I have a rule: whenever Jurassic Park comes on cable, I have to watch it. Something about murderous dinosaurs stalking scientists is awesome and instantly engaging. The big question is whether or not Jurassic Park: The Game captures the same tension and storytelling. Presenting the nail-biting edge of your seat anxiety found in movies is not an easy task for video games, and Jurassic Park: The Game is only somewhat successful in this challenge.
The game is a side-story to the film, with a fresh cast composed of mercenaries, scientists, and a fourteen-year-old girl. Presented in a series of four episodes, the plot revolves around finding a shaving cream canister full of dinosaur embryos (dropped in the jungle by Newman during the movie) and then escaping the park with your daughter. The sound design does a good job of pulling you into the world since it uses the same audio from the film. The T-Rex and Velociraptor roars are still satisfying after almost twenty years.
Jurassic Park is an adventure game which means it is most likely not what you were expecting. The game play resembles Heavy Rain where you are put through a series of QTEs (quick-time events) that determine your success. You will not be aiming any guns or sprinting through corridors but you will be pressing X and Y at the correct times (think God of War’s boss battles). Since the game is trying to be cinematic in its presentation, full control of your character would not make as much sense.
Jurassic Park: The Game is more like an interactive movie or a cutscene. If something like this scares you away from the game, I don’t blame you. It put me off at first since I wanted to shoot dinosaurs and maybe, if there was time, stab them. However, this is not another Turok game and this ultimately is a good thing. After some initial dull moments, the tension kept me playing.
Staying alive in Jurassic Park: The Game involves pressing a string of button prompts correctly at the right time. It is not the most engaging gameplay but when it works it creates an impressively stressful situation. For instance, in order to survive your encounter with a T-Rex you will have to quickly press A to run away, press up on the right analog stick to dodge a log and press Y and X quickly to get through a door. I know, that sounds terrible, and again, I don’t disagree with you – but when it works, it works extremely well. Your characters are always in danger and making an error is usually punished with a death. The first time I failed a QTE and a fourteen-year-old girl was savagely eaten by a T-Rex I was speechless with a huge dumb look of shock on my face. This is why the game can become stressful - if you fail you have killed a teenage girl, you monster.
This is one reason why not falling in love with all the characters is a pretty good idea— watching them die is one of the most unique video experiences I have had this year. Even at the end of the game I was shocked by the deaths caused by pressing a button incorrectly. I will not spoil any more here, but you will be tempted to fail a challenge just to see what happens. You are rewarded with medals for playing flawlessly but sometimes failing seemed more interesting. Does that sound sadistic?
The largest problem with Jurassic Park: The Game is its inconsistency. It starts with a bang, then gets a little slow and boring for a large chunk of time, then gets interesting again. I understand needing more to do in this game other than the aforementioned QTEs but some of the logic puzzles killed the mood. The section with the roller coaster is especially bad. The story as whole can be a little cringe inducing with its bad jokes and out-of-left-field betrayals. I did laugh a few times, but for the most part the humor came off as annoying. I may have laughed more at the constant forming and breaking of alliances. It makes almost no sense and it feels like a bad horror movie trope when you get left to die by a previously friendly character. By this point the survival sections justified playing the game until the end, but it is a shame that the story hurt more than it helped the experience.
In my opinion most recent games have had terrible endings. Many throw in a forced and out of place boss battle or wave after wave of enemies. Jurassic Park: The Game has the best and most engaging “end boss battle” in recent memory. It showcases the best parts of the game and serves as a perfect ending. The one last frantic dinosaur encounter really captured the magic of the movie.
If more of the game was like the ending I would have no issue recommending it to you. There is an unfortunate amount of boring stretches (especially for a game about surviving on a dinosaur-infested island) that limit the fun. Maybe if the game was shorter it would have been a tighter experience and the last hour would really have had a chance to shine.
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC, Mac
Developer: Telltale Games