Jurassic Park: The Game
First posted on 15 January 2012. Last updated on 15 January 2012.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 science fiction action adventure film Jurassic Park was undeniably a box office juggernaut, achieving both commercial and critical acclaims. The film spawned a new movie franchise, with a second and third film subsequently released in 1997 and 2001 and a fourth film purported to be in the making. The cultural legacy of this movie franchise was also undeniable—it was universally praised for raising the bar for computer generated imagery in moviemaking. Not surprisingly, the popularity of Jurassic Park had led to a number of video games based on the licensed franchise. After a slow but steady string of mediocre games released over the years since the premiere of the original film, it was finally Telltale Games' turn to bring Jurassic Park back for yet another adaption.
Jurassic Park: The Game tells a story that parallels that of the first film in the Jurassic Park trilogy, picking up when the power goes off on the island and when the dinosaurs begin to run wild amid the blackout. The island has been evacuated of personnel, except for the game's main cast, who have remained on the island for their own reasons —some innocent, some nefarious. During the game's 4 episodes, the player will assume the roles of Gerry Harding (Jurassic Park's chief veterinarian), Jess Harding (Gerry's rebellious daughter), Nima Cruz (a freelance mercenary hired to recover Dennis Nedry's stolen dinosaur embryos), Laura Sorkin (the park's leading research scientist), and Billy Yoder and Oscar Morales (a rescue team sent by genetic engineering company InGen that funds the building of the failed park). As the situation on the island becomes more dire, the group must work together to survive and get off of the island—or die in the process.
In terms of gameplay, Jurassic Park: The Interactive Movie is perhaps a more apt title for the game. Drawing heavily from Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, Jurassic Park: The Game requires the player to input series of keystroke combinations and mouse gestures (or their equivalents on the controllers) while the game's story plays out. Failure to pass these Quick Time Event challenges often leads to the death of the character being played. Due to the nature of the story's subject matter, supporting and main cast can and will die in the game. This concept of character death is a first for Telltale Games and contrasts sharply against all previous games from the developer in which the player cannot die. In addition, Telltale Games has introduced an adaptive difficulty measure, wherein the game will continually determine how well a player can adapt to the in-game challenges and, in attempt to make the game more exciting, will decrease the amount of time allowed for each challenge. The game's characters are fairly interesting, though a bit underdeveloped. Still, they serve well to help to deepen the tension generally present throughout the game.
Unfortunately, Jurassic Park: The Game is riddled with problems. While the nature of the game necessitates a number of scenes that the player will never see if the game is played flawlessly, the execution of integrating (or skipping) these scenes leave much to be desired. The game suffers from it as a result. Scene transitions often play out with notable lag as each scene loads, and audio stuttering and frozen screens are frequently encountered while the dialog track catches up. Consequently, the game contains a number of instances wherein a timed event is rendered impossible to play by the lag induced by the loading of the scene—by the time the game actually indicates that an action is needed to be taken, the window of opportunity to do so has already long passed.
Furthermore, during my own play through, in instances where I was able to successfully enter the required input combinations, some combinations simply did not register—either the game's input interface was not sensitive enough or the game's adapted difficulty measure did not work properly. I had also played both the PC version and the console version (on the Sony PlayStation 3) of the game. While I found both versions to share the same problems (though the console version suffered more from lagging and audio skipping than the PC version), the game was ironically more enjoyable when played on a gamepad, as the button combinations felt much more natural than the mouse and keyboard combination.
As a gamer who had previously played (and thoroughly enjoyed) Heavy Rain, Jurassic Park: The Game could have been improved immensely by letting me actually control the character. While both games utilized similar core mechanics for interaction, Heavy Rain allowed me to move the characters freely using the controller—a concept completely lost in Jurassic Park: The Game. Somehow, Telltale Games saw fit to simply move characters where they needed to be and lock down any sort of movement options not immediately needed to solve a situation at hand. Rather, I was just given the option to switch between a few predetermined stations in any given area and was not even given the option to walk between these stations. Beyond just a minor gripe, it was amazing for me to discover truly how much better the game could have worked if the option to move freely in the confines of the featured areas had been implemented.
While I am a fan of Telltale Games, I am saddened to say that Jurassic Park: The Game is the poorest offering to come out of the developer to date. The mere fact that the game has so many problems hints that the development of the game has been rushed: the elements for a good game are all present, but they do not ever quite come together fully. While the game has its moments of both enjoyment and drama—more so if the player drops any expectation of a "game" and sees it as an "interactive movie"—neither element is sufficiently present to leave any sort of lasting impact. Fans of both Telltale Games and Jurassic Park will not miss much by giving this adaption a pass.