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Daily iPad App: Jurassic Park Builder makes me wish in-app purchases were extinct

I have to admit that I'm not typically the kind of person who gets sucked into those Farmville-style games -- be it on Facebook or in app form -- that require hours and hours of tedious upkeep while slowly whittling away at your wallet a dollar or two at a time. I am, however, a fan of dinosaurs, and anything with the Jurassic Park logo stamped on it will get at least a passing glance from me. And so I downloaded Jurassic Park Builder for my iPad, because my love for extinct animals somehow trumps my common sense.

As is quite evident from the screenshots as well as its name, Jurassic Park Builder indeed a game about building and maintaining a zoo for dinosaurs. You begin with just a basic home base and must expand your park by clearing land, cloning dinosaurs from DNA you discover while digging, and adding additional buildings like hotels as well as attractions such as amusement park rides.

The landscape is rendered in a flat two-dimensional fashion but the animals themselves are actually 3D, which makes them pop off the screen and feel fairly alive, at least for digital dinosaurs. Using the touchscreen to place new buildings and attractions works well, though it can be a bit touchy at times, requiring you to take your time while building or risk misplacement.

The micromanagement of the park comes in the form of feeding and caring for your animals. Carnivores need a steady supply of meat while herbivores require various plant-based foods, and if you don't keep an eye on your stockpiles it can be pretty easy to run out of one or both of them. The same goes for your supply of cash, which is used to build new exhibits and keep your park in working condition.

And here's where the game shows its true microtransaction-driven roots: You're going to run out of something sooner or later, be it cash or food for your animals, and the game is built in such a way that you're probably not going to be able to build a self-sustaining park without throwing in a few bucks every now and then.

I have nothing against this nickel-and-dime approach in principle; The app is free to download, and far be it from me to deny the developers their income. However, I would have preferred an app that costs a flat fee upfront -- even $2 or $3 -- but offers at least a reasonable opportunity to build a park that can keep itself going with proper management rather than the unspoken understanding that the player is going to have to pay for in-game supplies later on.

Jurassic Park Builder will certainly satisfy fans of similar games like Farmville or even Sim City, but before you dive into the prehistoric landscape make sure you get your credit card ready. Chances are you're going to need it before long.

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