Developer(s): Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games, Kalypso Media
PS3, 360, PC, Mac
November 15, 2011
MSRP: $29.99 (all four episodes)
‘Welcome to Jurassic Park.’ Whenever I see a game company try and take hold of a franchise name (namely, one of a movie) and turn it into a game, I cringe. I can’t help it. I stare at them in game stores and shake my head, simply because I cannot bear to witness the atrocious idea that someone tried to turn into a playable media format. Jurassic Park: The Game, is not that bad, rest assured. While it was not the game experience I thought it was going to be, Telltale Games did a fantastic job in cleaning it up and allowed us to revisit our childhood in a new way.
The entire story coincides with the first movie (hence the name), on Isla Nublar. When you see the story of Jurassic Park: The Game, you will be given an all new perspective of the beloved story. This approach to storytelling was both ingenious, and detrimental to the game. What you have is almost a behind the scenes look at what the movie didn’t show, or what you may (or may not) have been curious about. This creates an almost alternative movie experience that works really well hand-in-hand with the movie. Think of it as an extra features section of a Blu-ray; you do not need it to enjoy the movie, but it is still a very cool concept and add-on. Where this falters, however, is that all of the characters that you have come to know and love in the movies are all but present. Instead, most of the game is told and experienced through new characters to try and push the story forward. While this makes sense from a timing aspect, the characters are not that interesting, and overall don’t have the same edge and feeling to them that the original cast did. The game does have a sense of freedom, in that it was able to create anything it wanted in between key points in the original story, and I do not believe it took full advantage of that as it should have.
The gameplay is more like an interactive movie experience rather than a game. Between storytelling, there are two kinds of game modes: exploration and interaction. During exploration modes, characters are in static scenes where moving the joystick and pressing appropriate buttons allows for investigation of the area and progressing forward with the story. This is restrictive, and makes the game feel less expansive and exploratory, and more linear and ‘on rails.’ During the interactive scenes, there are a series of button presses, joystick rotations, and so forth to successfully clear a scene. Certain actions can cause the character to die, and will require the player to start over from the beginning of that specific part of the scene. If a character dies, or the player misses an action, a bar at the top of the screen will slowly go down. As it falls, the rank for that particular scene will fall as well, going from Gold down to Bronze. This adds a small objective to work for while playing. There is no deep puzzle solving or platform hopping to struggle through any part of this game, meaning that with a little bit of time and patience, anyone can complete this game with minimal effort. Because of this style, the game is not as enjoyable to play as it is to watch. There is a heavy focus on story, which it executes well, however because of that, it detracts from the gameplay aspect tremendously.
The environments are all very beautiful, and the character models are detailed and smooth. This is what we have come to expect from Telltale, and they excel as they have in the past. The scenery is flush with the exotic plantlife of the island, and the world has been fleshed out in great detail. Everything from mud prints, flora and even dinosaur droppings have been included to make the island look and feel exactly as it should be. Being able to explore the park on foot in further detail is a unique experience that, however due to the confines of the exploration factor, it is hard to appreciate it the way one could if they had full control over their character. Coupled with the amazing view is a soundtrack that is both nostalgic and well placed. When you are working with a score originally composed and arranged by John Williams, it is truly difficult to achieve anything short of greatness. Similar to the movie, the music is subtle during times of peace, and riveting during times of great tension. It adds to the experience and makes for an overall satisfying aesthetic appeal, reminding us why Jurassic Park was great to begin with.
Outside of perfecting scores in each stage, there is no real reason to pick this game up and play it again once it has been completed. As I mentioned above, the gameplay isn’t difficult if random selections are made, and where the game truly shines is in the experience between the movie’s storyline and where this game fits in between it. As a stand alone product, gamers may find Jurassic Park: The Game to feel a little lackluster, especially with the kind of involvement games similar to this one have set such a strong precedence. Long time fans of the series and those who may have just experienced the first movie for the first time will find a neat experience that couples well with the movie to provide a more interactive experience in the Jurassic Park universe. This game could also be aimed at those who are casual gamers, not looking for a difficult challenge, but are more interested in storytelling. In total, one playthrough of this game will set you back about five to six hours.
While Jurassic Park: The Game may not be a Game of the Year anytime soon, there’s no denying that there are some memorable qualities that will invoke strong senses of nostalgia while taking the more scenic route down memory lane. With old and new locales and dinosaurs to experience, there is still a lot to enjoy about this experience.
+Great extension to the original story
+Beautiful scenery and music
+Plays like an interactive novel
-Entirely too linear; no real exploration
-No game play or deep puzzle solving
-Characters don’t mean anything to the player
~Dinosaurs not in the movie were introduced
~A bold step in making a game based on a movie
~New locations are a great touch to the already historic past locations