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
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.
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
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'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
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.
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
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
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
256 MB RAM ATI or
NVidia video card, with DirectX 9.0c (PC)
DirectX 8.1 sound
Not recommended for MAC Minis or early-generation
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)
is available via download from
GameBoomers Review Guidelines