Jurassic Park finally got the sequel everyone wanted and expected. But it didn’t actually take a movie for it to happen, but Jurassic Park: The Game instead. This doesn’t mean fans don’t love either The Lost World or Jurassic Park 3 (or both, or neither), but neither one of those sequels were what fans expected to see after enjoying the first film. In a way we have Michael Crichton to blame for this, because his second novel went in a direction I don’t think anyone saw coming with the “second island” Isla Sorna plot. Even in the BluRay bonus feature documentary of the films, Steven Spielberg himself said that he had a sustained shot on the Barbasol can because he thought that would have been the catalyst for the next sequel. It never happened.
Now it finally has.
I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park. I can accurately say it has shaped who I am today, for better or for worse. Without going into a life story, let’s just say I saw the first film when it came out in 1993 when I was about 6 years old. It traumatized me after I first saw it, and oddly enough, after a couple of days, I for some reason begged my parents to let me see it again. I was obsessed ever since. It opened my world to dinosaurs, films, film music, science, technology, and oddly enough, life lessons (read the novels in addition to the films if you don’t believe you can take a lot of life lessons from the series). I can even say my personality is a bit inspired by it all.
The game fills a void with all fans of the series by finally answering that age-old question: what the hell happened to the Barbasol can? Sure, you could always assume after a day or so the coolant inside ran out entirely rendering the embryos inside useless. Or you could take in the amusing approach from the semi-famous parody Jurassic People. But we all like to have some kind of an official answer. Now we got one. And it is the approach the game has made that made it such an amazing idea: a side-along story to the first film that takes place during and directly after it’s events. During the course of it, you encounter many new characters with plenty of references to familiar ones. The same goes for various locations and other nods as well, that are so well-done at times that it makes any diehard fan’s heart almost die from excitement. There are little things to be found that are deeply treasured that really add to the experience. Although the game is primarily only based on the film lore, there are some elements from the novels that sneak their way in that made me even more happy (I feel that many fans of the films disregard the novels far too often, which is really ironic, backwards, and amusingly insulting).
The strongest points of the game are clearly the level designs, characters, and story. The way it all connects and interacts with one another is spot-on and make for a truly engaging experience. The story fits like a glove with the first film so well that I truly bought the whole thing. I really felt like I was experiencing something within Jurassic Park, and not just something “loosely inspired” by it. Every location in each episode was very well designed with just the right amount of exploration and cinematic tone. The use of the camera lens and angles was really impressive. The characters and their expressions from the mocap were very good and helped engage the performance with the superb dialogue aided by the actors renditions. And who can forget the dinosaurs? Each one featured in the game had a shining moment delivered. The two new additions in the game, while I was concerned at first, I really thought they were brought about in the best way, with terrific designs in appearance and sound especially. The music was a fun banter with John Williams famous themes and motifs (including brief references to certain tracks that have never had reproductions in any of the other films or games that I was delighted to hear). There are even some new themes by Jared that I also liked. I am disappointed, however, that the deluxe edition of the game didn’t include all of these occurrences of the Williams material, among many other standout tracks heard in the game, but due to licensing and copyrights I understand why. Williams fans, however, may not be huge fans of the music due to a more synth approach taken here. I admit that I wish the game had a bigger orchestra sound (something more in tune to the score in Trespasser, for example), but with the given limitations to the style of music done here, I think it was very well done.
Speaking of disappointments, I can’t help but point out some more. No game (or film for that matter) is truly perfect, and here is no exception. In playing the PC version, I was surprised by some of the bugs that occurred. Disappearing mouse during gameplay, slow frame rates at times, game not being able to be opened sometimes unless you use the Windows task manager to close the previous session, etc. These are problems I didn’t expect to exist at this point, but maybe they can be remedied with a patch or something. I also was sometimes not a fan of the controls at times, with some button prompts not even working. Luckily, you can proceed all the way through the game even with these problems at hand (although it certainly takes more work than it should because of it). In terms of fan disappointments, I also think that there were opportunities that weren’t explored that should have been. I really, really wanted to see the jungle river cruise (as in the novel and popular theme park ride at Universal Studios) take place in the game in some form. I wanted to explore more of the film’s actual locations as well. The first episode did this perfectly, but I felt the remaining episodes focused too much on showing us the parts of the island that we didn’t see in the film. While it was really fun and interesting to explore those aspects, I felt the game really should have went back to the familiar locations more. I wanted to really explore parts of the Visitor Center we only got glimpses of in the film. I wanted to actually take a tour in the tour vehicle in some way. I wanted to let the raptor out of the freezer by mistake in the kitchen! It’s interesting to note that after watching the commentary videos, some of these ideas actually were once imagined to be in the game, but cut either due to time or expense.
With fan criticism aside, it’s quite telling that my biggest problem with the game was that I simply wanted MORE. For that to be the biggest problem, it is quite a compliment to the creators of the game. I was so pleased with what was going on that I simply wanted more of it. I keep forgetting, however, that Telltale is not a big budget studio. From watching the commentary videos, however, they really did everything they could to deliver a game that they themselves wanted to see as fans of the films. No one seemed simply “hired” as their role, they really were there for the right reasons and put in their best effort. I was surprised at how engaged I got with the characters and how likeable they all were. Even though some ended up bad, or even annoying, they were done so in a way that was fully aware and usually had an arc that really made it fulfilled. And the climax? It was really thrilling in terms of dinosaur carnage and intensity, and the resolution (or at least, the correct resolution) was really pleasing. But I didn’t want it to end when it did. I still wanted more!
I think this leads to me with one other gripe I had… the fact that this was called Jurassic Park- The Game. Now there have been Jurassic Park games before that really were “games”. Either typical platformer of the side-scrolling type, overhead gameplay, or even first-person shooter (the much underappreciated, although hugely flawed, Trespasser). But this new game doesn’t qualify as ANY of those. Actually, that isn’t entirely true if you count the Sega CD edition of Jurassic Park, that featured a storyline involving BioSyn, collecting eggs, an inventory of various items, some shooting elements, 360 degree locations, and even actual video footage. But this new game really is an interactive film, which is actually something I LOVE about it. I love that it has a fairly straight-forward story and consequences. I do wish that the exploration was a bit more wide-open, however. I also wish there were more interactive elements at times, like an inventory for example. I really expected there to be one since the awesome Back to the Future game Telltale did featured one. I feel that an inventory would have added to the appeal of the game and maybe given more of a variety to it, just like in the Sega CD version mentioned. But I can see that maybe by doing so it would have taken away from this film-like approach.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the title is misleading. And that’s what’s amusing. Telltale has been very clear from the beginning exactly what their game was going to be like: an interactive film-like experience. And that is exactly what they have delivered. This isn’t like what happened with Trespasser, with the designers of the game promising all these great features and only delivering a third of them, with very buggy results. These guys have really done a job well done. My problem is that this shouldn’t have been called a game, because for gamers I can see why they don’t like it. It isn’t a game for them. It’s a game for fans of the film as the main priority, which is truly wonderful. But I can see how that may be misleading to some. Perhaps they should have called it something else, like Jurassic Park: Return To Isla Nublar. Or even better, Jurassic Park: Interactive, although this title is kind of already taken by a much lesser game that came out when the film did. But now I guess this a mute argument since the damage is already done.
The last major thing that has to be noted are the deaths. I have never had so much fun dieing in a game before (although it is actually amusing to die in Trespasser since the game doesn’t actually end, you just fall to the ground and usually watch yourself get eaten for all eternity, I suppose). The deaths are so well-thought out, original, amusing, scary, and edgy that it creates it’s own in-game replay value. Has this ever been done before? I’m not too sure. But I’m glad it’s here in a Jurassic Park game!
Jurassic Park: The Game may not have been exactly how I wanted it to be, but it came really close. And that is a major compliment. I had big hopes for it, but had no idea which parts they would have delivered on correctly for me. There are many different types of Jurassic Park fans. Some that are film-centric. Some that are dinosaur-centric. Some that are novel-centric. But I’d like to think of myself as a more well-rounded fan that doesn’t really buy into just one canon or experience. I believe all of it should be respected and explored and included in as possible explanations for things you want answered. And this game really delivers in that department as well. I think it will be something that any type of fan will feel quite easy to accept in their mind. And if not, well I see that as a solitary issue. I myself am a fan of this game, and despite some imperfections, it is definitely the best Jurassic Park game the world has ever seen. Even though Telltale didn’t have the same budget as the latest Zelda or Lego Harry Potter, it gave it’s audience just as much of a thrill and with just as much respect, if not more. They really did spare no expense.
Some Spoiler Notes: