Jurassic Park: The Game Review
Telltale Games usually delivers a solid, entertaining experience that has often allowed us to enjoy our favorite movies in different ways. The studio’s most recent effort was the episodic Back to the Future series, which worked out well. But when it comes to something as massive and epic as “Jurassic Park,” I just think we need a full-budget, no-holds-barred production. Trying to capture the awesome size and scope of the classic movie is too difficult when utilizing a downloadable format.
There has never been anything particularly special about the graphics in Telltale’s titles, although many feature great design and decent character modeling. Jurassic Park: The Game is no different but this time, it feels like the drawbacks are more prominent. The animations aren’t exactly super fluid, and the textures and details don’t always pass close-up inspections. Some of it is really nice and there’s plenty too see and enjoy, but I never really felt like I was part of Jurassic Park.
In terms of audio, the voice acting is pretty good even if the writing is questionable. That excellent and highly recognizable soundtrack helps boost the sound but unfortunately, the music doesn’t play a big enough part. This is one feature that cemented the movie-going experience and really should’ve been emphasized in the game. It’s there – oh, I can recognize that gloriously blaring brass – but we just needed more of it. The effects are all right; nothing to write home about but acceptable.
Chances are, you’ve seen the movie. You’ve probably seen more than one of the movies. But Jurassic Park: The Game doesn’t steal the storyline from any of them; this narrative is a follow-up to the events in the original film (but it’s nothing like “Jurassic Park 2”). Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) doesn’t make his delivery of dinosaur embryos, so his employers send a female mercenary to get that lost can of Barbasol. And by the way, the dinosaurs are still running amok.
The gameplay feels a little disjointed and our immersion suffers. Basically, instead of just taking control of one main characters and solving puzzles (the hallmark of Telltale productions), you actually control every character involved depending on the situation. So you move the camera around, checking out your environment with each character, and trying to progress in the adventure. It’s intriguing and often inspired but it just lacks any sense of pacing. And the characters are just too faceless for me to care about.
You’ve got a standard group of allies besides the aforementioned mercenary and really, you don’t know anything about them. That’s a big problem because if I’m going to take control of each character, I’m going to lose interest fast if they’re all just pawns with no personalities. And I mean, moving the camera around (you’ve got a magnifying glass to spot clues) and engaging in a few QTEs really doesn’t cut the mustard in this case. I don’t want to fight dinosaurs with QTEs. I just don’t.
Then there are the uneven animations and frame rate, and a few lingering technical problems that mar the overall presentation. There are many aspects of the gameplay that are both rewarding and fulfilling, and I always enjoy the occasional ponderous adventure game. I have all the patience in the world for such a title, which is why I usually like Telltale’s stuff. But this time, we’re talking about “Jurassic Park;” it carries with it a sense of sweeping awe and fear and survival and amazement. This game just doesn’t do enough to encapsulate the essence of the movie.
Besides that, the puzzles aren’t all that hard. Some of them can be a little frustrating but for the most part, nobody is going to be terribly stumped. That’s okay – accessibility goes up with easier puzzles – but eventually, you just start to get bored. If the puzzles had been a little more challenging and diverse, they would’ve been more of a diversion; you wouldn’t have cared as much about the lack of a compelling story, an immersive environment, or ho-hum technical elements.
But unfortunately, the whole game trips and stumbles. The puzzles can be fun, control isn’t bad, some of the story elements are decent, and the sound is better than average, but that’s not enough. The animations and graphics aren’t up to snuff, those puzzles are often too easy and even boring, and above all else the incredible spirit that drew so many to the movie theater is missing. I just don’t think you can make a worthwhile “Jurassic Park” production on such a small scale. It doesn’t fit.
The Good: Some intriguing puzzles. Decent design. Control is solid. Feeling of general satisfaction upon finding the solution.
The Bad: Technicals seem more lacking than usual (due to size and scope of the project). Immersion is low. Characters are faceless and story drags. Fighting dinosaurs via QTEs just isn’t fun.
The Ugly: “Who am I using now? …oh that’s right, I don’t care.”
11/28/2011 Ben Dutka