Review – Jurassic Park: The Game

Review Jurassic Park The Game
Remember that knife fight against Krauser in Resident Evil 4, the one that consisted entirely of quick time events? Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Krauser had been a bunch of dinosaurs, and the fight lasted several hours while being interrupted by inconsequential dialogue trees?

I’m guessing no given that if that had been the case, I sure as hell wouldn’t be wistfully mentioning RE4 at the beginning of a review once again.

Alas, my bizarre question is rooted in reality with the release of Jurassic Park: The Game, Telltale’s newest episodic movie-to-adventure game adaptation. Events unfold around the time period of the first film courtesy of a new cast of characters; some of whom work on the island, some of whom are mercenaries flying to the island to evacuate that first batch of people, and still others are sneaking onto the island to retrieve the million dollar Barbasol can full of dinosaur embryos that Nedry was trying to steal at the epicenter of this dino-disaster. In fact, ol’ Newman himself is the only character from the movie to appear in the game, though only as a mangled and faceless corpse.

For the record, there actually is a QTE-driven knife fight between one of the mercenaries and a Velociraptor, which turns out to be pretty awesome.


Review Jurassic Park The Game
The characters may be different, but the park is the same, and the game is chocked full of moments and landmarks that will be familiar to fans of the film. The camera angles are dynamic enough to make this seem like a movie – a movie casted entirely by decent-looking polygon models with facial expressions that rarely express the range of emotion you’d expect from a group of people running from dinosaurs and constantly betraying each other. That being said, the game is very generous with the bump mapping on the dinosaurs and faces of the more grizzled men.

As can be expected, staying on an island full of genetically unstable dinosaurs leads to turmoil, and characters are evading hungry dinosaurs from the very first scene of the game.

How is a mere human supposed to evade and escape a violent lizard-induced death you may wonder? Why, the answer is quick time events, of course!

A directional prompt will show up somewhere on the screen, abstractly tied to some sort of action that a character could perform, and it’s your job as the player to press it, or face the dire consequences of having to repeat the last 15 seconds of the game.

I have to admit, I somewhat liked how sneaking around was handled by rhythmically alternating left and right, with circles closing in on the prompts a la Ouendan or Elite Beat Agents. But more often than not, a prompt will appear out of nowhere, and you’ll probably end up memorizing those ones after getting eaten by the same dinosaur a few times. Worse still are the game’s rather liberal use of the “mash this one key” prompts; sometimes they make sense, like if one of the characters is running really fast, but there is one point where somebody is investigating dino tracks, and a slow sweep of the ground is performed by erratically tapping a key, as if the game is some sort of slideshow, and pressing the key moves it to the next frame.

Review Jurassic Park The Game
Heck, this is even during one of the parts where you can’t die – yes, unless there is a medal in the upper right corner grading your QTE-detecting abilities, the game is less “press X not to die” and more “press X to incrementally progress at your earliest convenience, thank you very much”.

Failure to properly input the right key at the right time isn’t penalized too much – unlike Dragon’s Lair or similar games, making a mistake isn’t always penalized with death, but sometimes with a slight trip-up of a character, resulting in him or her having to adapt and wrestle away a dinosaur or steady his or her nerves a la Fight Night (by the way, the “line up these two gliding circles” parts in this game are absolute dogballs).

In a way, I appreciate not only the forgiving nature of the game in that regard, but also how it adds slight variance to the game’s otherwise linear story, no matter how inconsequential it winds up being. Additionally, it is a bit amusing that the game’s medal system penalizes you equally whether you trip over a branch or get eaten by a T-Rex; in fact, getting eaten by a T-Rex is somewhat better of an outcome, because then you at least get to watch someone get eaten by a T-Rex (albeit in minimally gory detail).

Review Jurassic Park The Game
The game isn’t entirely about running from dinosaurs though. Jurassic Park also offers exciting moments of conversation moderation.

Don’t let the rhyme or the use of the word “exciting” fool you; this also does little to improve the game. In much of Jurassic Park, the dialogue is selected by the player using a dialogue wheel not unlike that of Mass Effect. Unlike Mass Effect, however, the decisions made never alter anything. Instead of thinking of what would be the best way to persuade other characters, you simply have to choose the line you’d like to hear, then there will be a short exchange of words related to that choice, and then everybody goes on to the next portion of the game, which is the same either way.

You’re also left selecting trivial crap like which wisecrack you want the character to say just before some dinosaurs attack. Mind you, I play a lot of Nintendo games, so I’m fine with being offered choices of dialogue that have zero effect on the game’s outcome, but aside from the QTE marathons and a couple of simple-yet-convoluted logic puzzles, the gameplay is nothing BUT selecting dialogue; if a game is based around talking to people, I’d expect it to branch out better than a Christmas tree bound up in twine.

Jurassic Park: The Game is a lot like a tour through Jurassic Park itself; there’s a lot of sitting still, being guided around, listening to people, and observing things – all accompanied by the sinking feeling that you’ll soon regret embarking on the experience. Taken for what it is, a mildly thrilling interactive Jurassic Park movie, it might be worthwhile for those die-hard fans who have been pulling their hair out for the last 18 years wondering what exactly happened to that can of Barbasol, but for anybody who wants to watch a Jurassic Park movie, I’d recommend just going back and watching the actual films. Not only do they look better, but they don’t require you to constantly mash a single button.


Developer
Telltale Games

Publisher
Telltale Games

System
PC, Mac, iPad2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (PC Reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer

Release Date
November 15, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • Ujn Hunter

    Also… even if you like mashing a single button… you’re still probably better off watching the movie with a controller in your hand while mashing said single button. Amirite?

    • http://www.gamesugar.net Jamie Love

      Even better off, playing the genny version with those bugger learning raptors