LICENSE TO THRILL?: Jurassic Park: The Game (2011)

Andy treks to Isla Nublar and has a dino crisis with Telltale’s brilliant adaptation of the Spielberg classic. 

Who made it?: Telltale Games (Developer/Publisher), Kalypso Media (PC Publisher).

Genre: Point-and-click Adventure/Role-Playing.

Platforms: Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, iOS, PlayStation Network, Xbox 360.

Format: DVD, Download.

Released: November 16, 2011 (UK).

Jurassic Park was a PG adaptation of the more visceral R-rated novel by Michael Crichton. While many directors and writers would fail to bring such an intelligent, visceral and action-packed novel like Jurassic Park to a family audience, Steven Spielberg and David Keopp managed to do just that (although, Koepp did have some help from Chrichton himself). Undoubtedly, the film was ground-breaking in the visual effects department. Never before had a film represented dinosaurs as animals, and never with so much realism. It mixed extremely lifelike animatronic puppets (it was said the mechanical T-Rex could bite a man in half with his hydraulic power), good old-fashioned men in costumes, and then-nascent CGI. So much so that when post-production duties were handed over to Steven’s buddy, George Lucas, he decided to start production on the Star Wars prequels. Proof that every silver cloud has a very dark lining.

Of course, with the success of Jurassic Park came a long line of sequels and videogames. They don’t hold up nearly as well, despite a great sequel novel written especially for Mr. Spielberg (nothing but some names and a few loose scenes were taken from Crichton’s book for The Lost World: Jurassic Park). All of the videogame sequels took the obvious route – action. Mainly the focus was around playing a human and your objective was to shoot dinosaurs. Sometimes, they mixed it up with you playing the dinos and killing humans. But none of them really focused on what made the original film so great: The story and the characters you cared about, and the bastards you loved to hate. Spielberg knew that, while the prehistoric beasts will get you in the cinema, it was the human story that separated his film from every other CGI piece of shit in Hollywood.

In 2011, Telletale and Universal brokered a deal to bring Back to the Future and Jurassic Park into the videogame realm once again. Unlike most tie-ins, they took the time and effort to really delve deep into what made the films so great. Telltale is a games company that tries to focus on story elements (it’s in the name, really) with simplified point-and click-gameplay. Jurassic Park: The Game is a Heavy Rain-inspired QTE (Quick Time Event) game which acts more like an interactive film than a button-basher per se, even though a lot of people hate QTE’s, point-and-clickers, and Heavy Rain. I appreciate at least two of those if done well, and  Jurassic Park: The Game does them very well.

The story is set during and after the events of the 1993 film, exploring things from different perspectives and bringing a huge backstory to the island. It even brings up the fate of the infamous Barbrasol can and merges some parts of the novel with the film. In fact, this game is officially canon with the films, so if you‘re a Jurassic Park nerd, you’ll be in heaven.

We begin our journey in the middle of the action with one of the main characters, Nima, running away with Barbrasol can in hand from a new and terrifying dinosaur which can cause hallucinations. This is before she falls off a cliff and staggers right into oncoming headlights. The QTEs are reasonably easy here and get you used to the gameplay, but not easy enough for it to be a pleasant stroll through the park. We continue the story several hours before the arrival of Dr. Grant and co., following our mysteriously clean-shaven, less-podgy veterinarian from the film – Gerry Harding and one of his daughters, Jess (the other indicated to be Sarah from The Lost World, just like the novel). From here, you will you’ll meet up with Nima and, when rescue does come, you’ll meet mercs Billy and Oscar alongside scientist Laura Sorkin. All of these characters are thrown in the meat grinder and forced to fight to stay alive.

With Jurassic Park, you will experience the serene tranquil side of the park and areas never before seen, with non-stop suspense-driven set-pieces in the vein of what the film had to offer. This includes being in the middle of a battle between a T-Rex and a Triceratops, fighting a Velociraptor with a goddamn buck knife (now that is awesome right there), and scuba diving in an underwater pool whilst being stalked by an extremely large predator reminiscent of moments from Jaws. In fact it is the most intense stage of a game I have played in a long time. Laced between the tranquil and not-so-tranquil moments are touching human beats between characters treated with respect, and in a way are far more mature than how the original film dealt with such matters. Bits like these just make your purchase absolutely worth it.

So what about the dinosaurs? They are authentic to the original film, and rebuilt with careful attention to detail including authentic sounds from the motion picture. Breeds that only got a brief appearance, such as a Dilophosaurus, take a much more prominent role. Not only that but we get a few new ones, one of them being so badass that even Raptors would avoid them at all costs – Troodon. These psychotic bastards were secretly bred without permission of John Hammond or Doctor Henry Wu. These terrors were made from 100% dino DNA and they’re horrifying. One scene is so disgusting (though cleverly left to your imagination) that you almost want to squirm and vomit. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say the new villain takes notes from the Tarantula Hawk.

Gameplay-wise, things are very simple. You’ll get QTEs during a scene which Telltale are very good at, especially during stealth missions where you have to be as quiet as possible. Unlike most QTEs, it feels very natural and rewarding, and if you screw up it isn’t always an instant death as the game sets-up a medal system which gives you a certain amount of tries before game over. Other parts involve exploration and puzzle-solving, looking for clues around your environment, and even dialogue choices and how you treat others. You can be as rude, obnoxious, or kind and courteous as you like during your time, but remember that selfishness is rarely rewarded in Jurassic Park’s universe. This brings me swiftly on to the most enjoyable parts – the death scenes. This game has so many deaths and all of them delightfully, gorgeously violent. Unfortunately, this isn’t even a PG-13 so blood is notably absent, and the screen goes red upon death – a choice that puts a small wet blanket on the experience. But at least these scenes make it rewarding when you screw up, and some even offer alternate endings to the game. But what that says about my psyche is another thing entirely.

Voice-acting, camera angles and scripting are all in-keeping with not only Jurassic Park but shots from Spielberg’s work as a whole, which have been replicated down to the angle and lens. Authentic early 90s pop-culture references are used sparingly, and every character is extremely enjoyable including the antagonist. While the graphics aren’t great, the art style is consistent and still gives one the feel of watching what should have been the sequel to Jurassic Park.

The only nitpick I have with this game is the fact the Tyrannosaurus is over-used. According to the map of the film’s island, a Baryonx was also on the rock, and it’d be nice to take a twist to audience expectations. Still, I forgave this bugbear simply because the rest of the game is a delight to experience. Jurassic Park: The Game is a must-play for any true fan, but those who only play games where you shoot people or jump on enemy heads may get frustrated. To me, this is proof that the point-and-click genre is still relevant.

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