Jurassic Park: The Game Review
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On 11/30/2011 at 12:00 PM by Jesse Miller
TellTale’s signature style doesn’t do this aging franchise any favors.
For those that love the franchise and are interested in seeing a fresh story.
The catastrophe that occurred on Isla Nublar back in 1993 was a classic example of Murphy’s Law in action. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and it did so with spectacular results that have deeply imbedded themselves in the brains of many a movie goer, including your humble reviewer. Even though it's been nearly 20 years since it was released I can’t help but smile every time I hear the first few notes of John Williams’ iconic score. Welcome to Jurassic Park, please don’t feed the animals.
Now the folks at TellTale Games seek to tap into that nostalgia with a story of their own making. Taking place concurrently with the original film, the game tells the tale of exactly what happened to that can of Barbasol shaving cream. They succeed in bringing something interesting and original to the table, but you have to remember that Jurassic Park is Chaos Theory in action – a Murphy’s Law device – and while this fits in the plot, its overflow into the gameplay only mars the overall experience.
Jurassic Park plays a lot like Heavy Rain. As you come across a scene you can survey the area and investigate certain items/areas with the appropriate press of the button. Certain scenes have multiple sets which you can navigate to solve simple puzzles and talk to other characters as necessary. Conversation threads allow for multiple ways to get information and add a nice amount of flesh to what is actually a pretty decent plot – arguably much better than the sequels that made it to the big screen. This brings me to the first issue with game; the story is held in higher esteem than the gameplay.
It is abundantly clear that the individuals working on this game are huge fans of the source material. The story fits in very well with the movie and there's a treasure trove of Easter eggs carefully placed in the background – subtle nods that will give any fan a warm feeling inside – but this reverence for the story and the source material hijacks the gameplay, making it feel restrictive instead of engaging. Conversations and set pieces are designed in a “press any button to continue” method where choice has little to no effect on the outcome.
Action sequences are more burdensome than fun, being comprised entirely of finicky quick time events (QTEs). Jurassic Park is a classic point and click adventure game and I would not criticize the game for being something that it obviously isn’t trying to be, but if your action is going to be comprised entirely of QTEs then you better get them right. Button recognition can be a bit off at times and the consequences for missing a command vary wildly from a slight stumble to instant death, even when the rest of the sequence has been performed perfectly.
With Back to the Future, TellTale created a highly stylized game that didn’t attempt a photorealistic graphical presentation and the game was better for it. With Jurassic Park it seems like they couldn’t quite make the decision concerning the aesthetic and the result is not appealing at all. The character models look wooden and have a surprisingly limited range of motion and animation; striking a creepy resemblance to the robotic character models of the early 3D era.
Transitions from scene to scene are jerky, making it difficult to tell if a QTE is approaching or you’re just experiencing normal choppiness. The last part of that sentence is important: normal choppiness. The animations and the graphics are so choppy that you get used to it, which is not good.
The price tag on the game is hefty considering the content. At $29 for all four episodes, an experience only taking a little longer than 4 hours in total, it’s hard to justify a recommendation. Scene selection is nice in that it allows you to go back to your favorite scenes directly, but it also helps take away any reason you may have had to replay a game that's devoid of replay value to begin with.
Jurassic Park has become a property much like the dinosaurs in it; mostly forgotten though still able to get a smile out of the young or young at heart. It’s just painfully obvious that TellTale’s signature style just isn’t the best mechanism to tell their worthy story. Perhaps sometime down the line someone will take another crack at this property and give us all the Jurassic Park game we’ve been waiting millions of years for.