Game: Jurassic Park: The Game
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Year: 2011
Reviewed: 2013
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure / Interactive Movie
Game Version: Steam
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

Telltale are basically becoming the people to go to for licensed adventure games, with the impressive revivals of Sam & Max and Monkey Island and competent adaptations of Wallace & Gromit and Back to the Future under their belts. A Jurassic Park game seemed an ideal next project. I guess they can’t always get it right.

The game is plagued with problems from the start. The highest graphical setting adds a depth of field effect which is completely bugged. Running the game at this level causes everything to freeze up every few seconds making the action hard to follow and rendering the game basically unplayable. Dropping the graphics down a level was the only solution I could find. The game doesn’t exactly look great anyway, and this was on a computer capable of running everything from Crysis 1 and 2 to Skyrim at top settings with no slowdown, so it’s definitely a game issue, and one that a Google search shows to be widely reported yet which hasn’t been fixed.

Jurassic Park Lighter
No thanks, I don't smoke.

With that sorted out, a few minutes into the game another serious problem occurs. The game switches between barely interactive movie sequences and basic traditional adventure game style scenes. If using keyboard and mouse controls, the mouse cursor only appears during the adventure sections, but if you bring up the main menu during one of these, the cursor occasionally vanishes and doesn’t come back. You have to quit the entire game, losing all progress since the last checkpoint, to get it working again. Again, this has been widely reported yet hasn’t been fixed. Using a gamepad would eliminate the problem of the cursor disappearing. Even this is a problem though, since when I changed the settings to gamepad it just didn’t work at all despite the fact that I had the pad plugged in and set up already. It’s hugely disappointing that Telltale hasn’t seen fit to fix any of these serious issues with the game.

The majority of the time Jurassic Park is more of an interactive movie than a game, though I use the word interactive in a very loose sense. It’s another use of the dreaded Quick Time Event. As you watch certain scenes, arrows pop up that you have to press in order so that certain actions occur, which can be anything from dodging dinosaurs to reloading a gun. Jurassic Park is clearly inspired by the games of David Cage such as Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain. Where it fails is in taking the worst features of those games (i.e. the aforementioned QTEs) and implementing them in a worse way, while missing out on everything that made the Quantic Dreams games work.

For the QTEs in this game, arrows flash up on screen and you have to press them, as usual. If there is a sequence of presses you need to do then rather than display them as a sequence they’re basically stacked on top of each other. The arrow will appear with a number of rings around it which represent the number of moves there will be in the sequence. Hitting the first arrow removes a ring and brings up the next key in the sequence. It sounds like a minor difference but the difference it makes in reaction time is enough to make it frustrating. It ends up becoming an exercise in remembering the sequence so you can get it right next time. I also didn’t notice anywhere that explained this in the game, and sometimes the same key will appear twice in a row, so for a while I thought it wasn’t registering my key presses since nothing appeared to be happening. Thankfully, these more frantic sections are fairly short and most of the time you’ll just be watching. The times where you just have to hammer at a button as fast as possible are just irritating however.

Jurassic Park Underwater
The keys don't always relate much to the action on screen. Hammer the down arrow to swim?

The other aspect to gameplay is the more traditional adventure game scenes, but they’re very basic. Usually you’re limited to about two or three highlighted hotspots and simply clicking on everything will move things on. Occasionally there’s a simple puzzle but never anything that’s going to challenge you much. Sometimes they’re at least slightly interesting, such as working out your location in a tunnel system by examining a blueprint of the layout and comparing it to your surroundings, but usually they’ve just arbitrary obstacles in your way that won’t hold you up for more than a minute or two. The worst offender here is a puzzle involving rotating sections of track in order to get roller coaster carts into the correct sequence, which just feels like blatant padding out what is otherwise a very short experience.

If you’ve glanced at the score at the end of the review, you may be wondering how the game didn’t get an even worse score than it has given all this criticism. The game is obviously strongly story based, and the story isn’t all that bad. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a reasonable addition to the Jurassic Park series. The plot runs parallel to the events of the first film and uses Nedry’s shaving can containing dinosaur embryos as a MacGuffin. At various times you’ll follow a mysterious woman who has infiltrated the island, a vet and his visiting daughter trapped as the original film’s incident occurs and a team of mercenaries sent in by InGen to rescue survivors. Later in the game they all meet up along with a scientist from the park. They all have their own reasons and motivations for what they’re doing and are all distinct, though they often don’t rise about standard stereotypes. There’s the separated father looking after the child who usually lives with her mother (seemingly a compulsory character in every disaster movie of the last 10 years or so), the scientist who prizes their work above all else, the tough macho mercenary and the smug irritating mercenary who thinks he’s charming and funny. There are some good moments despite this and the characters do flesh out more later on in the game. Amongst all the action scenes, which are actually quite well done, there are some more thoughtful and unusual moments. For example, at one point two of the characters get into a debate about the ethics of the “lysine contingency” that was used to keep the dependent on the supply of lysine on the island and prevent them from surviving away from it. The player gets to choose the dialogue options to control both sides of the argument. It’s an unusual feature and a more intelligent one than you’d expect from the rest of the game. It’s a shame there wasn’t more like this.

Jurassic Park T-Rex
This seems a safe place to have a shave.

The game even makes reference to the various liberties the film took with the dinosaurs, such as the fact that the velociraptors are far too big. Here, these inconsistencies are explained away as a result of the amphibian DNA used to complete the dinosaur DNA making the dinosaurs historically (or prehistorically) inaccurate. It’s basically a get out of jail free card for them to do whatever they want with the dinosaurs.

The game also minimises the impact of its flaws in some ways. The quick time events may not be perfect but they tend to be used in short bursts and the game checkpoints regularly during these. Another nice feature is that if you fail at the same moment twice, the next attempt will be made easier with less key presses required so that the game keeps moving. You’re never likely to be stuck for more than a couple of minutes.

The main problem with the game is that despite the story being decent, it nearly always feels like you’re watching a film that stops and makes you press a button occasionally before it will carry on. Other than one moment very near the end of the game, there are no decisions you can make that affect the game in any way. Even that one choice you do get is a fairly obvious good/bad decision. The only differences you’ll get elsewhere are missing a key during a QTE and watching the characters die. Sometimes anyway. Other times, missing the key will just cause the character to stumble slightly and then carry on anyway, harming only your ranking. (You get a medal for each segment of the game. It starts gold and drops in ranking with each mistake you make.) Other times, you’ll get everything perfectly timed and someone will die anyway because that’s how the plot has been written. It’s quite irritating to do something right and for the game to flash up a gold medal of congratulations as a pack of velociraptors chomps down on your former companion’s remains.

Jurassic Park Safety Sign
Well, that's comforting.

Jurassic Park just about gets by on the strength of its story and cinematic action but it’s disappointing that this is basically all it has. I’m not going to criticise it for not being a “game” like some have, because I think that sort of attitude that everything has to follow certain game conventions does nothing but hold back the medium. But there does need to be some reason why it was made in an interactive format rather than as a film, which is what this seems to want to be. Games like Fahrenheit which are clear influences have a similar lack of traditional game elements, but they get by because they give you decisions that alter the course of events, or at the very least they give you the illusion of such. Other story-based games such as Dreamfall may have a linear plot but put you in full control of the characters so that you feel involved in the story. Jurassic Park just makes you watch.

If you’re a big fan of the Jurassic Park films then you may well get some enjoyment from this as another instalment in the story. For everyone else, there’s little to recommend. It just doesn’t do enough, especially considering the bugs which were never fixed. Failing to patch these is completely unacceptable. This, along with the fact that some Telltale employees were found to be posting 10/10 reviews of their own game, has made me lose a lot of the trust I had in Telltale as a company. Hopefully they’ll do something to redeem themselves in future. For now, this game is playable but just not good enough.

Save System Review: Regular checkpoints, though very occasionally you’ll have to replay (or rather re-watch) a couple of minutes of game.
Graphics: Decent but unspectacular. The engine is a lot more suitable for cartoon styled games that the more realistic graphics of Jurassic Park.
Sound: Competent voice acting for the most part and the sound effects are brilliant. Music is good too and it even uses the theme from the film.
Bugs: Too many to list here but they’re all mentioned up in the main article.
Gameplay: Very poor. Simplistic adventure scenes and badly done quick time events when you’re not just watching non-interactive sequences.
Storyline: A reasonable addition to the Jurassic Park series. Not the greatest story around but entertaining and enough to keep you playing once you’ve got an episode or so into it.

Arbitrary Final Score: 1.5 stars

If you like this, you might also like: Fahrenheit, Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead

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