Some 120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, the biotechnology company InGen from Palo Alto, California, has leased a remote Pacific island from the Costa Rican government. The scientists on Isla Nublar have been hard at work for five years creating the most fantastic tourist trap ever conceived—a game park full of living, breathing dinosaurs.
Since unveiling the game at E3 in 2010, Telltale Games have piqued a lot of interests with their ongoing development of Jurassic Park: The Game. Set during the events of the original movie, the focus is changed to Gerry Harding, the Park’s chief veterinarian. The game picks up after Gerry has taken Dr Satler back to the visitor’s centre, having diagnosed the problem with a sick Triceratops. Gerry takes his daughter, who is visiting for the weekend, to see some of the Park’s attractions.
Of course, the story evolves from there until its conclusion at the end of Episode 4. As a very story driven game, it wouldn’t be fair to spoil it much past the set-up - it does, however, it feature an all new cast of human character, new stories, new character arcs, and new problems.
Jurassic Park is not just about the stories though, it’s also an action adventure. Normal point and clicks controls just won’t cut it for a game that needs these action sequences, so Telltale has decided to take a little inspiration from Heavy Rain. You no longer have direct control over your characters movement. Items of interest in the environment are highlighted and tied to specific buttons, and you need to pan the camera with the stick to hunt down more interactions.
It works quite well. It’s easy to find all the information you need, without getting stuck because you didn’t press on the correct batch of pixels that one time. Interactions you can make are denoted by a hand icon, allowing you to properly explore the area before triggering the next event. Important tidbits and observations can be found by taking the time to explore, which can come really handy later on.
As well as panning around an area, you’ll usually be able to move between scenes. Scenes are just different locations in the area, accessed by pressing L2 and making a selection. When multiple scenes are involved, it’s usually tied to a puzzle. On one scene you may have to find where to activate the power, while on another one you’re moving mechanical devices once the power is on.
The puzzles stay fairly constant between the episodes, however the fourth episode requires a bit of old school adventure game memorisation and item interaction to move forward. Otherwise, the rest of the episodes approach that fine balance of just challenging you enough to feel a sense of accomplishment, while also being easy enough so that you rarely get stuck.
Along with the physical puzzles around the environment, you also need to have conversations to continue. As well as in scripted sequences, you can pull up a conversation wheel using R2 to interact with those around you. These conversations have many purposes—as well as pushing forward the story, there are a lot of optional conversations that allow you to learn a bit more about the different characters, their motivations, their secrets, and their worries. Like the points of interest around the environment, taking the time to talk to people and learning their personalities helps when you need to convince one of them to move the plot along.
Once you’re done with the exploring, talking, and solving, you’ll likely be attacked by any number of hungry or scared dinosaurs. This is where the quick time events come in—with pressing buttons and moving the sticks when asked to dodge, roll, jump, pick-up, or punch when the scene calls for it. One of the punches is particularly awesome and gratifying, but again it’s too good to spoil. The game is great at building tensions during these sequences, with strict timing needed to creep around that keeps you on edge, and interrupted sequences that lull you into a false sense of security. All important things you would see in the movie franchise.
While there is a rather major issue with slowdown and hanging in the game, it never affects the gameplay at a crucial moment. You’ll always be able to press X when asked, even if the following cutscene takes a few seconds to start and cuts off the subtitles.
The story and the settings are really quite good, taking you from familiar areas in the movie to brand new areas all over the Park as the plot progresses. Along with the dialogue in the game, you slowly unlock pages in one of the characters’ journal. All of this not only aids in fleshing out the games back-story, but also the entire Jurassic Park mythos. Answering questions posed in all three movies nobody thought to answer, and even discussing the scientific inaccuracies such as Velociraptors that are 3 times larger than the fossil record shows. Fans will get a kick out of all this extra content.
Less hardcore fans have plenty of game to play as well; each chapter of game is ranked with a medal based on your performance on the QTEs. Along with replaying these sequences to see perfect run throughs and get gold medals, there are also the numerous deaths by dinosaur to see. There’s even some great trophies tied around advanced exploration and specific conversation options, a welcome relief from the lazy ‘Play this game a million times!’ that seem to plague a lot of today’s games.
It’s definitely not perfect. With a bit of a slow start, and a build up over the first three episodes that never really pays off in the fourth, the story pacing can be a little off kilter at times. As a whole though, it’s a very enjoyable experience that doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of the franchise, but rewards those that do.
-The Final Word-
A cinematic adventure game that successfully marries a Jurassic Park story in both name and style to enjoyable mechanics. Life found a way.