In the movie ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park II’ the ever witty Dr. Malcolm says “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and screaming,” conveniently prophesying the exciting screenshots and eventual reviews of TellTale’s Jurrassic Park game.
The last Jurassic Park title, ‘Operation Genesis’ was released in 2003 on Xbox and PlayStation 2, so everyone was looking forward to a fresh new instalment of the franchise. I mean, the cycle is obvious: God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs… on consoles.
The game arrived and suffice to say Mommy’s very angry. ‘Especially dull’ said 1up, ‘drivel’ complained Play UK and Official PlayStation Magazine rated the game ‘ever so slightly above awful’. Hang on, this is gonna be bad, and indeed it is. The game is far from perfect, the frame rate creaks and judders like a pensioner having a fit (cruel, but good word use), the sound drops in and out and there is very little gameplay; it is one big pile of shit.[drop2]The majority of the game is cutscenes; you will be spending an awful lot of time drinking tea and just watching the plot unfold. When you do get to take control it will be a simplistic puzzle section or a lengthy quick time event – there is very little ‘game’ in this game, it is more of an interactive story.
The plot is split over five episodes and follows a female bounty hunter looking for the embryos that Dennis Nedry dropped in the first film, although you also get to control a mercenary and a Park Ranger who has brought his daughter to the island. You might be thinking “I love kids! Anything at all can and does happen to them,” and that’s a reasonable response. What actually happens is you frequently have to rescue the child from rampaging dinosaurs.
The action (if you can call it that) often includes precisely zero dinosaurs, and I admit I almost turned the console off during the first episode when the Ranger and his daughter discuss her recent shoplifting and problems at school. Just show the blasted dinosaurs, I don’t care about the sulky brat’s problems!
As previously mentioned the frame rate can drop to horrendous levels (God help us, we’re in the hands of engineers), but for the most part the dinosaurs look superb. However, there is one problem that seems to affect all TellTale games – they cannot create realistic human characters. Did you see the abomination that was their CSI tie game? Words cannot describe how awful the cast looked. The humans in Jurassic Park fare better but are badly animated and suffer from exaggerated facial movements (check out the demo of The Walking Dead for another example, Lee’s eyes almost pop out of his head when he’s surprised).
Sound fairs slightly better thanks to the inclusion of the fantastic theme from the movie, and there are some suitably scary dinosaur roars. The voice acting for the characters ranges from bearable to mildly irritating, with the exception of the little girl who can be very annoying at times.
Telltale Games, I’ll tell you the problem. You read what others had done, and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you, you’ve patented it, and packaged it, you’ve slapped it in a game and now you’re selling it.
And yet one rainy bank holiday not so long ago I played through all five episodes of the game and enjoyed it. I loved Jurassic Park far more than its juddering, badly acted, quick time events should ever be loved.[drop]Is it a game that is ‘so bad it’s good’? No, it’s crap, it really is, but amongst the forced moral choices and annoying children nipping off for a crafty fag there are occasional flashes of brilliance and real excitement. No matter how many contrivances TellTale have inserted into the game in the end it’s Jurassic Park and there is a bloody big dinosaur intent on making you its lunch.
One of the most exciting sections is based around a roller-coaster. After a tedious puzzle section which involves rearranging the order of the cars, the characters jump on board as the Raptors arrive. The action switches to a first person view from the front of the coaster as it dips and dives and and you avoid the snapping mouths of the dinosaurs as they crawl across the track.
The finale finds the Park Ranger being pursued through the docks by a T-Rex, and is one of the most thrilling pieces of gameplay I have ever experienced. The action never lets up, and just when you think you are safe the T-Rex busts through the containers and almost chomps your head off.
By the way, all the characters can die, and it’s usually a very horrible death; I must admit to enjoying watching the bratty child get munched by the T-Rex on a number of occasions.
The game also expands the mythology of the franchise by introducing an aquatic park, complete with a hundred foot long swimming dino who naturally tries to eat you as you scuba dive to safety. Iconic locations such as the visitors center also make an appearance, and yes, the T-Rex is still there looking for a snack.
I did not pay for Jurassic Park, it was free when I renewed my PlayStation Plus subscription, and despite the five episodes being fairly lengthy I cannot recommend it at full price. However, if you are completely stuck for something to do on a rainy bank holiday and the game is on sale I can – just – suggest you give it a try.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still awful but when that iconic theme kicks and you’re dodging between the legs of a Triceratops as it goes head to head with a T-Rex it’s hard not to like the game.
But it’s still crap, don’t buy it.
Or maybe you should give it a try.
Hey, you want some good parental advice? Don’t listen to me.