By Amanda Lafond
As one of the most influential and well-known dinosaur films ever created, “Jurassic Park” has an inexplicable magic that’s left a T-rex-sized footprint on the hearts of many moviegoers. But “Jurassic Park: The Game” just does not have this magic.
The main attraction in any media related to “Jurassic Park” is the dinosaurs. The game manages to mess that up. The dinosaurs were far more believable in the movie, now nearly 19 years old, than in the game. Environments are flat and often uninteresting.
Sound is a mixed bag: the John Williams’ theme is always impressive, the voice acting is substantial and the dinosaurs sound as good as they do in the movie. However, you never know when all of this is going to play right. Often throughout the game, sound will crackle, pop in and out or echo.
The story has an interesting premise: the audience finally has the chance of discovering what happens to the Barbasol can Dennis Nedry drops in the film. It’s a mediocre story, but it could have really shined if only the characters were more fully realized.
But instead they are cardboard cutouts with questionable motives. The audience is given very little reason to care about any of them or their goals. One character in particular has a wild personality swing about halfway through the game with a dubious catalyst.
The dinosaurs themselves get the worst end of the narrative stick. Unlike their movie counterparts, these dinosaurs aren’t menacing. Throughout the game, the human characters often outrun or fend them off — a drastic change from Steven Spielberg’s creatures. Perhaps most ridiculous, is a scene in which a mercenary kills a Velociraptor with nothing but a knife. Events like these render the dinosaurs nearly toothless.
The biggest failing is the gameplay. Taking a note from Quantic Dream’s “Heavy Rain,” the gameplay is nothing but Quick Time Events. This is when a prompt appears onscreen to push a certain button and the player has a limited amount of time to react.
However, unlike “Heavy Rain,” the player is never given direct control over any of the characters. For example, the player will never be given the opportunity to so much as make a character walk forward. Throughout “Jurassic Park,” the player is completely at the mercy of the Quick Time Events.
What’s worse, these Quick Time Events have no weight to them. In “Heavy Rain,” all the button press somehow resembled what the characters were doing onscreen. What you were required to press made sense. This is not the case in “Jurassic Park.” Just about every Quick Time Event feels counterintuitive.
Some of these Quick Time Events can be incredibly tense, but not for the reasons they should be. They are not tense because of story or character, but because the player is anxious to get all the right button presses and avoid having to watch sequences over again.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that the player is punished for being too involved with the story. Telltale obviously sought to create a very story driven game. However, how can a player fully appreciate narrative when they are constantly on the lookout for the next button prompt? Being too engaged in the story will often result in death.
When you aren’t pressing X to avoid death, you are either solving boring puzzles or participating in uninteresting dialogue. These downtimes are some of the worst parts of the game. The words the flat characters exchange are not enough to hold the player’s interest, and in addition to that, the perspective changes so often, you are never sure who you are playing as during these sequences.
Despite all of its flaws, the game is surprisingly quite good in its last chapter. It was meant to be an episodic release, but due to delays, all four episodes were available at once. This last chapter is where the game finally pulls it together and wows the player.
The action gets intense in all the right ways: the gameplay tightens up and the player is left breathless. But just as it all seems to be finally getting better, the game is over. If only the whole game had been like this last chapter.
“Jurassic Park: The Game” is a tale of lost potential. This is a title that could have been the game that fans have been waiting for. Instead, it is a mediocre experience. It’s not a horrible game, but it is far from a good one. Only the most die-hard of “Jurassic Park” fans will be able to plow their way through it. If only Telltale had “spared no expense.”Contact Amanda Lafond.