Hello there folks. Terry here and welcome to the first of an irregular column called ‘Crossed Platform’. What with various TV shows and movies spilling over into other media more commonly than ever today, I thought it would be fun to have a look at see how iconic programmes and films we love fare in the video game and comic book world to name but a few. To kick us off with Jurassic World being released this week, I sat down with Jurassic Park: The Game from Telltale Games!
Telltale Games have carved out their own ludicrously successful niche of hoovering up numerous popular media licences and applying their own modern ‘point & click’ style of adventure episodic gaming to them. Whilst some of their more recent and popular titles like The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones have thrown in a ‘choose your own story’ style of gameplay, one of their biggest early licensed efforts in 2011’s Jurassic Park: The Game promised to tell stories around the events of the first movie with a tone fitting of that. However, having played through the whole game, the seemingly rushed and technically faulty presentation coupled with the agonising gameplay doesn’t make for an interesting dinosaur display in the park.
Set against the backdrop of the original film, Telltale’s Jurassic Park sees you play as multiple characters over four episodes as we explore new – and revisit old – areas of Isla Nublar, just as a series of events triggers a catastrophic failure of the reborn dinosaur themed safari park. As mercenary Nima Cruz sneaks onto the island to rendezvous with Dennis Nedry for his stolen InGen’s dinosaur embryos, background movie character Gerry Harding spends some time with his estranged daughter Jess as she’s visiting the park before it opens. As events unfold and our heroes meet up with more Park survivors, they need to pool their resources together if they’re going to escape from the dino-filled remains of the island.
Created using their own in-house Telltale Tool game engine, Jurassic Park suffers massively from the system not being perfected for this release. Whilst other games in their library have been praised from the innovative multi-narrative storytelling driving the search and investigate gameplay, here it comes across more as an interactive movie with no consequences from dying over & over (more on that in a moment), apart from irritation. You are given multiple screens to navigate around with a weirdly archaic selection process of moving to the next one via a split-screen as opposed to walking to and from. You can highlight objects to solve easy enough puzzles and characters will offer dialogue exchanges with others and sarcastic quips on needless useless items, before solving the puzzle, mystery or problem thrust in front of you prior to moving onto the next event in story. It feels rather mechanical, like the tour cars from the movie hooked onto rails with no forced wandering from the track as the game chugs on regardless of how the player will be going through the motions.
Forming most of the game furthering mechanics, the Quick Time Events (moments where you have to press a certain controller button, or combo of them, in time with the game’s asking) are relentlessly difficult, punishing and are un-fun to reattempt for the umpteenth time. There are ones here that will leave you jaw-droppingly angry. You will in all likelihood come within a hare’s distance from completing a series of them before the invisible timer runs out, forcing you to rewind events slightly before attempting again, making the whole endeavour somewhat pointless. In the right environment, the Q.T.E. can draw in a player and add some more immersion to proceedings. This is the complete opposite as most times you’ll feel like you’ll want to stop playing due to sheer frustration at the crazy difficulty in some of the button mashing timing requests. What’s worse, every chapter is broken down into a medal graded ranking (from Gold to nothing at all) and Jurassic Park comes across as intolerant if you haven’t done particularly well in Q.T.E.s, snubbing you before it gets on with itself.
I think much would be forgiven above if this game was at least competently made and presented, but it never comes across as that. Numerous weird little glitches and bugs where animations skip, characters slide instead of walk across screens & dialogue which starts again 2 seconds afterwards bring the quality down. Throw in a very bad case of sound mixing (with the original movie score exploding over roars and characters talking) and it definitely needed a patch or two to fix the problems in a shoddy final version for retail. Hell, some sounds and dialogue don’t even appear at times. I guess if they’ve paid for the music licence as well they’re going to make the best use out of it by drilling it into your psyche constantly. The near cel shaded cartoon-ish graphics aren’t terrible with decent details appearing on the dinosaurs. Oddly enough, whilst the original Jurassic Park movie was by no means a gore fest, it feels bizarre to play a game with numerous dinner times of dinosaurs chomping on humans and there to be absolutely zero blood. Half the fun in this game is dying either by intention or mistake and seeing the numerous death animations and with no blood, they all become comical and out of this world. Undoubtedly their Achilles’ heel, Telltale have developed a nasty habit of releasing games without quality control – or rather, not acting on advice from their testers to be more precise because there is credit given to them at the end. With the poor final product here with no patches (at least on my Playstation 3 copy) to make things bearable, the overall playing experience of Jurassic Park is like letting in Mr. & Mrs. Raptor in for tea whilst wearing your favourite fresh meat dress.
Despite a varied cast, the characters aren’t anything to shout about. Made up from stereotypes you’ve seen before, we are also treated to pastiches of characteristics we’ve seen before in the Jurassic Park franchise. Parent and child who have grown apart and now must conquer their relationship problems if they’re going to get off this island? Check. Scientist with dubious moral background for the greater good of science, when it would be wise to stick with the plan for the Dinos? Check. Shifty hispanic lady doing shifty stuff ‘for her people’? Check. Two guns-for-hire with a murky past sent in for a rescue mission? Check. There is some okay character development but it’s developments that are either not new, or mental when put against cold hard logic. Whilst there is some interesting ideas floated (duty of care to the dinosaurs after InGen revives them being key), there’s no real conclusion or final point made as the game decides to throw a chase or dino attack at you instead. Considering you’ll be spending about eight hours in their company, at least the familiarity bred doesn’t make our heroes completely impenetrable.
The biggest detriment is how this fails to capture the magic and mystique of the original Jurassic Park movie. The game attempts this sense of wonder as we get moments where we see our characters in amazement at the dinosaurs as real life creatures – only for it fall flat on it’s face with technical issues. Shame really, because what it goes for, goes further than say the third movie or the previews of Jurassic World. I don’t think there should be any doubt though that this does feel like a Jurassic Park game and there’s enough reinforcement of the story and moments to make it feel worthy of living up to those expectations… just about. The T-Rex makes it’s customary appearance in every bloody episode despite reaching it’s high point in episode one. From there, you get raptors and triceratops and a fleeting bit of hot pterodactyl action and… well you’ve seen it before. The new creatures come and go with next to no fanfare. Despite the fact that four episodes aren’t very long with a couple of hour dedicated to each one, I felt myself flagging over the numerous human reunions, splitting ups and chases repeating over themselves, even if the predictable plot is ham fistedly enjoyable. Even that gets spoiled with a few plot holes at the ending which ends suddenly and on a rather downbeat tone. For those expecting cameos galore from the original film, don’t expect a great deal and you’ll get along just fine. We don’t see any movie character faces which is possibly due to facial rights from the cast, so aspects like Dennis Nedry in his Park jeep is chucked way back in his car seat with his face off-camera. For those thinking ‘Oh those new areas of the park will be worth it’, some work, some don’t. I hardly call all of Episode 3 and the first half of 4 getting stuck in the Jurassic Park equivalent of the sewer/maintenance tunnels worthwhile. The adventures of Dr. Alan Grant are seen only in helicopter form in the distance and you’ll have to make do with exploring one or two locations from the movie and hanging around with a member of the B-team of supporting characters from there too.
There are moments of genius though which to me ensures this trip to the park may be worth your time. If it wasn’t for the brain damage inducing strain of the horrendously difficult Q.T.E.s at the end, I would call Episode 2 – ‘The Calvary’ – to be the highpoint of the game. Decent character introduction and exploration with some sense of morality hinted at (with whether letting the dinosaurs have a weakened gene structure to keep them in line is a-okay or not) gives you a satisfying two hours. My favourite moment had to be the rollercoaster puzzle and the subsequent raptor attack whilst riding about on it – it was something a bit different to everything else and it felt like fun & unique! The problem is, with Jurassic World out this week, what passed as cool new ideas such as the underwater area and the aquatic dinos are going to be seen as original and there’s the danger that they could do done better than what Telltale’s ideas are here, spoiling the uniqueness of this game somewhat.
The salty taste in the mouth after finishing up Telltale’s Jurassic Park: The Game is not a surprise. With priors in it’s technical department in the later better uses of it’s own engine, the amount of unpolished glitches and poor sound design fails to create the atmosphere that was essential to it’s originator’s success. The gameplay is Q.T.E. reliant & infuriating and I would not blame you if you quit on it, as I got close myself a few times. The characters are serviceable but dull and predictable. There’s too much of the same thing as this game is filled with the same old dinosaur chases you’ve seen previously. Overall, a story driven Jurassic Park game has tonnes of potential but there’s only fleeting moments of that is fulfilled here.