a huge problem as playing a simulation game like this often means taking a broader angle, but when you hop in the Ranger buggy, that's when it's a different story.
Similarly, the frame rate often takes a beating when trying to process a game of this degree on the Switch. Normally, I wouldn't look to judge the frame rate in a Switch title, but there were frequent occasions when the visuals would effectively stutter as it tried to load the stressful content. You might think that if the frame rate can be a little troublesome, loading times might be too, but strangely enough, they seemed fairly quick, or at least quick enough that they never weighed on my impatient mind.
One of the areas that you'd expect to draw concern for a simulation title is the adaptation of its control scheme. Fortunately, for Jurassic World Evolution, there have been plenty of console versions to learn from, making the Switch version feel great to play, both in handheld with Joy-Cons and docked with a Pro controller.
On the topic of handheld, I did notice a few issues with how this version played. Just to be clear before that, however, the docked version looked and played pretty much like a lower resolution console version, meaning everything felt in place and was well defined. Handheld's main issues revolve around how the HUD and text are adapted, as they often feel squished and challenging to read on a Switch's small display. I don't think it would hurt to have the HUD enlarged a little, just to make it easier to define and read in handheld mode.
The audio of the title seems to have been preserved pretty well during the move to Switch, and even sounds great blasting the iconic Jurassic Park theme out of the Switch's built-in speakers. You'd probably also expect all of this processing to require the Switch to move into overdrive mode, cranking up the cooling fans and burning through any available battery, but it doesn't. In fact, after a good couple of hours playing the game, my Switch was still sitting at over 30% battery level, which when you think about it, is pretty impressive.
I will say, one of the areas that disappointed me the most, was the seemingly lacking motion control support. Obviously, I don't expect motion controls to be the primary way to manipulate the game but, why shouldn't I be able to drive the Ranger truck, or aim the camera with the Switch's unique motion controls. It would offer an extra layer of gameplay that could make the Jurassic World Evolution experience that little bit more real, instead of it feeling like a poorly adapted driving simulator, as it does behind the wheel of the Ranger line of vehicles.
For what it's worth, the Jurassic World Evolution: Complete Edition for Switch is a pretty impressive experience. It takes a title that excels with its ability to produce massive scale projects and puts it onto a small screen with limited hardware, and in most cases makes it work. Sure, I've had a few issues with the handheld version of the title during the time it took me to prepare this preview, but, when you think about how you can now take your dinosaur park on the train, or to the supermarket, or perhaps even to a distant tropical island with large reptilian residents. Well, quite frankly I think I can deal with the trade-offs - especially when I can have the sweet, subtle voice of Jeff Goldblum narrating my gameplay whenever I want now.