Game Review: Jurassic Park (PC)
Release: November 2011
Developer: Telltale Games
Available Platforms: 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac, iPad
ESRB Rating: Teen
On paper, the idea of Telltale producing a Jurassic Park episodic game sounded highly promising. Add to the mix their claims of being strongly influenced by Heavy Rain (a personal favorite from this generation), and all things pointed towards Jurassic Park being top-10, best of the year material. Unfortunately, that’s not what has been delivered. Combining QTE elements with standard Telltale puzzle solving didn’t produce the exciting, riveting experience they were hoping for. If anything, they learned the wrong lessons from Heavy Rain.
JP takes place both during, and after the original movie. With a fairly large cast of characters the player will bounce back and forth controlling, the primary stars of the game are Gerry Harding and his daughter Jess. While the cast of the film is on one side of the island fighting for survival, Gerry and the others are facing their own struggle on the other side, allowing for different locals to be explored that were only referenced, or never mentioned at all, in the source material. It’s a clever way to approach the story, and is one of the game’s strong points.
Progression is made through a hybrid style of game play that’s new ground for Telltale. Part traditional puzzle/adventure game, and part a series of interactive quick time events, game play is meant to evoke the feeling of being in the middle of an interactive movie, capitalizing on the source material as much as possible. There’s four episodes that make up the structure of the game, each one taking anywhere from two to three hours to complete. While there’s a fair amount of exploring a scene needed to figure out each puzzle to proceed, the game is surprisingly linear, given the open nature of the setting.
As with Telltale’s previous release, Back to the Future, the game is at it’s best when evoking fond memories of the original source material. The score is spot on, the world further fleshed out, and in-jokes and references come by the bucket-full. During certain moments, the qte’s can be effective and heighten the tension of a scene. The writing and character interaction is sharp and enjoyable for the most part, as writing is almost always a strong suit for Telltale. Tonally, the game knocks it out of the park. While this may not be saying much, the game is easily one of the best in the long line of tie-in’s that have been released over the past near-twenty years since the film first came out.
Despite the high points JP pulls off, and the warm and fuzzy memories it evokes, actually playing it feels like a constant tug of war. Dividing the game into essentially two halves- part adventure game, part qte romp, doesn’t work out in it’s favor. The qte game play borrowed from Heavy Rain lends to the frantic thrills that should come with a Jurassic Park story, but then as soon as those moments have ramped up, the game slams on the brakes and dumps you into a puzzle. Any sense of tension built up is removed, and ultimately you’re left feeling frustrated as the puzzles aren’t even that challenging. Heavy Rain worked because it was built upon the idea of a visual language, where the movements you were mimicking became almost instinctual due to becoming familiar with the icons. Jurassic Park tosses that aside, choosing to focus on random button prompts. Finding a rhythm is never a possibility, and like qte’s at their worst, the game boils down to repeating scenes over and over until you get it right.
Jurassic Park should be better than it is. Given Telltale’s proven track record, it’s a shame to see how the game has turned out. With far better titles in their catalog, and Heavy Rain dirt cheap new or used, this one is hard to recommend to any except die hard fans and those who are Telltale completionists.
+Excellent overall presentation.
-Bad design choices and game mechanics.
-Not up to snuff with Telltale’s back catalog.
5 out of 10