Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jurassic Park: The Game review

    It's interesting to see the transitional step from Telltale's early efforts (Jurassic Park, Back to the Future) to their mature efforts (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Tales from the Borderlands). Jurassic Park: The Game feels like a Freshman effort from the now-seasoned developers. There's a lot of rough edges in this game but thanks to my deciding to play through the Xbox 360 games I've missed over the years, I finally picked this one up as the final one of my last generation console playthroughs.

    The premise is a multi-part story taking place during the original Jurassic Park movie's time period and incorporating elements from the original Michael Crichton book. Doctor Gerry Harding, zookeeper at Jurassic Park visiting with his estranged daughter Sarah. Meanwhile, a mercenary named Nima has been hired by the Biosyn corporation to recover the embryos stolen by Dennis Nedry should he fail on the job (which movie viewers know he does). Later, a group of mercenaries are dispatched by the InGen corporation in order to recover the survivors but their loyalties are tested due to the unusually high number of casualties they take as well as the allure of Biosyn money.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed facing these guys more than the T-Rex or Raptors.
    There's much to recommend in the game, such as the fact the writing manages to capture the Spielbergian family-friendly vibe which made the original movie so enjoyable. While Doctor Harding's relationship with his daughter tends to be stereotypical and Sarah is occasionally annoying, I genuinely wanted to see these two escape the island in one piece. I also found myself sympathetic to Nima's motivations once we discovered why she was working for Biosyn.

    Unfortunately, this is one of those cases where the gameplay is in direct conflict with the story. This is something Telltale usually doesn't have much problem with as their stories primarily depend on dialogue and moral choices. This isn't the case here as the majority of gameplay is quicktime events related to avoiding being eaten by dinosaurs. Worse, the game is damned hard.

Not that facing down the T-Rex wasn't fun.
    This isn't normally something to complain about in a video but is rather jarring due to the fact this is such a lighthearted adventure. The game seems to take a perverse delight in murdering Sarah and her father in the most horrifying manner's possible. During this game, I saw her eaten, stomped on, crushed to death, buried alive, and dropped in the middle of a canyon while she screamed for her father. It's kind of jarring if you wanted the same sort of experience you wanted in the movie.

    The game's age also means we don't get much from the sequels, which might as well not exist. There's no mention of Site B, the location of Jurassic World, which would have a major impact on at least one of the character's stories as she's desperate to prevent the dinosaurs from going extinct again. Knowing there's another island of dinosaurs out there, full of life, would have probably changed her attitude toward the island being bombed by the Costa Rican government.

I can't hate a game which allows you to feed a baby triceratops.
    The graphics are touch and go with the dinosaurs looking fine but the people looking squarely in the uncanny valley. I think the game would have benefited from a more stylized approach like the kind they took in later video games. If you can't afford photo-realistic animation then it's best to just make them look cartoons since no one dislikes cartoons.

    Oddly, I also have a paleontology complaint as the game introduces Troodons as the "apex murder monster" of the island to menace our heroes. Troodons are, notably, the most intelligent of all dinosaurs (albeit no smarter than your average house cat) and here they're treated as the creatures from Alien. Seriously, they even lay eggs in living humans.

Jurassic World actually paid homage to the game by including a Mosasaurus.
    Characterization-wise, most of them are quite likable. My favorite characters are Doctor Harding, Sarah, and Doctor Sorkin. No one turns in a bad performance but the game does have a tendency to make characters who are about to die into villains just before it happens. This is problematic because there's no real need for the game to have a villain. In Man vs. Nature, there's plenty of conflict without the need to give us a bad guy.

    In conclusion, my opinion is Jurassic Park: The Game is okay. Okay, but not great. I completed the game, which means it's above average but I almost didn't right this review because it wasn't exactly blowing me away either. It might be worth picking up if you're a big Jurassic Park fan or Telltale but it's not the best example of the franchise (even if it's better than two out of three sequels to the original movie).


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