Jurassic Park: The Game Review

By Jeffrey Matulef - Posted Nov 21, 2011

Jurassic Park: The Game captures the look and feel of the films, but confines its interactivity to a series of mindless chores and quick-time events. Between its lack of agency and woeful performance issues, this park is in desperate need of maintenance.

The Pros
  • Solid storyline
  • Lovely setting
  • Well choreographed QTEs
The Cons
  • Precious little agency
  • QTE's make up most of the gameplay
  • Simple puzzles
  • Performance issues

Jurassic Park: The Game Review

With the exception of Rocksteady's recent Batman titles, there are few developers out there consistently churning out quality licensed games. Telltale Games is one such developer that over the last few years has brought us delightful episodic series based on such beloved properties as Sam & Max, Monkey Island, Wallace & Gromit, and Back to the Future. Those titles were relatively traditional point-and-click adventures predicated on cute characters, snappy dialogue, and inventory puzzles. Since none of these elements are well suited for a franchise set around civilians facing prehistoric predators, Telltale has gone back to the drawing board with Jurassic Park: The Game to create a new type of experience that's more cinematic and serious than their typically goofy, albeit cerebral affairs. Unfortunately, while the result remains true to the series, its interactivity is nil making for an extremely passive experience that's unsatisfying as a game or movie.

Dino Crisis

At face value, Jurassic Park: The Game resembles a more plausible version of Heavy Rain. Following the exploits of the last few survivors on the island, the game switches between traditional point-and-click examinations and quick-time events. The latter makes up a majority of the gameplay, and while these sequences are well choreographed and exciting, they feel too hands-off after awhile.

Worse, they suffer from numerous performance issues. The PSN version this review is based on frequently stuttered. It's incredibly jarring for the screen to freeze for seconds at a time during a harrowing T-rex attack. Occasionally, it would lock up as soon as a button prompt showed up and not register the input. When so much of the game is focused on these events, such technical errors are unacceptable.

Regardless of what you make of Heavy Rain, one of its most intriguing ideas was that your decisions and performance would affect the story in some way. Regrettably, Jurassic Park maintains this illusion of choice, but it becomes clear early on that it's just that; an illusion. An early encounter sees your panicked bounty hunter swarmed by dinosaurs and quickly tasked with making a decision between attacking, running, or creating a diversion. Pick the wrong options and your character will shoot it down before inevitably suggesting the correct one. Fail a QTE and you get set back a few seconds.

Jurassic Park The Game

The rare animation or line of dialogue will change, but regardless of your input, the characters will steer the conversation back to its prescribed path. This lack of agency is disappointing during QTEs and dialogue choices, but infuriating during the game's handful of "puzzles." Only a few of these could be classified as such as most require players to simply click on everything until something happens. Deductive reasoning isn't required.

Jurassic Park: The Game also borrows liberally from David Cage's psychological thriller by presenting the story from multiple perspectives, with the player frequently switching between cast members. This works well when the characters share a goal. Toggling between a father and daughter helping each other escape a nasty T-Rex vs triceratops battle feels natural. Problems arise when you control characters with conflicting motives, such as when two characters get in a fight and you control both parties. If either character fails, it's game over, so any rooting interest you have is moot when you merely have to push buttons in a sequence until the story reaches its foregone conclusion.

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"Hold Onto Your Butts!"

It's a shame that Jurassic Park's design and production values aren't up to scratch, because beneath its aggressively scripted design and technical issues, there's a lot Telltale gets right about the series. Most notably, the script is solid. There are few cheesy moments, but that was true of the original film as well, and the token minor on dino island is less annoying than the cutesy kids in any of the movies. For the most part the tone shifts effortlessly between exhilarating, moving, and even scary. Sometimes character's motivations shift a little too rapidly, but overall the storyline is a success with some smart twists and interesting ethical dilemmas.

The setting is also well done. Aside from the homely textures and blocky character models, Isla Nublar maintains its dichotomy of the untamed wild with a schlocky consumerist amusement park. I'm not sure what's more unsettling; the dinosaurs, or the garish automated jeeps that ride around a rail turning our planet's previous rulers into fodder for a phony safari. It's a place that should not be, and that friction between the old world and the new makes it an environment that begs to be explored. This makes it all the more heartbreaking that you can't.

Jurassic Park The Game

"After Careful Consideration, I've Decided Not To Endorse Your Park."

There's a good movie buried in here, but as a game, Jurassic Park: The Game is a failure. Instead, it feels like a movie stretched from feature length to seven hours that requires pushing a lot of buttons to get through. I applaud Telltale for trying something new, but much like John Hammond and his dinosaur filled park, they bit off more than they could chew making the results a failed experiment.

Still want to play it? Why not rent it at Gamefly?