Telltale has a fantastic track record and, most recently, they have done right by Back to the Future fans with a witty and enjoyable point and click adventure in Hill Valley. Those expecting the same type of humorous, challenging and enjoyable experience in Jurassic Park are going to be disappointed. While this adaptation is full of dinosaurs and the nostalgia that Isla Nublar brings, it fails at it’s primary task: being a game.
Jurassic Park is not the point and click adventure you might be expecting. Instead, the game is broken up into two types of gameplay: exploration and button presses. Most of the game plays like a large quicktime event (QTE), in which you need to press buttons quickly as they appear on the screen. There are the occasional mouse movements and precision button presses thrown in, but in action scenes you won’t be doing any more than responding to prompts. In many ways, Jurassic Park follows the Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace formula.
The exploration segments feature the rare puzzle, but never allow you to move freely. You can pan around the screens and click on clearly delineated interest points. You might be able to engage in dialog or move to other sections of the area by selecting them from a menu. The dialog rarely matters. Each of the scenes, of which there are 12 in the first episode and 11 in the other three, will award you a medal for completion based on the number of errors you make. You can die, but you’ll often just lose a hit marker from the medal and continue exactly where you died. Since there is no reason to try for a gold medal and no reward beyond the occasional bit of “attaboy” dialog, failure means nothing.
The game trains you to press buttons as quickly as possible, which is consistent with the fast-paced dinosaur chases. This makes it extremely jarring when you realize that a critical decision at the end of the game, which occurs in the middle of an extremely stressful scenario, relies on a single button press. Leaving the fate of a main character up to a mechanic that is never used for this purpose in the 34 chapters leading up to it is absurd.
I ran into more than a few problems during my time with Jurassic Park. I was playing largely using the Mac review code we received, and ran into hard locks, crashes and glitches in both the video and audio. This never should have been released with these problems, as even pausing the game resulted in a 50/50 shot that I’d have to Force Quit and reload. When the game does look good, though, it’s impressive. The dinosaurs look and sound great. The voice acting and John Williams original Jurassic Park soundtrack complete the picture. The characters aren’t terribly likeable, but they often feel genuine regardless. They are flawed individuals almost to the point of being cliché.
Jurassic Park is a hard game to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard Jurassic Park fans. It’s also hard to believe that Telltale had any faith in it since the game was originally intended to fit the company’s episodic release format and, instead, was pushed out all at once. It’s understandable, as I don’t think many people would buy more than the first episode if they had a choice. Right now, I’ve got my fingers crossed that The Walking Dead is a better endeavor. Jurassic Park just doesn’t live up to Telltale’s legacy.
Review copy of the game provided by publisher.