LEGO Jurassic World Review
Developer Traveller's Tales has a history of taking the world's most iconic film franchises and "LEGO-fying" them. We've seen everything from "Star Wars" to "Batman" to "Indiana Jones" and now, the successful team takes a whack at Jurassic Park. Dubbed LEGO Jurassic World in honor of the freshly released movie, the latest LEGO effort features all four movies in the series, with all your favorite characters and dinosaurs to boot. It also features a more open environment (what game doesn't these days?) and one huge twist: The ability to assume the role of a dinosaur. This has its ups and downs, though, and over all, I'd say this isn't the strongest LEGO effort I've played. But it's still fun.
I suppose I expected more from the graphics simply because we're in a new generation. Maybe I'm already spoiled by some truly amazing works of art, without acknowledging that the LEGO interactive adventures aren't really about eye-popping visuals. Really, the overall design of LEGO Jurassic World is quite good and only Traveller's Tales can make a Tyrannosaurus Rex seem cute. There's no doubt that this new effort has that wonderful charm and charisma we know so well, and I'm not about to say otherwise. I guess I just wanted a bit more, perhaps because the movies in question are always loaded with bombastic set pieces. This just feels a little light.
As for the sound, I was all prepared to give this category a higher score during the first few hours of play. Then I started to realize that I was hearing the same theme song over and over and over. The open-world portions play the theme song of whichever movie you happen to be in, which is authentic and nostalgic, but you can't keep looping the same damn song no matter how good it is. It's not any different from previous LEGO adventures but when you spend that much more time in any given location, you need a more diverse score. The rest is fine; there's competent voice acting (yep, voices are included this time), those silly block-breaking sound effects, and a variety of ambient background effects that do the job.
Here we get "Jurassic Park," "The Lost World," "Jurassic Park III," and the new "Jurassic World." For dino fans, it's the ultimate pop culture assortment of the thunder lizards that ruled the earth millions of years ago. Of course, those fearsome beasts seem almost lovable in the world of LEGO, which has always been part of the franchise's appeal. Even so, it's not like they edit out the over-the-top action sequences for the sake of a younger audience; all your favorite scenes are here, but they're just...altered. Now, running from vicious man-eating creatures puts a smile on your face, and rightly so. In the colorful, family-friendly world of LEGO, there are no dismemberments. There's not even any blood.
No, this world is for anyone who enjoys a happy-go-lucky ride through a recognizable setting. It does really help that this time, we get voice recordings for the characters, which brings this exotic, dangerous world to life. Toss in those classic one-liners we so often hear in LEGO games and a bunch of roaring dinosaurs - which isn't even remotely frightening - and you've got an immersive, sometimes captivating game. The gameplay isn't entirely dissimilar to previous installments; you move through the vibrant backgrounds, smashing just about everything in sight and collecting blocks. That's a form of currency, which can be used to purchase new characters and vehicles and if you're dedicated, you could earn the True Survivor label for grabbing all the LEGO pieces in any given level.
There are lots of characters, each of whom has his or her own special ability. For example, Dr. Alan Grant can assemble fossils into helpful structures, and Owen Grady can actually sneak past lurking dinosaurs. Players can switch back and for the between available characters, which is sometimes necessary if you wish to progress. As usual, these games encourage you to play with a buddy, which makes them infinitely more enjoyable in my estimation. There's just something about venturing forth with a friend, smashing dinosaurs in the face in a fun-loving way. Besides, it gets a little tedious having to switch between characters all the time. In other words, while you can certainly play LEGO Jurassic World all by your lonesome, co-op is still where it's at.
Each level is bigger than you might think and you do have access to a bunch of different vehicles. This makes traversing the landscape a little easier. Once you've completed the story for a certain area, you can then select the Freeplay option, which lets you roam about at will. That's when you can use any unlocked character and any unlocked vehicle and explore to your heart's content, possibly snagging any missed LEGO pieces and other treasures. As you might expect, given the sheer size of these new areas, there are lots of side-missions to attempt. There just isn't enough variety here; you're always helping a sick dinosaur, saving a trapped human, or smacking dinosaurs round. They could've been a lot more creative, I think.
The biggest shake-up is obvious: We get to play as dinosaurs. This turns the standard formula on its head and for the most part, it works. Each dinosaur has a special set of strengths - the velociraptor can pull levers and help locate treasures via scent tracking, for instance - and unlocked dinos can even be customized (cosmetically, anyway). Romping around with a favorite dinosaur is great fun and we get to experiment with a lot of powerful lizards. Yes, the Dilophosaurus spits nasty venom, so go easy with that dude. The only problem with this whole idea is that for some reason, the dinosaurs don't get along with the environment. There are just way too many bugs that pop up when running around with certain dinosaurs.
It's disappointing, too. I shouldn't be flying through trees and fences. I shouldn't be worried about getting stuck somewhere all the time. The collision detection for these dinos is just awful and that really puts a damper on what is otherwise a jolly fun experience. The worst part is that playing as dinosaurs is what separates this LEGO game from the rest of the pack. The fact that it's severely compromised really drags down the fun factor; you shouldn't be waiting for the game to break. You should be running around, unafraid and unassuming. I'm usually okay with any of the human characters but when it came to using the dinos, it was always like playing Russian Roulette with the game's technical ability. And that's no good.
Overall, LEGO Jurassic World is an entertaining game that is large in scope and high in fun factor. If you're a fan of the "Jurassic Park" movies and you've got kids (or you're just a big kid yourself), this is a definite must-try. Playing co-op is always the best option but even playing alone will put a smile on your face. It's just unfortunate that the game has more problems than you'd typically find in a LEGO adventure, and even more unfortunate that it's biggest drawback is also it's biggest benefit: Playing as a dinosaur is by far the coolest element of the game, but it's also the one part of the game that is most liable to break. Otherwise, everything is just about as it should be and fans of the series will likely be satisfied.
The Good: Fearsome dinos transformed into adorable beasts. "LEGO-fying" the Jurassic Park concept doesn't mean we lose the action sequences. Playing as dinosaurs is a great twist on a standard formula. Co-op is once again a big highlight. The entire Jurassic saga is here.
The Bad: Repetitive soundtrack. Uninspired side missions. Very buggy when controlling those tempting dinosaurs.
The Ugly: "LEGO games are never ugly and can never be ugly."
6/20/2015 Ben Dutka