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November 2011



- Sound effects and music from the movie still work in a game
- Passable visuals



- Weak characters
- Plot fizzles out early
- Frustrating QTEs
- New dinosaur species feels out of place in the setting



Review: Sam & Max 305: The City that Dares Not Sleep (PC)

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Review: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3)



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Jurrasic Park

Score: 6.0 / 10


jurrasic park          jurrasic park


Long-time readers will know I eulogized Michael Crichton on our message boards shortly after his death in 2008, expounding on the fact that his novels were first and foremost entertainment. Take an interesting idea, follow it to a logical conclusion, and bring the readers along breathlessly for the ride. Even I'll be the first to admit




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that his characters were occasionally short on depth, but he was probably one of the grand masters of the plot-driven story, a very successful example of how to do it right. It should be pointed out, however, that his track record with computer games wasn't quite as good as it was with books, the most infamous being Timeline. Crichton himself had no input on


Telltale Games' Jurassic Park, but something tells me that they could have used his help, shaky games record or no.

Telltale Games, to be fair, based their game not on the novel but on Steven Spielberg's movie adaptation of the novel, which itself was partially written by Crichton. It is essentially a side story that covers people we never saw in the movie or the book, and puts them through a lot of the same gyrations that the known characters from the movie underwent either shortly before or at the same time but under different circumstances. It posits answers to some questions that we thought were pretty thoroughly answered in the movie or just weren't worth answering to begin with. Because this is a game, the characters are essentially supposed to be extensions of the player in the game space. Yet as I went through, I found that the game drew the wrong lessons from both the movie and the book.

Let's look at the visuals, which are probably the high point of the game, and it's a little disappointing to write that sentence. They're not bad as a general rule, but it feels like they could have been so much cooler. I can appreciate that this is intended to be a good bargain title, and production values are not intended to be anywhere in the same neighborhood as the Assassin's Creed series or Skyrim. But for all that, one of the hallmarks of the film was that sense of veracity, the suspension of disbelief, that we're seeing dinosaurs and not just polygons superimposed on the environment. I think they could have done a lot better with the character models, going for a photorealistic look as opposed to what feels like an attempt at making the character style from Telltale's Back To The Future series more “serious.” The dinosaurs themselves have a slightly comic feel to them rather than the spooky weight of verisimilitude. I was particularly disappointed in the special effects, or rather the lack of them. Shadows are badly pixilated, as is blood, while smoke and water effects were generally underwhelming. Overall, the art direction is passable but definitely not what a title like this really needs to stand out.


jurrasic park          jurrasic park

Since the game is based off the movie, it’s a guarantee that there will be two things to be found in it. The first is the dinosaur noises. The hissing and rattles of the dilophosaurus, the thundering roars of the T. rex, it’s kind of a given if you heard it in the movie that it’ll show up here. The problem lies with the fact that unless you’ve got a really killer sound system hooked up, all those growls and snarls are going to feel tremendously watered down. Even for headsets that mimic 5.1 Dolby Surround, it sounds like weak sauce. The other guaranteed staple would be the soundtrack, or elements from it, conducted by John Williams. I have a hard time thinking of a bad score that John Williams has done, and the one for the movie was excellent, but there’s a part of me that would have liked it if Telltale had springboarded off of that score to do something that evokes the source rather than cutting and pasting cues from it. The voice acting is clearly enunciated, but the actual acting veers between slightly hammy to seriously overacted. Characters may have been cogs in the machine carrying people along in the movie, but they had more personality than this.

There are a couple interesting ideas to be found in the gameplay for Jurassic Park, but they’re lost in the plodding pacing of the storyline and occasionally insane input demands during the action sequences. There are QTEs which demand you tap a button at a pace that can’t be accomplished without a generous dose of methamphetamine, instances where you have to keep the cursor on target and the cursor absolutely refuses to budge, and button sequences with a sense of timing that doesn’t seem to keep pace with your actual inputs. The mechanic of swapping between different camera angles to solve puzzles is not easily grasped, even after doing it a few times. Perhaps most damning of all, particularly for an adventure game, is the lackluster and forced plot. I can appreciate that there might have been other people on Isla Nublar during the events described in the movie, but in the game, it just feels clunky. One wonders why Isla Sorna, the infamous “Site B,” wasn’t used as a setting, giving players a bridge between Jurassic Park and The Lost World. The appearance of a new and completely fictional dinosaur species utterly fails to be of any service to the material, relying more on cheap horror movie conventions than the crunchy hard sci-fi that made the original creatures of the movie so breathtaking not only in appearance but in plausibility. As it is, the storyline sputters out before the first episode is finished, leaving you to slog through the other three episodes, wishing it was over again and again before you reach the end. The game does have good moments here and there, but they’re only moments, pale imitations of the well crafted and smoothly delivered pacing of Crichton’s novel and Spielberg’s film. I believe that the developers fell into the same sort of trap that a lot of folks do with regards to Jurassic Park. The movie and the book ultimately were not about dinosaurs. It was an examination of Man’s scientific hubris, the idea that one can play God with ancient DNA and remain in complete control of the creations spawned from it, that Nature will simply roll over just because somebody can use a PCR machine and a pipette, and the richly deserved nemesis that comes about from that hubris.

I have to give Telltale a nod for at least trying something ambitious and coming up short. The Jurassic Park setting has room for new stories, but they needed to bring out the varsity for this one and they didn’t. Here’s hoping they take the lessons to heart and try again.


- Axel Cushing

(January 31, 2012)


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