Way back in 1997, when Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World what the biggest thing in cinemas, a lot of games were naturally developed from the license. Many know the console games, the arcade shooter or even the delayed travesty that was Trespasser, but did you know a real-time strategy called Chaos Island was also developed by DreamWorks Interactive?
There is a reason for that; Chaos Island was only released in North America. I've no idea why as it's actually a fairly decent licensed title, even if it was designed for a younger demographic. Perhaps that 8-12 target age played a role, or perhaps it wasn't even considered. Either way, the US received an enjoyable if simplified RTS that any Dinosaur or movie fan will eat up. Sometimes literally.
The game roughly re-tells the events of the film, whose main antagonist is not necessarily a bunch of re-animated giant lizards but the amoral Roland Tembo (Pete Postlethwaite in the movie) and his team of hunters. His group are the 'player 2' of the single-player game with base-camps and combatants of their own. They also shake the gameplay up by being the catalyst for several different scenarios, some of which are directly inspired by scenes from the film.
The main cast from the film are all here. Double click
on them to get a better view of their stats and abilities
While Tembo doesn't really have a featured role in the game, all the good guys do. They even had the budget to bring all of the movie's actors in to reprise their role. There are five characters you can recruit to your team; Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Sarah Harding (Julianne Moore), Nick Van Owen (Vince Vaughn), Ian's daughter Kelly (Vanessa Chester) and Eddie Carr (Richard Schiff) with Richard Attenborough returning as John Hammond for some cutscenes. The players' attributes such as speed and strength differ but the weakest of the bunch is a generic unnamed research assistant of whom you can recruit as much as your resource points will allow.
All other staples of the genre are here; a top-down view, a hidden map revealed through exploration, resource collection and management with only the nice addition of hatching dinosaurs being something a little new. They become your muscle for the most hardened of foes such as tanks and vehicles, as well as the feral dinosaurs hiding in the long grass. If you complete the game, there's even a bonus level set in San Diego where you control nothing but a rampaging T-Rex - the only level that changes the island visuals up a bit.
Graphics-wise, the game is very pretty if a little samey. All of the 12 main levels (of which the last two are only available on hard difficulty) take place on the tropical island known as Site B. The environment is lush and detailed with the occasional landmark such as a waterfall to give character. What really differentiates one level from the next are the objectives. These range from pitching tents, saving an ally, returning a baby T-Rex to its mother or simply get all member to a location alive. With all the dinosaurs running around, it remains quite fun throughout the whole game, even if many tasks must be repeated for each level.
Any human can build, though not everything is open to you at first.
They're necessary for enlarging and upgrading your troop.
The first thing you should do once the game-screen comes up is to build a base camp. With this in place, a whole load of other useful structures open up. Guide a wounded ally to a tent, and he'll gradually heal. Find eggs in the undergrowth and incubate them in the artificial nest to recruit a dinosaur to your ranks. Build a tool shed to upgrade your characters and base camp, unlocking more buildings along the way. What I found a little under-cooked is the resources needed to build them. There's a finite number on each level so if you're build-happy or go overboard in recruiting assistants, you may find yourself in an unwinnable situation. This is especially true on the harder difficulty setting where your starting number is a lot lower.
This rather vague resource is a bit hard to spot on the map too. They are represented by small yellow cubes, usually found in a cluster, and require a human character to retrieve it. With their hands full, your team cannot do anything else, so you have to pay attention to your defence or clear the area first before you pick anything up. The same goes for eggs, which will usually have a mother guarding them. Depending on the dinosaur, they might otherwise be docile, or they might need a quick slap to scare them away. Some of the really protective mothers will chase you down until you're in your grave, but don't worry too much, that character will be resurrected for the next level.
In fact, one of my minor pet peeves with the game is the lack of continuity in everything but the storyline. You can upgrade your characters in the level, but these new stats will disappear once you get onto the next. Dinosaurs are the exact opposite of people. If any remain at the end of a scenario, they are just left where they are and you begin again from scratch. Some stages generously give you some starting dinos and/or eggs but this is entirely scripted and not the result of previous hard work. Perhaps this again goes towards the easy design mantra, but it did annoy me as levelling up takes a lot of time.
Some levels have environmental objects, such as this detonator (left).
The bonus level has you recreate the final scenes from the film (right).
And so, the game does gradually get very difficult, at least in my eyes. While not in the same league as it's more adult-aimed peers, I did find myself having issues here and there. I found the best method was to separate your dinosaurs from the humans and leave all fighting to the former while the latter does all the busywork. It kept me playing though, which it wouldn't have if it got to an insane level of difficulty.
Unlike that other PC game based on the Lost World, Chaos Island is actually pretty good. It's not revolutionary or technically impressive, but it does the basics well. By stripping down all of the extrenuous stats and heavy resource management the RTS genre is known for, it becomes a lot more accessible to newcomers - hence the target audience. Yet in spite of all of this, it doesn't feel dumbed down in any way. In fact, I would recommend gamers of all ages should give this a try, and that goes double if your a Jurassic Park fan. Recommended.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '95. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release the mouse. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 389 Mb. Install Size: 659 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Chaos Island: The Lost World - Jurassic Park is © DreamWorks Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me