Jurassic Park: The Game (PC) review
"Fortunately, such exploration scenes are relatively few and far-between and there are no time constraints or other pressures rushing you along, so you won't be punished for awkwardness or missteps. What you will be punished for, at least once in awhile, is blowing the QTEs. But this actually turns out to be one of the game's highlights - watching the characters die in hilariously awful ways."
One thing I have to give Jurassic Park: The Game credit for: it's interesting. Not interesting in the sense of being a game that engages players and holds their attention, either through a compelling narrative or adrenaline-charged action, but rather like, say, a well-entrenched foot fungus that you somehow didn't notice for three weeks and thus now has a vaguely Tolkienesque look about it and is well beyond the ministrations of John Madden. Innnnteresting.
I'm not even sure it's fair to call Jurassic Park a game. It's really just a series of quick time events, stitched together in what is effectively a computer-generated movie that runs parallel to the events of Steven Spielberg's 1993 mega-hit film of the same name. You'll spend most of your time just watching things happen in what is admittedly not the worst-acted flick I've ever seen and that's fine as far as it goes, but if you're in the mood for some legitimate interactive entertainment - you know, like a video game - then it doesn't go very far.
A simple but satisfying bit of problem-solving started the game with a certain degree of promise, although I was a little put off by the cumbersome interface, which requires the keyboard to pan around scenes and the mouse to interact with highlighted objects. And while it didn't take long for that early potential to fade away, discontent with the interface never did. Why can't the mouse be used to move around the screen? And if I'm going to be forced to use the keyboard, why can't the controls be customized? It's perfectly functional and I suppose it's a matter of personal taste as much as anything else, but it never stopped feeling unnecessarily and inexplicably clumsy.
Fortunately, such exploration scenes are relatively few and far-between and there are no time constraints or other pressures rushing you along, so you won't be punished for awkwardness or missteps. What you will be punished for, at least once in awhile, is blowing the QTEs. But this actually turns out to be one of the game's highlights - watching the characters die in hilariously awful ways. Most of the many ways to get snuffed in Jurassic Park involve being gutted and/or eaten, although seeing Dr. Harding get pancaked by a T. rex was definitely a favorite moment. And hearing it, too; he sounded like an onion being run over by a motorcycle.
And yes, I admit it, on numerous occasions I ignored the arrows flashing plaintively on my screen, demanding my attention for one trivial task or another, just so I could watch some poor digital soul get turned into a giant lizard hors d'oeuvre. Call me a terrible person if you will, but it was far and away the most satisfying part of the game, and furthermore I guarantee you that just about everyone who plays it will deliberately blow at least one QTE to see what happens - and, having seen what happens, will very likely do it again.
But one of the most irritating of the game's traits is that although it's buried in QTEs, only a small fraction of them actually matter. At one point you'll have to navigate Jess, Dr. Harding's daughter, down a flight of stairs, QTEing all the way, but it doesn't matter whether you get them right, get them wrong or ignore them altogether, because she'll get to the bottom of the stairs just fine; the only difference is whether or not she seems a little shaky during her descent. A particularly noteworthy sequence earlier in the game involves an escaped triceratops, and even though I tanked every one of the half-dozen or so QTEs in the sequence [the first one legitimately, after that I decided to just let 'er rip and see how things played out], by doing the very last one properly, everything worked out fine. The vast majority of QTEs have no meaningful impact on the game whatsoever.
This, of course, led quickly to experimentation and some pretty ridiculous scenarios as a result. Characters will hang in mid-motion indefinitely because you're not pushing a key quickly enough to complete an action. Or they'll lie on the ground underneath a stomping tyrannosaur, immobile but immune, because they're being ignored. Stop to pick up Nima or run her down with your Jeep? It doesn't matter. Multiple-choice conversations work in very much the same way; pick the wrong response in a conversation and you'll simply be given another chance to pick the right one. Negative consequences are rare and when they do occur, tend to entail death, which means a quickload and another kick at the can - and, for all intents and purposes, no negative consequences. Nothing matters.
Jurassic Park doesn't look good enough to make up for its paper-thin gameplay and while dedicated JP fans might enjoy the nods and references to the original film, it doesn't tell an interesting enough story to hold less dedicated attentions for very long. It's technically competent - it's stable, runs well, doesn't suffer from any graphical glitches to speak of, the lip-syncing is decent - but so what? You may be the proud owner of a digitally remastered Blu-ray edition of Manimal but that doesn't mean I want to blow a day watching it.
It's disappointing, because I often complain about the reluctance of game studios to try anything different and when one finally does, I end up dumping all over it. But different, sadly, is not in and of itself enough to make a game worthwhile. Jurassic Park: The Game is different, and it's interesting, but it's also insubstantial, silly and dull. Do yourself a favor and just rent the movie instead.
Freelance review by Andy Chalk (December 16, 2011)
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