Jurassic Park: The Game Review for Xbox 360

Jurassic Park: The Game Review for Xbox 360

Classic Jurassic

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 Screenshot

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.

Jurassic Park: The Game Screenshot

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.

Jurassic Park: The Game Screenshot

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.

But the game’s biggest flaw is the fact that it’s remarkably unpolished. Before I explain what I mean here, I have to make one thing clear: I played the downloadable PSN version of this game. PC and iOS users might have an entirely different experience than the one I had.

Unfortunately, Jurassic Park: The Game is poorly optimized for the PS3 and ends up being very choppy. This is no small flaw here; it’s practically game-breaking. So many animations simply wouldn’t run properly on my PS3, sometimes freezing for two seconds at a time. This is a real problem in a game that’s largely based around quick time events, especially when during those frozen two seconds, there’s a QTE prompt that you miss, causing you to fail the scenario and start over. The game is extremely generous with its checkpoint system, which lessens the problem quite a bit, but still, when you’re trying to earn one of the several achievements awarded for getting through an entire event without any slipups, the choppiness can lead to some incredibly frustrating moments.

Jurassic Park: The Game Screenshot

And some animations wouldn’t run at all; there were a few instances where I missed entire scenes that somehow vanished in the middle of this choppiness. In fact, after my second time through the final chapter, the ending of the game wouldn’t even load. I had to replay the entire chapter to see the “bad” ending.

Speaking of which, there are indeed two endings. Which of these you’ll see depends entirely on a single choice you make toward the very end of the game. However, without looking at the achievement list beforehand, this decision point isn’t all that clear considering how quickly it’s thrown at you. It’s nice to have the option here, though, as this is a decision that will determine whether a particular character can ultimately be seen as a redeemed soul or one whose greed was just too powerful a force. And I love that I am able to decide something this major, even if it comes only five minutes before the game’s conclusion.

One last item I felt particularly disappointed in was the lack of truly great puzzles. This type of game cries out for such things, and the SEGA CD Jurassic Park game proved that the JP license was a perfect match for exploration-based puzzle-solving. There are only a few memorable puzzles in the entire game, and most of them hold your hand and guide you all the way through. The two or three that you’ll solve without any in-game prompts are satisfying, but there’s nothing here that will keep you stumped for very long.

Jurassic Park: The Game is an incredible story that’s not allowed to reach its true potential due to some game-breaking glitchiness, sub-par visuals, and a lack of meaningful puzzle elements. But still, any true fan of Jurassic Park will find a lot to appreciate in this return to Isla Nublar despite these flaws.

Nothing groundbreaking, made far worse by the glitchiness of the whole thing. 2.7 Control
Sometimes overly finicky, which can be a problem when the game starts getting choppy. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Top-notch audio, all the way around. 3.5 Play Value
An incredible story the first time through, but aside from some tricky achievements and a second ending, there’s really nothing to bring you back for subsequent playthroughs. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • An episodic adventure in 4 parts based on the award-winning movie series Jurassic Park.
  • Confront T. Rex, Velociraptors, and other dinosaurs in spectacular showdowns.
  • Play as various members of an ensambled cast, including Dr. Gerry Harding, the park veterinarian.
  • Cinematic presentation and Quick Time Event gameplay give the feeling of playing a movie.

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