There really haven’t been many Jurassic park games to write home about in recent memory and although the last popular game based on the franchise had a couple of things to keep gamers interested (wink), it wasn’t much of what Jurassic Park fans wanted to experience story wise. The latest game to have the Jurassic Park name slapped on it is from developers Telltale Games, the creators of the Wallace and Grommit games, as well as the recent released Back to the Future game.
Jurassic Park: The Game partially coincides with the events of the movie (until about half way through the first episode), where a duo of shady characters are on the docks beside the departing boat waiting for Dennis Nedry to arrive with the fake Barbasol can that houses the stolen dinosaur embryos. When Nedry doesn’t show- and if you’ve seen the movie, you know why- they take on the task of locating the can themselves and things go from bad to worse from there on out.
Jurassic Park: The Game, released for PC and Playstation 3 through digital download and through retail for the Xbox 360, features a gameplay style that is somewhat akin to Heavy Rain or Indigo Prophecy and takes several cues from the Back to the Future game with its episodic structure and cartoony visuals, but that’s where the similarities with it and just about every other game end. Everything in the game is controlled by Quick Time Events and button mashing, except for the times that you are involved in dialogue. At those times, you choose your replies from a wheel that usually offers several different responses and will end up with different outcomes based on what your choice was. There’s even an odd sequence of dialogue where you control both sides of the conversation.
When in action oriented gameplay, the controls range from pressing X, Y, B, A, RB, LB, and the right stick in a particular direction and you never actually control the movements of a character outside of that. Other than the times that you need to interact with the prompts, you are simply watching the game unfold, waiting to do something. Strangely, it’s also worth noting that almost every time pull off a correct sequence of button presses and movements, the game will pause for a second and then continue on. It’s reminiscent of the old arcade game Dragon’s Lair, when you would perform the correct action and the game would pause to load up the next sequence of action to play. It can be distracting to say the least and even annoying when it constantly happens over and over.
Each time a button prompt appears, you will be given a check mark if you succeeded and an X if you mess it up. You are allowed to mess up some of the prompts and it will forgive you with something as innocuous as the character missing an opportunity, while other times screwing up a prompt will cause a Velociraptor to chow down on your head. For almost all the locations you visit in the game, (some new and some recognizable) you are able to switch between characters at times and switch to their location to help solve the many puzzles that the game throws at you.
Between the sections of hectic button mashing there will be a puzzle to solve to get through a door to continue on one way or another, but none of the puzzles presented were all that difficult and most of them can even be solved with simple trial and error. Each episode of the game is broken up into a number of scenarios that you are graded on by a medal system, ranging from bronze to gold depending on how many prompts you missed and how many deaths you incurred. Thankfully, when you do end up as dino chow, the game is very lenient, allowing you to restart almost immediately before you messed up.
With 4 Episodes taking about 90 minutes each to complete, Jurassic Park: the Game is probably the best game to date for fans of the movie. The people who this game is geared towards will catch the numerous references and sly nods to many of the characters and lines from the movie, which is done with restraint and not ham fisted by telling you to hold onto your butts every ten minutes.
The distinctiveness of the gameplay may not be for everyone and it is definitely a slow paced game that is focused on story with elements of gameplay tossed in. If you were looking for a game where you went around slaughtering dinosaurs with rocket launchers, you may want to give this a pass, but if you were looking forward to returning to the Isla Nublar to view the events of the island from a different perspective, don’t let the uniqueness of the gameplay deter you.
Title: Jurassic Park: The Game
Developer: Telltale Games
Release Date: November 15th 2011
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Game purchased for review