Jurassic Park: The Game

Genre:   Action Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Telltale Games

Released:  December 2011

PC Requirements:   See review





by gremlin


What is it?

When I was young, I was one of those geeky kids who loved dinosaurs: I could tell you the difference between a Brachiosaur and a Diplodocus, or would laugh at someone comparing a Plesiosaur to the Pleistocene. So when Steven Spielberg made the 1993 film of Jurassic Park, you'd think I'd be a shoo-in to want to go see it for sure... except that, by then, I wasn't that little geeky kid any more, and I hated the movie by the time I got to see it. Scary movies that are about little more than "how is the next dude gonna get knocked off" with a thin veneer of story and deeply dodgy science just don't do it for me. Obviously, your mileage may vary(TM).

Now that we're 18 years further on and Telltale Games have produced an episodic game of the same name, am I any more likely to like it?

First off, I have to say that I've been playing the digital download version of the whole season release; I had all four episodes as a single game. Secondly, based on my previous experience of Telltale Games (Sam & Max, Wallace & Gromit, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People) I had no idea what to expect of this game.

Jurassic Park is a bit of a hybrid between a point-n-click adventure and an action game that mixes first and third person perspectives. One of the primary game mechanics is very heavy use of timed sequences. If you're the sort of gamer who has to shanghai a passing teen to get you through a rare timed sequence in a game, Jurassic Park is clearly not going to be your cup of <insert beverage of choice here>. On the other hand, if you're a gamer who has decent reactions (and I don't mean to the standard of Carl Lewis or Mike Wallace here, I do mean 'normal human being') this is an interesting way to enter the world of the movie.

From my own perspective as a longtime fan of the Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia series of games, a bit of action gaming is by no means a daunting prospect.

Is there a plot?

During the movie of Jurassic Park, one of the scientists, Dennis Nedry, steals a selection of dinosaur embryos hidden in an adapted canister of shaving foam. However, Nedry comes to a really rather nasty end in the jungle before he can meet up with his co-conspirators. The story of the game of Jurassic Park picks up from this point, but starting from the perspective of Nedry's contacts who are landing on the island of Isla Nublar (the island which forms the eponymous Park).

Actually, the game starts by dropping you straight into the jungle with Nima (a Lara Croft-a-like, but without the infeasible, pneumatic appendages) trying to escape from what are clearly large dog-sized predators, whilst badly wounded and confused. Well, yes, confused is certainly how I started! Basically, you're straight into one of the action sequences, learning about the W,A,S,D keys (or the arrow keys) as hotspot activators, then the 'look around the scene' interface (the nearest thing to point-n-click in this game), then the multi-step action sequence indicators, then the 'keep hitting the right key as fast as you can until the power bar is full' indicator, and finally the click-n-drag indicator. This is all in the first minute or two, whilst you're being chased by very nasty dinosaurs - it really does come at you that quickly.

That's the prologue over, then the pace slows considerably as the father-daughter relationship between Jess and Gerry Harding is introduced. Dr. Harding was actually in the movie, but only briefly, as the veterinarian attending to the sick Triceratops early in the story. So, apart from the dinosaurs, he and Nedry are the only characters from the film to appear in the game - though only Nedry's corpse makes it on screen, so it's a bit of a cameo appearance really.

After we start to get to know Gerry and Jess, they head back towards the visitor centre in the middle of the island, but it's from this stage that things start to go downhill for them too. The rest of the plot seems to run a step or two behind the plot of the movie, as evidenced by the state of the Visitor Center, so we never see Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), or even John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), the owner of the park.

In later parts of the game (the later episodes, if you're playing them separately), you get to meet other people in this parallel story of the fall of the Park. These other people have a variety of agendas regarding the island, so part of your job is to persuade people that getting off the island is a good idea. Of course, Nedry's canister of shaving foam forms no small part of the story too. Oh, and the dinosaurs. How could I have forgotten the dinosaurs?

Now we hit a big hole in the plot. An almighty 250 million year-deep hole! Of the ten dinosaur species seen in Jurassic Park, only two of them; yes, just two, are actually from the Jurassic Period. One is from the previous period (the Triassic), but the remaining seven are from the Cretaceous (the last period of the dinosaurs). The basic problem is that in popular culture there are only a few well known names of dinosaurs: Triceratops, Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and, thanks to the movie, Velociraptor. So filmmakers have to use these tropes, without reference to any sort of scientific facts about when the particular species might have co-existed, or where.

Sigh. Oh well, rant over, back to the actual game.

Actually, I did manage to put on my big boy pants and get over issue, mostly because I realise that "Triassic, Jurassic, but mostly Cretaceous" Park doesn't quite have the punch, but also because this is a game review, not a peer reviewed scientific publication!

Notable Features

Jurassic Park is not a conventional adventure game. It really does play a lot more like an interactive movie. As the player, you get to direct the order in which some scenes occur. Some scenes give you the choice of what part of the scene to investigate via a menu of scenes around the current one. Quite a few scenes are cast as first person or over-the-shoulder views of an area that you can scroll around to find the hotspots (shown as nice big magnifying glass icons). There are also dialog sections with reasonably simple dialog trees. However, the main area of player input is in the action scenes.

You can tell when an action scene is coming up because the grading medal appears in the top right corner of the screen. It starts as one gold element, and degrades to two silver ones, three bronze ones, and then goes dark. Each element represents the accuracy with which you hit the controls: directional buttons, timed buttons, fast repetitions, and so on. If you get through an action scene without missing a control (which will often result in the death of whichever character you're currently viewing or playing, depending upon the current viewpoint) you score a gold medal. One error gets you silver, two is still silver, then there are the three bronzes before you are left with no medal for the scene. If you do die, you get another go, and another, and another (believe me, for some scenes I needed quite a few do-overs). The game will also simplify some of the more difficult or multi-step actions if you're finding them particularly hard (usually once you hit the bronze scores).

Given this heavy focus upon action scenes, and the nature of the sudden death threat from the dinosaurs in any number of ways (though most involve the character being chomped down upon with vigour!) the game designers have also seen fit to add a very tense sound track. This is really effective; even though I knew it was only a game, there were many times when I saw the gold medal sign appear with a sense of dread for what was about to try to kill me next.

Pacing is something that filmmakers have to work really hard on, and it's one of the reasons that scenes get deleted (and put on the DVD 6 months later). Now that we have a movie-like game, we have to consider whether it is possible to balance the tension of the perilous bits with the much-needed relaxation during the 'slow bits'. Mind you, on an island of dinosaurs, tension is never far from your mind! If the game gets this wrong, you end up with a game that goes by in a blur of out-of-breathness that means you lose the plot. Quite literally.

Jurassic Park is a surprise. I felt that it hit this pacing balance quite squarely on the nail. The tension builds throughout the game, but there are pauses that allow the heart rate to descend back to normal for long enough to allow the story, the characters, and their relationships to develop.


The only moments that made me think, "that's odd," were the transitions between the episodes of the game. In the all-in-one package I played, each episode (except for the prologue) clearly starts with a lighthearted scene with happy music and the production credits overlain on the introductory action, as you would see with a film or TV program. However, the end of each episode seems to need to finish with a cliffhanger. This is great, except that you get the cliffhanger moment, a second of black screen, then the next episode opens as I described above. As it stands, it feels like they've just jammed the episodes back-to-back, without much thought to the transitions between them.


Jurassic Park is an excellent game, if you have the reactions for it and the tolerance for tension. I thoroughly enjoyed (if that's the right word for it) the drama of everything. The plot weaves around that of the film without interference. The characters are complex enough to be interesting, though I must say they are not without their clichés. They develop as the plot rides along, and there are twists that don't just throw more dinosaur encounters at them. The dinosaurs are large and scary, and well animated. Their relentlessness is truly terrible, which makes me all the happier that they are long, long gone.

In the end, it's only really the little geeky kid in me (slightly dinosaur-obsessed and a little sad) that objects to giving the full A grade because they couldn't get the right dinosaurs for Jurassic Park.

Grade:   A-

What do you need to play it?

PC/Mac recommended requirements:

  • XP Service Pack 3 / Vista / Windows 7 / Mac OS X 10.6
  • 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent CPU (2.0 GHz for Mac)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 GB free hard disk space
  • 256 MB RAM ATI or NVidia video card, with DirectX 9.0c (PC)
  • DirectX 8.1 sound device (PC)

Not recommended for MAC Minis or early-generation MacBooks.

Also available on Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3.

(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB  video card with mother-board sound card)

Jurassic Park is available via download from Telltale Games.


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