Sometimes I want a thing that's just another thing but isn't that thing. That's why I love Mimics in all their forms: they're treasure chests which are actually living creatures but still contain treasure, so they simultaneously are and are not treasure chests. Looking at the successful funding campaigns for such projects as Mighty No. 9, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Yooka-Laylee is enough to demonstrate that I'm not the only one with a taste for legally-distinct properties which recall old, familiar flavors. While picking over Kickstarter for interesting projects yesterday I came across a proposed board game which not only tastes potently of something you may recognize from your youth, but is sure to appeal to all you true 90's kids who like to sip Surge from Batman Forever mugs while listening to Nirvana in your JNCO's: Dinosaur Island, a game which is just Jurassic Park but isn't just Jurassic Park.
Brought to us by Austin, TX publisher Pandasaurus Games, from designers John Gilmour and Brian Lewis, Dinosaur Island tasks players with unleashing their inner John Hammond by building the most lucrative dinosaur-themed park they can manage. Players unlock new dinosaurs with which to populate their park through researching ancient DNA, with the ultimate end-goal of attracting the most visitors by the end of each season. Players must prioritize their resources and attention between attractions, research and upkeep of the park, as well as maintain a balance between visitor safety and security: carnivorous dinosaurs are more thrilling and attract more guests, but also present a potential threat to your patrons. You can play the long game by focusing on efficiency early on in the hopes of receiving greater dividends in later seasons, or go all-in on the most exciting attractions you can all while praying nothing goes frightfully wrong.
I'm a very cynical individual, and if Dinosaur Island was relying on nothing but nostalgia for Jurassic Park I would have scrolled past it without giving a second thought to the campaign. The love going into the project is clear just from the game's box, however, and taking a deeper look at the project reveals that the creators aren't relying on familiarity to sell their game. The graphic design is on point: the art is a 90's Technicolor nightmare in the best way, allowing every UI element to pop from its neighbor and ensuring that every piece of visual information registers at a glance. A resource-heavy game like this threatens to bog a player down in just trying to keep track of what's going on, but with candy blues and neon pinks even a new player should have little trouble keeping pace with the action. Each individual piece, from the lab boards to the attraction tiles, are crisp and thoughtful, and look as though they will further improve the game's accessibility. This is no rush job, or sloppy fan project, but a professional labor of love.
I'm clearly excited for this game, but I always advise caution with crowdfunding projects. Though board games funded through these platforms seem, anecdotally at least, to have generated less drama over the years than have their video counterparts, they are not without risk and you should always perform your own research before throwing your money behind a project. Pandasaurus has successfully funded four board games since 2012, which bodes well for this Dinosaur Island, but you may also want to take into account that the game was successfully funded on day one (with $91,000 raised of a $15,000 goal at the time of this writing), and you may well be able to purchase a copy from their website after the product has shipped and reviews have come in. If you're anxiously awaiting Jurassic Park 5: Blood Diamond and just need to get some dinos in your life though, you have until Friday, March 24th to back.