There's a new mobile AR game, jumping onto the release of the next Jurassic Park film - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - and looking to take some of that cult Pokemon Go AR action into the realm of dinosaurs.
Jurassic World Alive release date
Jurassic World Alive is now available for Android and iOS/iPhone. For Android it requires 4.4 and up; for iOS it is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, requires iOS 10.0 or later.
What is Jurassic World Alive about?
You form part of the Dinosaur Protection Group, with the aim of finding and protecting the dinosaurs from extinction. There are exploring and collecting elements to the game like Pokemon Go, using real world mapping to encourage you to get outside, walk and play.
Finding dinosaurs involves walking around the real world, although there's a long range on the map so you can see creatures in the distance and head that way. The "collection" or "capture" of the dinosaurs takes the form of DNA gathering, linking back to the original plot line of Jurassic Park movies.
Collecting the DNA involves piloting a drone over the dinosaur and firing darts at it. A good hit means you get more DNA. There's only a limited time period, meaning you might have to repeat the process to get the full quota of DNA you need to "collect" that dinosaur.
Once you have enough DNA you can "create" that dinosaur and add it to your collection, thereby saving it from extinction. It's a slightly strange twist as the drone flying and dart shooting does feel a little more like hunting the dinosaurs rather than preserving them.
You can power-up or "evolve" your dinosaurs and once you have four or more, you can create a team and battle them, purportedly to protect your mission against others. Preservation through battling - again, it's a slightly awkward plot twist. Battling is against real world opponents, so you essentially have to wait for them to come to the arena, after which it's a turn-based battle.
This is where powering-up your team matters, because having powerful dinosaurs to battle means a higher chance of winning - as well as picking the best move against your opponent.
How much does Jurassic World Alive cost?
The game itself is free, but there are many payment avenues within the game. Firstly, there's the option to buy more cash in the game. Cash can be exchanged for coins or more darts or incubators, or to speed up the refresh of a battling arena, otherwise it's 15 minutes between battles. Cash is earned in-game, but there is the option to buy cash with real world money, up to a staggering £95.99.
There's the option to earn "free cash" in exchange for completing other actions, which range from placing a £5 deposit on a gambling app to achieving a level in another game. At best, it's a desperate attempt to monetise the game.
Then there's the option for "VIP membership". That's right, you can pay £8.49 ($9.99) a month to gain certain privileges in the game. This includes having a longer range on your drone battery - so you can gather DNA from dinosaurs further away - and access to more enhanced incubators.
Finally, there's also in-game advertising. This appears as part of the in-game Supply Drops (basically a Poke Stop), which you spin to release various elements. There's a time limit on how often you can spin these, but you can bypass that restriction by watching a video advert.
Generally speaking, the game is littered with payment options, but you don't have to pay anything to progress. You also don't have to watch the videos - they don't pop-up, they are a deliberate press.
Is Jurassic World Alive suitable for children?
The world of Jurassic Park is a hit with kids - it's about dinosaurs, so it would be. The game has earned itself a 17+ rating on the Apple App Store and PEGI 12 rating on Google Play. The declared reasons for the rating are given as:
- Unrestricted Web Access
- Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence
- Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence
according to Apple's rating system. Google reiterates the "moderate violence" part.
Walking and collecting the dinosaur DNA is actually pretty fun and suitable for children, although the dilemma between whether you're shooting with darts to collect DNA or just hunting dinosaurs remains apparent - the gameplay is lining up a target on the animal, so whichever way you describe the action, the mechanics remain the same.
The moderate violence or fantasy violence appears to come in from the dinosaur battles. This is a fairly basic battling mechanic based around both players choosing their move and the dinosaurs fighting. We'd not say it was specifically graphic, but we still can't figure out why you're battling the dinosaurs you're saving - basically, you're building a clone army.
The payments and open-ended video advertising presents something of a greater dilemma - payments needs account permission, naturally (which can be protected) - but from what we've seen the video advertising could be something you don't want your child to see.
Ultimately, Jurassic World Alive feels like it's been made to make money from the Jurassic World brand, rather than fuel youngsters' love of the JW world or interest in dinosaurs.
What AR elements are in Jurassic World Alive?
There are several places where Jurassic World Alive moves from being a static game into something more involving. Having to locate and find those dinosaurs on the map is a mechanic used with huge success in Pokemon Go. JW Alive isn't as subtle - you can see things further away, but generally getting out and walking opens up capture opportunities, blending the real world with the game world.
Once you have a dinosaur in your collection you can view that dinosaur in augmented reality, by hitting the button and having it appear in the room with you - using the rear camera. On Android this needs ARCore to run, but then neatly places the dinosaur on surfaces. It looks great, perhaps the most accomplished element of the game, but it appears to only be for novelty, rather than having any in-game significance.
The bottom line
Ultimately, Jurassic World Alive borrows heavily from the AR premise of Pokemon Go, but where Pokemon Go is more subtle, Jurassic World Alive isn't. As far as gameplay goes it's fun - collecting the DNA to build a collection of dinosaurs remains engaging and although the rating for the game suggests it's not suitable for children, it's this element that's probably the most appealing to children.
The battling mechanic is rather basic in a turn-by-turn structure. We can't profess to having mastered it, but graphically the animation of the dinosaurs looks great, even if the moves seem slightly random. What Jurassic World lacks is the charm of Pokemon Go and ultimtately, we can't help feeling that there isn't really enough here that's unique to make it engaging for longer periods of gaming.
The whole thing does feel spoilt by the heaving in-game purchases and monetisation. It's not content with educating or entertaining, or even just pushing the next Jurassic World movie, it seems to want to advertise and get the cash out of your pocket too.