Above: The king of the dinosaurs shows up a lot, and he's always hungry
Jurassic Park: The Game is unlike anything we’ve ever played before. Calling it “Heavy Rain with dinosaurs” is a disservice to both it and Heavy Rain – despite relying on quick time events, it’s actually pretty far from Heavy Rain. A closer approximation would be “Heavy Rain and Dragon’s Lair with dinosaurs,” but even that is oversimplifying things. Instead, imagine this: you’re the director of a Jurassic Park film, and you’re in control of all of the actors and actresses. They’ll move when you tell them to and say what you want them to, but it’s never going to go too far off the script, and you’re never in complete control. You’re just directing whoever needs to be directed for that scene to move forward, even if it means jumping between three to four different characters at any given time.
Oh, and the dinosaurs? They’re also a part of the movie, but they’re not going to follow your orders, so you need to get your actors to act around them, or else, they’ll be eaten, crushed, dismembered, or disposed of in other brutal ways. Failure means you blew the scene – cut! Set it up again, start over. Everyone back in your places. Action.
Above: Raptors are still clever, and still technically girls
Jurassic Park’s events run parallel to those of the first film, starting soon after Dennis Nedry’s unfortunate run-in with the dilophosaurus. While he’s out of the picture before the game begins, his can of Barbasol, loaded with dinosaur embryos, plays a major role in the game. The people he was driving to in order to drop off the can? They’re playable characters, coming to look for their MIA baby dinosaurs, as are the InGen mercenaries sent to escort survivors off the island, the staff nutritionist, and his 14-year old daughter. The characters are generally likable and the story – while far from stellar – is still enjoyable, especially for fans of the film. Some of the loose ends from the first movie are tied up and Telltale did a good job at making it feel like an extension of the film.
The unique gameplay actually makes sense considering the source material. When danger isn’t immediate the pace is slowed, and we’re allowed to explore our (pre-determined) environments to solve some puzzles and talk to the different characters. It’s extremely limited, but it never feels too constrained – we shouldn’t be wandering too far away from the scene until the game wants us to, since there might be dinosaurs lurking about. When lizards do show up, the gameplay changes to a series of quick-time events for the getaway. Mistakes can either lower your score or end with your character dangling out of the mouth of a T-Rex depending on the specific instance.
Above: Check out the action you can expect from the game
Success means you’re treated to a thrilling, cinematic cutscene that you were responsible for. Failure means being treated to a satisfying death animation. It’s really win-win. While you’re not technically pressing forward to run or pressing X to swing a weapon whenever you want, it still feels like you’re taking part in the situations, which is all that really matters. It’s never all that amazing, but for Jurassic Park fans it’s about as good as we could have hoped for. It’s just a shame that the game can’t hold itself together well enough to maintain the illusion for long.
The cinematic façade is torn asunder whenever the game’s engine bends and breaks. Characters’ mouths fell out of sync with the dialog often, and in a few cases the mouths simply stopped moving altogether. The entire game locked up a few times, too, requiring us to reload at the most recent checkpoint. These instances were isolated when compared to audio mixing issues and pops, which constantly (and we mean constantly) took us out of the experience. These problems wouldn’t typically damage our enjoyment that much, but when the gameplay amounts to an interactive movie every presentation folly cuts infinitely deeper.
Above: Occasional puzzles break up the action-packed escape segments
If everything would have worked as well as it could have, Jurassic Park: The Game would have been a successful experiment into creating a new type of cinematic game. It’s not trying to be Uncharted, because Jurassic Park shouldn’t be Uncharted. It’s also not trying to be Heavy Rain, or anything else. It’s trying to be Jurassic Park, and we’re happy to see it try. We just wish it would have made sure all of its bits and bytes were in order before it showed up at our door, because it’s hard to see the forest through these glitchy, buggy trees.