Lead a team of survivors off of an island overrun by dinosaurs.
PC Release: November 15, 2011
By Ian Coppock
Jurassic Park began as a mere book, until my parents showed it to me and it became a source of all-around sustenance. Dinosaurs fascinated me as a small child; even in college I don’t think I read as much on any subject as I did about them. I spent my childhood thinking everything in terms of dinosaurs, so when a dino video game comes around, my ears still perk up. Jurassic Park: The Game is the latest JP work of its class, and the first title I heard to be quite story-heavy. We like stories here at Art as Games, and dinosaurs. You can show yourself to the door otherwise.
Jurassic Park: The Game is an original story cooked up by the fine guys and gals at Telltale Games, the episode-crazy wizards who brought us that Walking Dead video game I reviewed about a month ago. Like that title, Jurassic Park is a cinematique point-and-click adventure game divided into several episodes, each of which is about ninety minutes long.
The story takes place during and after the events of the Jurassic Park film, in which the InGen corporation has found a way to clone dinosaurs and bring them back for the world’s most kickass zoo, on a Costa Rican island. Unfortunately, the electrified pens keeping these beasties in are shut off, causing the dinos to run rampant across the island. The game follows several sets of new characters drawn to the island for various reasons, who will ultimately band together to find a way off of it.
It was neat to see new people in the background of one of my favorite films, but each one falls into a wearily predictable lineup. We have the overbearing father, the rebellious teenager, the bad guy with a heart of gold, the sinister scientist, and, for once, we’re missing the black guy who dies violently. American media surprises me sometimes :p
The problem with having predictably written characters is that the plot in turn becomes predictable. Each character is an unrepentant trope exemplar; dino vet Gerry Harding is trying to connect with his estranged daughter, the angsty teen Jessica (who is the polar opposite of The Walking Dead‘s Clementine for being unlikeable and annoying). Meanwhile, hardened mercenary Nima is doing bad things for the best of reasons, and Laura Sorkin believes early on that any way to save her dinosaur creations justifies the means. All these characters are united by one goal: find the hell off InGen’s island.
As the player, you take control of various characters throughout the episodes in movie-like shifts from scenario to scenario. Using your conversation wheel, you’ll have to get people to help you or spill secrets as necessary, not always an easy task. Luckily for us and unluckily for my liking of this game, any challenge this mechanic might present is rendered redundant by unlimited attempts at choosing the sentence that’ll make them like you.
I didn’t know conversations worked that way! I didn’t know you could begin a conversation by saying “you’re an ass”, and then follow up with “I love you”, and suddenly be best friends with the person you’re talking to. I can’t wait to try it.
Sometimes, the game will also expect you to switch between both sides of the same conversation, which is a bit ridiculous. In one heated argument between two characters, I basically had to best my own arguments as they came, which was disorienting.
In true point-and-click style, you must progress through the game by investigating the world and solving puzzles. You can explore one of several scenes in a given area by switching between them on your menu, and then looking for clues. Most gamers these days will tell you that pointing and clicking isn’t intense or exciting enough; I personally find it relaxing, if a bit limiting. This is not a hard action game, and if you go into it expecting that, you’re in for bitter disappointment.
As you’ve no doubt been waiting to read, the biggest challenge this game packs is, obviously, the dinosaurs. Each and all of the characters run into a myriad of them, including a few that were not in the film. Some of the dinosaurs require quick thinking and rapid puzzle skills to get away from, while others, unfortunately, rely on your skill with quick-time events, the laziest and most disconnecting game mechanic ever devised by man.
Yup. This game does pack intense action sequences, but all you need to do to escape is hit a variety of buttons and watch the fireworks play out on your screen. It’s like a lot like whack-a-mole in that the buttons that show up are random; hitting them too quickly or hitting the wrong ones can equal your character tripping, or dropping a gun, or just getting his head ripped off.
In order to enjoy Jurassic Park: The Game, you have to approach it more like an interactive film than a true game. You’re welcome to cry foul over that; I would’ve, had I not known beforehand what the game would be like.
Unlike the film, the art direction in this game is shaky. The sound design is brittle; most sound effects are wafer-thin, and I caught more than one tinge of static on both the effects and the voice acting. The voice acting, by the way, isn’t terrible but it certainly lacks the emotion one would expect from someone being chased around by prehistoric BIRDS, not lizards, get your evolution facts straight. Each time a conversation in this game ends, the music catches itself before restarting and carrying on as normal, which is disjointing. Oftentimes, the music drowned out the dialogue.
The graphics are sub-par as well. The island’s environments are stiff and not at all lifelike, though the lighting brings in a somewhat diluted breath of fresh air. Character animations are rigid, but the dinosaurs were well-animated enough for me. Of course, it’s possible that I would have been alright with cardboard cutouts, given how much I love the damn things.
I suppose this game’s least damning element is the puzzles. Not soul-crushing, like those in Myst, though not all straightforward. A few of them are simplistic environmental puzzles like with Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, but most of them require coordination between various characters and at least a few experiments. A few of the quick-time sequences pack their fair share of excitement, like a hair-raising underwater chase in a sea cavern, but, like I said, more interactive film than game.
By now, you’ve probably surmised that this game is a sub-par adventure puzzler that leeches off of a great film to create an occasionally good but mostly forceful romp through the jungle. Perfectly true, and yet, I still like this game. The root of this paradox is probably my love of anything to have with dinosaurs, though, so take my criticisms to heart. Unless you’re an absolute diehard fan of the films and want new stories in classic settings, as I did, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this game, and I wouldn’t blame you for feeling so.
You can buy Jurassic Park: The Game here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.