As members of the human race, we believe in one thing: dinosaurs are awesome! The holy grail of dinosaur-based media is, of course, Jurassic Park. Two novels, three movies, and some videogames of dubious quality, the least among them surely being “that one-on-one fighter that sucked” and Trespasser, which we don’t talk about, as it’s just too painful for us. There have been a few good ones, though- two, to be exact: Jurassic Park on the Sega Genesis, which ended with Sam Neill beating up a T-Rex and allowing the park to open, and Operation: Genesis, that simulator one where you micro-manage the running of the actual park. Telltale Games is the latest to take a stab at this legendary property, taking their unique brand of storytelling and applying it to one of our most cherished of licenses. Because the films tend to revolve around folks running away from genetically engineered monsters, Telltale’s usual gameplay template, borrowed from LucasArts’ early 90’s adventure games and seen most recently in Back to the Future: The Game. With an emphasis on characterization and abandoning their traditional gameplay mechanisms in favor of Quick Time Events and an extremely linear progression, Jurassic Park: The Game is a risky venture, but does it pay off?
Set during and after the events of the first film, Jurassic Park: The Game follows a number of characters, none of which were in the film, except for the lead, Gerry Harding. “Who?” you may ask? Well, he was that really old dinosaur-doctor who is the father of Julianne Moore’s character from the second film. In this appearance, he maintains the grey hair, but otherwise is much healthier-looking than he did in the film, which is good, since he’s going to be doing a lot of running, jumping, and minor puzzle-solving. Along with him is his youngest daughter, Jess, a mercenary sent to recover the infamous shaving cream can, and a group of InGen mercenaries who are sent to recover everybody. The operation goes smoothly, nobody gets hurt, and they all escape safely.
Just kidding, but you already knew that. Of course, all hell breaks loose and our cast must brave the dangers of the island while constantly at odds with each other. The story is highly entertaining and compelling, integrating elements from the original film, its sequel, and even the novel upon which it was based. Your characters will encounter a wide variety of dinosaurs and locations, and the tension mounts all the way through to the end (although the ending feels a bit forced and… Convenient). While the story is well-written, the characters vary wildly, especially at first. During the first of the four chapters, we are introduced to some characters, like Harding’s daughter, Jess. She’s a bit of a ditz, but means well. Later on, in the second chapter, we get some more characters, but the problem is, we hate them. Seriously, the mercenary characters suck. We have Yoder, who appears to be armed with little more than an inflated ego, annoying dialogue, and the fact that he looks like Cole from InFamous. His best friend is Oscar, a huge guy who’s actually really cool, except for the fact that his voice acting is just awful. He sounds like a bear who’s choking on an unlucky boy scout. Interestingly, by the end of Chapter 3, the characters grow out of their asinine portrayals and feeling more like actual people.
From a gameplay standpoint, Jurassic Park integrates a streamlined version of their traditional point-and-click interface with the action sequences played out via Quick Time Events, inspired by Heavy Rain. These action sequences are fast, thrilling, and occasionally quite frightening. Unlike Heavy Rain, however, you will wind up seeing see a game over screen. Ultimately, there’s only one way to complete each scenario, and if you miss too many QTE prompts, or just the wrong ones, you’ll have to retry. The only challenge, in the event of an untimely death, is just memorizing when to hit the triangle button and such. There’s little difficulty, but dying in this game really breaks the immersion. In between QTEs, gameplay is a bit closer to what one would expect, given Telltale’s pedigree, but much more linear. Dialogue is usually well-written, and though the quality of the voice acting is inconsistent, is at least good more often than it is bad. On the other hand, there is no problem-solving involved with the dialogue, and there is no plunging into deep conversations. During some conversations, you will be in charge of both sides of the dialogue, which is a bizarre, but unique and entertaining way of being able to relate to all of the characters in this motley crew of merry men and women. When it comes to environmental interactions, there’s quite a bit to investigate, but most of it is superfluous window-dressing, as the solutions to puzzles are usually obvious and generally offer very little challenge.
Jurassic Park is not a difficult game, but if you give yourself over to it, you may find yourself on the edge of your seat. That is, of course, if you can ignore how ugly it all is. Visually, Telltale’s games have never been visual powerhouses, but due to the large scale and action-oriented approach, the engine’s shortcomings really stand out. Animation is much improved from Back to the Future, but it still is not comparable to any AAA titles from this generation. Facial animation, in particular, sometimes looks way overdone, and unintentionally comedic. Textures and environments look like they came from a PS2 game, and the human character models are blocky and lifeless. On the other hand, the dinosaurs look pretty great, are highly detailed, and achieve their goal of filling us with fear and fascination. Overall, however, to call it a mixed bag would be a compliment.
So, is Jurassic Park: The Game a good videogame? It depends on your definition of a game, I guess. It’s hardly a traditional videogame, and feels more like an interactive movie, like Heavy Rain, but lacking all the polish. Jurassic Park fans will have a blast with all the Easter Eggs, references, and dinosaurs (obviously!), and if the average gamer can look past its glaring inadequacies and near-complete lack of traditional challenge, they will find themselves engaged in a strong, if occasionally cheesy, story, running away from big, scary dinosaurs, and just immersing yourself in the shallow depths of the world of Jurassic Park.
VGTribune gives Jurassic Park: The Game 6/10.
This review was based on a copy of the game purchased by the reviewer.