|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Telltale Games|
|Pub: Telltale Games|
|Release: November 15, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence|
by Josh Wirtanen
Jurassic Park was made into a point-and-click adventure game back when the original movie first hit theaters. This was an incredible little gem that far too few gamers ever got to experience due to its exclusive release on the ill-fated SEGA CD.
Fast-forward to almost twenty years later, and Telltale games has gotten its hands on the Jurassic Park license. Since Telltale's general style could arguably be seen as the modern evolution of the point-and-click adventure genre, this fact was pretty exciting to me. If the developers could take everything that was great about the SEGA CD classic and add a more modern aesthetic and the typically strong writing of the Telltale team, Jurassic Park: The Game could potentially be one of 2011's sleeper hits. Needless to say, I was pretty optimistic about this title. So now that it's finally here, does it do justice to the Jurassic Park license, or is it just another entry on the long list of dinosaur fodder spawned by the brand?
The answer to that question depends on what you expect from the title. First of all, you need to know right off the bat that this isn't some dino-blasting action thrill ride of a game; it's more like an interactive movie. Now, admittedly I'm not a big fan of the term "interactive movie," but it's an appropriate one here, and one that Telltale has mined some real potential out of, with gameplay primarily based around quick time events and simple puzzle solving.
Jurassic Park: The Game's main attraction, though, is the storyline. If you've ever seen the original film, you probably remember that an overweight programmer named Dennis Nedry was attempting to smuggle some dino embryos off the island for a hefty sum of cash, hiding these embryos inside a fake can of shaving cream. Unfortunately for Mr. Nedry, he met a sad end in the jaws of one of the island's more interesting specimens. (A dilophosaurus, in fact.) The container of embryos was left in a mud puddle, and the film didn't make any further mention of this. Now, Telltale has finally tied this loose end into a pretty little bow.
Now, I think it's fairly safe to assume that if the bumbling Nedry is your Plan A, you've probably got a Plan B for when this guy makes a mess of things. Well, the prologue of Jurassic Park: The Game introduces us to Plan B: Miles Chadwick and Nima Cruz. These two have been sent on a mission to recover this lost can of shaving cream and the embryos it hides inside.
Of course, these aren't the only characters you'll meet on this journey. There's Dr. Gerry Harding, a park veterinarian who was a minor character in the film, and his fourteen-year-old daughter Jess. Later in the game, you'll even come across a team of mercenaries sent to rescue any survivors, as well as a ferociously stubborn geneticist-gone-animal-rights-activist.
The interesting characters and the relationships that form between them are where this game is at its strongest. The sassy Jess starts off as an annoying smart-mouthed teenage girl, but she comes into her own as the story heats up. She found herself on the island because she was caught shoplifting and her mother thought it would do her good to spend some time with her father. Of course, Isla Nublar serves as an unintentional Scared Straight experience for her, though her character arc doesn't ever degrade into a clichéd take on family issues or, worse yet, an after school special.
I especially have to applaud Telltale on making its military men so damn likeable. Instead of the gruff, badass personas so prevalent with military characters, this game features mercenaries with strong personalities and human flaws. In fact, even Oscar, the beefy guy with the skull tattoos who brings down a velociraptor single-handedly with nothing more than a knife, becomes a legitimately likeable character by the game's third act.
Throughout the course of the story, you'll see these people do extraordinarily heroic or villainous things. Though several of the plot's turns are completely unexpected, none of them are out of character, or lack justification in light of a particular character's back story. This game never draws a line between "good" and "evil," instead presenting characters that are ever-changing mixtures of good intentions and human flaws. In fact, it's safe to say that the people in this game are more dangerous than any of the dinosaurs, yet every character, even those who ultimately show themselves as truly villainous, has a list of redeeming qualities.
Now, this isn't to say that the role of the dinos is downplayed. You'll still get to experience the epic T-Rex and velociraptor moments you've come to expect from the Jurassic Park brand. But they serve more as context here than the real meat of the game.
The snappy, often witty writing is done extraordinary justice by the voice actors. The performances of the game's stars truly shine, punctuating the emotional scenes and action scenes with just the right inflections. And, of course, with the JP license comes the phenomenal music and sound effects of the 1993 film. You'll definitely feel like this is an actual Jurassic Park game, not just some third-rate clone.
Unfortunately, there are some pretty major flaws that hold this game back from ever reaching its potential.
Now, I've always felt that Telltale's visuals consistently feel unfinished. Their textures lack detail, character models are overly simple, and many of the animations look stiff and awkward. The same is true of Jurassic Park: The Game, though I have to admit that this might be their best looking title yet. The dinosaurs especially look good here. Overall, though, this game bears a closer resemblance to some of the HD rereleases we've recently seen of PS2-era titles than something developed specifically for this console generation.