Jurassic Park Review (PSN)
Seeing how the Back To the Future games turned out, we were actually pretty excited at one point to see what Telltale Games could do with the Jurassic Park franchise. Granted, these guys aren’t all about balls-to-the-wall action gaming, so something along the lines of, say, Sega’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park coin-op would probably be out. Still, we were interested to see where they could take the story and what gameplay innovations they could introduce. Now, we’ve finally got the full game, split up into four downloadable episodes on PlayStation Network, or available as a full package on Xbox 360. And…well, at least Telltale got half the package right. Too bad it’s more on the presentation side.
The story tells a side tale that’s actually tied in with the events that occur in the film. You’ll start out working alongside Gerry Harding, a man working on the Jurassic Park foundation of Isla Nublar while showing his teenage daughter Jessi what’s happening. Meanwhile, a mercenary named Nima is infiltrating the island, seeking the dino embryos that turncoat Dennis Nedry was trying to deliver in a shaving can. Some soldiers and a misplaced doctor also enter the picture, but eventually they all end up tied into the same thing – just trying to get off the island in one piece before dinosaurs, recreated by bullfrog DNA, make mincemeat out of them.
Though the way the story told has its problems (mainly due to the conversational gameplay – more on that in a second), it is pretty good for Telltale standards. Some exciting situations do arise, mainly when you run head-on into dinosaurs and find yourself scrambling to survive. It’s interesting playing typical folks going up against these things, rather than full-blown soldiers who resolve the matter by simply gunning them down.
What’s more, Telltale also did a very good job with the game’s presentation; it carries over the same sort of mood as the films…well, the original film anyway. (Let’s not bring The Lost World or Jurassic Park III into this.) The characters appear pretty lifelike, and the surroundings you’ll go through on Isla Nublar are fantastic, particularly when you’re rummaging through the outer foliage on the island. (Indoor environments aren’t bad either.) However, it’s the dinos that really pack a wallop, especially the nimble-moving raptors and the T-Rex himself, stomping around like he owns the place.
Likewise, the music isn’t bad either. While there wasn’t as much John Williams-sampled stuff from the soundtrack that we would’ve preferred, there’s still a good dose of dino-riffic tunes to listen to as you move through each stage. Some of the voicework isn’t bad either, though some characters can’t die soon enough--like that whiny guy that escorts Nima into the compound. DUDE. SHUT UP. Or get eaten.
Anyway, if Jurassic Park scores on its presentation, why does it get such a low score? Simple. The gameplay. It really fails to generate any excitement, as you never really have direct control over your characters. Gameplay is broken up into segments, mainly exploration (by moving to pre-selected spots per a map system) and quick-time events. If you don’t know what QTE’s are, they’re taken from the likes of, say, Shenmue or the Dragon’s Lair games, where you have to hit commands as they’re flashed on the screen. In certain points of the game, we could see this working, but all the way through? It just gets tiring. All the mindless button mashing – even just for something as simple as opening a car door – is ridiculous, and some of the commands, mainly with the analog stick, aren't even properly read. Even if you do screw up and get eaten, you start all over again, so there’s no genuine risk in the game. It takes the easy way out.
What’s more, some of the segments are absolutely dull. For instance, the conversation system is pointless, as you’re usually just redirected back to a pre-set answer instead of really being given a new route to take. Case in point – the Jeep you’re riding in is busted, and it needs fixing. You can say run for it, but the guy that’s with you refuses to run. You could tell him to fix it, but, surprise, he’s useless. You then elect to fix it – and he still complains. It’s a no-win situation with some of these, making the conversation set-up useless to begin with. Telltale should’ve at least given us the “Choose Your Own Adventure” route – even if it did end in death. (In some cases, we would’ve been thankful.)
Another segment involves you looking through binoculars (as Jessi) for dinosaur clues. At one point, Jurassic Park requires us to stare at a pile of dino dung. Yep, it’s that dull.
Sadly, there’s not much to come back to with Jurassic Park once you finish the four chapters, save for playing through them all again to earn gold medals and unlock all the Achievements/Trophies. But, really, after you’re finished, you probably won’t see any reason to return, save for reliving certain points where you’re ALMOST eaten. It’s a one-show affair, and a hard one to swallow for the $30 price tag.
That’s too bad, because Telltale does have promise here. Jurassic Park has a pretty good presentation, and the story set-up leads to some great action segments. However, the lack of overall control – and the inclusion of some absolutely frustrating parts – make this a game experience you’ll only want to take in if you’re a true fan. Otherwise, go watch the first film instead – or hey, go hunt down that Lost World arcade game. That’s always a rush.