By Marty Mulrooney
Jurassic Park: The Game is an episodic, downloadable video game developed by Telltale Games. It takes players back to Isla Nublar – the site of Jurassic Park – during and immediately after the events of the first film. Dennis Nedry’s lost Barbasol shaving-cream can and the embryos contained within once again become a major plot point as brand new characters and existing secondary ones struggle to escape the infamous dinosaur-infested island. The first episode was originally planned for release in April 2011, but the entire game was delayed until November 2011, resulting in all four episodes launching at once.
Jurassic Park: The Game isn’t a traditional adventure game in the slightest: it actually has much more in common with Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain than anything else Telltale have previously released. The player takes control of multiple characters as the cinematic story progresses, experiencing both Quick Time Event-driven action sequences and exploration/puzzle solving sequences.
Quick Time Events (QTEs) are essentially interactive cutscenes whereby the player must quickly respond to button prompts shown on screen to achieve a correct – and predetermined – outcome. The God of War and Tomb Raider franchises have both used QTEs successfully alongside traditional gameplay. However, the previously mentioned Heavy Rain was one of the first modern games to fully embrace QTEs as a core gameplay mechanic. I would even go so far as to say that, without Heavy Rain, there would not be a Jurassic Park: The Game, at least not in its current form.
The first character the player takes control of in Jurassic Park: The Game is Nima Cruz (voiced by Nika Futterman), a professional smuggler hired by InGen rival BioSyn to retrieve Dennis Nedry’s Barbasol can. When Nedry doesn’t turn up at the docks as planned, Nima must venture into the heart of Jurassic Park – unaware of its true nature – alongside slimy BioSyn employee Miles Chadwick.
Meanwhile, InGen’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Gerry Harding (voiced by Jon Curry) is finally getting to spend some quality time with his troublesome daughter Jess (voiced by Heather Hudson) as she visits the island. Gerry was shown briefly in the original film – he was played by Gerald R. Molen, who produced both Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park – but his likeness isn’t used here and the character looks and acts completely differently.
William ‘Billy’ Yoder (voiced by Jason Marsden) isn’t introduced until Episode 2 of the game, but he is also one of the main characters that the player controls alongside Nima, Gerry and Jess. Billy is a wisecracking mercenary soldier sent into Jurassic Park by InGen during the Isla Nublar Incident to evacuate any survivors that have been left behind. Occasionally the game will allow the player to influence the behaviour of a supporting character – such as Billy’s fellow soldier Oscar Morales, or former animal-rights activist turned InGen scientist Dr. Laura Sorkin – but mostly the action sticks with these four main characters.
The locations visited are vast and varied, offering a mixture of classic locations such as the Visitor Center and Nedry’s mud-stuck car, alongside new locations such as a Geothermal Power Plant and a Marine Facility. When not engaged in QTEs, the player takes control of multiple characters and uses them to explore the environment and solve simple puzzles. Rather than moving the characters directly, the player moves the actual camera to pan around a location and find interactive hotspots. The player can also switch screens – and by doing so will often change character – by selecting from a DVD-style menu that shows all available locations within the current environment.
These exploration sequences work well and the puzzles, although fairly easy, are well put together and fit smoothly into the game without breaking the otherwise breakneck pacing. One such sequence sees Nima figuring out exactly what happened to Dennis Nedry and then tracking down his Barbasol can at the scene of the crime – which just feels awesome.
Another has Gerry working in conjunction with his daughter Jess to get a baby Triceratops back into its pen. For example, Jess can turn on the headlights of the jeep. This then makes the triceratops back down, allowing Gerry to grab the leafy branch it was eating and lure it back into its pen. It is a shame that there aren’t more of these sequences throughout the game’s four episodes – they fit much more snugly into the traditional definition of ‘gameplay’ than QTEs ever will.
QTEs. If you hated Heavy Rain, Jurassic Park: The Game certainly isn’t going to change your mind about them. Fans of Telltale’s previous adventure games may never come round to this new style of gameplay and that is totally understandable. However, I do consider QTEs to be a valid form of gameplay and in Jurassic Park: The Game, they work extremely well. One QTE in particular springs to mind – Nima is suddenly faced with multiple Dilophosaurus as her partner in crime Miles absolutely freaks out.
Nima can say several things to Miles to shut him up by using the new conversation wheel, before the QTEs kick in and she has to fight for her life, dodging venomous spit and desperately trying to start Nedry’s damaged jeep. Regardless of your position on the use of QTEs, the action sequences in Jurassic Park: The Game are truly heart-pounding and the spectacular death animations make failure only a minor setback. At one point Gerry shoots round after round of tranquiliser darts into the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the QTEs are so well implemented that you actually feel like you are reloading the rifle and pulling the trigger. When everything comes together during a QTE, the immersion is immense.
The Telltale Engine is pushed to the absolute limit in Jurassic Park: The Game and, although some parts can look a little rough at times, the graphics shine where it counts – the lighting effects in particular look great. The dinosaurs are perfectly animated, making Back To The Future: The Game look rather stiff by comparison. The Velociraptors in particular look fantastic, with the Tyrannosaurus Rex moving exactly like you remember from the first film – it’s supposed to be the exact same dinosaur after all. There are also several new dinosaurs introduced and their inclusion is both plausible and exciting. It actually feels like these are living, breathing creatures on a real tropical island, especially when you hear the sound effects which have been taken directly from the films.
The biggest surprise is just how engaging the human characters are. The storyline is admittedly a series of action sequences strung together – much like the films – but the characters within them are well-written and carefully developed. You grow to genuinely care about each of them and their struggle to escape the island is truly engaging. None of the characters are two dimensional and it’s refreshing to have the lines blurred between the good guys and the bad guys.
Even the supporting characters are strong – Billy’s comrade Oscar Morales is a gentle giant who at one point takes on a Velociraptor with only a knife and his wits… and it doesn’t even feel remotely farfetched. The final episode heart-to-heart between Nima and Gerry is beautiful and touching, uncovering a darker side to John Hammond that is much more inline with his portrayal in the books. I was fully aware during this moment that I was simply pressing buttons to progress – but I was so emotionally involved by that point that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed Jurassic Park: The Game as both a fan of Jurassic Park (the films and books) and the adventure game genre, there were several aspects that sadly proved disappointing. There is a noticeable bug near the beginning of Episode 1 which results in dialogue repeating twice throughout a certain scene with Gerry and his daughter Jess, providing a negative first impression. There are also some noticeable audio glitches throughout, that thankfully aren’t overwhelming but still detract from the otherwise stellar voice acting. Finally, the game doesn’t control very well with the keyboard and mouse. I ended up using an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller For Windows and I suggest you do too – just make sure to turn it on before launching the game. Using an Xbox 360 Controller for Windows (of the wired or wireless variety) will make all of the prompts shown during the game match the gamepad buttons.
It’s a shame that surrounding the launch of Jurassic Park: The Game there has been much controversy. In recent weeks, Telltale Games have been accused of damaging a Jurassic Park Jeep replica and having staff members post unorthodox perfect 10 review scores on Metacritic. There has also been an overwhelming amount of negative reviews posted for this game. I must confess that I’m surprised and deeply saddened by this – in my opinion, to claim that Telltale Games have done anything less than exemplary work with the Jurassic Park license would feel like an outright lie.
You can tell that Telltale are huge fans of the films by simply pausing to soak in the little details. The soundtrack by Jared Emerson-Johnson intersects beautifully with the original score. Minor mistakes from the original film have also been addressed, such as the live-link to the dock having a video status bar underneath, or the Velociraptors being far bigger than they were in real life. Heavy Rain was a far more technically polished game, but in the end, Jurassic Park: The Game tells a much more satisfying story. If you hate QTEs, by all means steer clear. Everyone else should be able to look past the occasional glitch and the lack of difficulty to enjoy what is undoubtedly the best Jurassic Park game ever made, yet no doubt destined to become the most underrated.
9.5 OUT OF 10