Distributed by Telltale Games
I’m a classic adventure gamer all the way. Nothing in the console market has thrilled me quite like those old LucasArts and Sierra titles that seamlessly blended exploration and logic puzzles with expertly told original stories and characters. And while the genre has waned in popularity over the years, the folks at Telltale Games (which is made up of a lot of the same developers) have thankfully kept the tradition alive by resurrecting classic franchises like Monkey Island along with new movie-licensed games that actually deliver the goods.
Earlier this year they hit a home run with Back to the Future: The Game, which not only did justice to the franchise but topped the sequels with its mix of clever writing and old-school game aesthetics. I was hoping for the same with Jurassic Park, but unfortunately, the experience is nowhere near as innovative and fun as the Telltale brand would suggest.
Picking up near the ending of the original movie, the story revolves around the dangling plot thread that Spielberg completely neglected: the missing Barbasol can full of dino embryos. The diverse cast of characters consists of the rival team sent in to retrieve it, the park’s veterinarian and his daughter, a ragtag military rescue team and an InGen scientist, all of whom become stranded and must escape the island when the dinosaurs break loose.
It’s a recipe for another definitive franchise game, but herein lays the problem: To call Jurassic Park a “game” is pretty deceptive because there’s no real gameplay offered here. Rather, Telltale has created a long interactive movie where playability is mostly confined to timed cinematic button-mashing a la Heavy Rain.
Think one long quick-time event.
While I applaud them for not going the traditional shooter/platform route in favor of a story-based experience, half the fun of adventure games is open-world exploration, and with a property like Jurassic Park, I wanted nothing more than to take control of a character and explore the jungles and stations of Isla Nublar. Instead, I was forced to passively sit back as an eyewitness and mash an occasional button while being led from one cinematic to the next.
There are a few points in the game where the action stops and you solve logic puzzles via point and click hotspots, but even these are dumbed down versions of what you’d expect in a traditional adventure game (you don’t even get an inventory screen). Even the Heavy Rain comparison isn’t entirely fair since in that game you actually got to control your character’s actions. Jurassic Park is more like something from the short-lived FMV boom in the 90’s: heavy on scripted content with little-to-no control. It’s a frustratingly linear and hands-off approach from developers who have given us some of the best titles in the genre.
That said, Telltale once again succeeds in its strongest area: storytelling. What Jurassic Park lacks as a game, it largely makes up for cinematically, and the solid writing and characters easily held my interest through the entire 8-hour campaign. Make no mistake; this game captures the look and feel of the series better than any of the games that have come before it, and you’ll actually care about the events that transpire as well as the fates of the characters that unfold through many intense set-pieces. In fact, this is a far more satisfying sequel to Spielberg’s original than either The Lost World or Jurassic Park III (and the upcoming fourth entry, I’ll bet).
But as a game it still misses the mark.
Your enjoyment of Jurassic Park will ultimately depend on what kind of gamer you are. If you’re into hardcore action and Halo multi-player matches, this will only make you frustrated and angry. If you’re a rabid fan of this franchise or are used to more narrative storybook games, you’ll find much to like about it as a “movie.” But sadly, this is one game where you can’t have it both ways.
2 out of 5
4 out of 5