With Back to the Future: The Game, it seems Telltale Games’ relationship with Universal has paid off, so much so that the San Rafael company is ready for more than just an Amblin encore; they’re looking to take us back to Jurassic Park. We recently got brief hands-on time with the PC version (it's coming to Mac as well) of Jurassic Park: The Game with a demo set deep within the park.
Just like Back to the Future, Telltale isn’t remaking any of the movies nor is it continuing the story from the third and last film. Jurassic Park: The Game is set in between the first and second movies and uses that timeline gap to introduce us to a new cast of characters.
This demo shows Gerry Harding, the park’s chief vet, his daughter Jess and a passed-out woman named Nina. It also happens that Nina’s role in the story involves the recovery of the Barbasol can from the first movie. The Hardings are trying to get Nina to a shelter and treat her injures (presumably dinosaur-inflicted). Along the way we see familiar settings and situations from the films: the feeling of isolation of being in the SUV trail at night, an attempt at corralling a dinosaur into its pen, and the obligatory scene with a T-Rex facing off against a Triceratops. Incidentally, these dinosaurs are two of the most impressively detailed characters that Telltale has ever designed and also helps set the tone for the game’s visual style; it’s a departure from the developer/publisher’s more cartoony faire.
Ever since Jurassic Park’s announcement, I was curious how Telltale—a company normally associated with games that are slower than most console adventure games—would treat a film series that’s not short of fast-paced scenes. If this demo is any indication, Telltale looks to branch out from their point-and-click pedigree, giving Jurassic Park the quick time event-driven gameplay of Heavy Rain.
I was called upon to pull off a variety of button inputs from the Y button to the left bumper. Like Heavy Rain, Jurassic Park tries to implement button commands relevant to the action performed. At one point Gerry was doing some heavy lifting, so it would make sense that I had to rapidly press on the X button as he’s lifting. At one point Jess was in the midst of a foot chase, briefly hiding behind a tree. I was then given the option of escaping left or right.
Using the same five-episode format of other Telltale games, Jurassic Park may not have the same decision-based depth and long-term consequence gameplay as Heavy Rain, but it’s not short of dramatic outcomes. Expect to suffer from many fatal injures as well as being lunch for the T-Rex (the game then brings you back to the beginning of the event sequence). I don’t know if it was for the benefit of the media guests at this preview event, but the difficulty was very forgiving, so I had to intentionally trigger these scenes where I was stepped on, thrown in the air, and crushed inside an SUV.
It’s still too early to tell how a full episode of the game will capture the tension and pacing of the films, but this demo gives us many reasons to be optimistic. As Heavy Rain showed, persistent QTE gameplay can be complemented with good character development and well-thought-out visual direction. At least we’re pretty sure Jurassic Park won’t have anything as creepy as a shopping mall clown.