Impressions: Revisiting Jurassic Park: The Game

In 2011 before The Walking Dead exploded and took Telltale to new heights, they started experimenting with famous IPs for their games. They had already done games connected to existing properties and things like CSI, but it was Back to the Future that really shifted the company towards the people who would later make The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc. Other than Back to the Future, the next biggest early IP they worked with was Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park is similar to later Telltale games, an episodic adventure tied to the famous franchise but telling its own story. The gameplay is mostly QTEs, a few puzzle solving sections, and with a few branching dialogue options. Unlike later Telltale games, Jurassic Park still had a lot of gameplay, relatively speaking, but I am getting a little ahead of myself.

Jurassic Park takes place roughly the same time as the movie. The game starts with introducing you to our three main characters. Nima, a woman we know little about but who is connected to the Nedry plot. Dr. Gerry Harding and his daughter Jess. Gerry and Jess get into a bit of trouble due to the cut power and meet up with Nima. The three have to wait for another rescue, as the chopper from the end of the movie has already left.

A rescue group comes for them, but Nima keeps causing issues, not trusting them, and not finished with whatever has brought her to the island. They also meet Dr. Sorkin, who is a counter to Henry Wu from the movies. She is more caught up in the preservation potential for the park, and much like Nima, gets in the way of most attempts to escape.

The story is interesting if not a little trope heavy. Jess is just a little too much “rebellious teenage” with some absolutely astoundingly ridiculous moments. Gerry is just a little too distant father, etc. The point is they aren’t the most compelling characters. However, these tropes are popular for a reason, and overall it works okay. It’s not the most compelling cast of characters but done well enough that it’s not hard to start to get invested in them.

The story is pretty much what you’d expect. Go from point a to point b for rescue but with a lot of danger between the points. Much like with the movies, every time our group thinks they’ve worked it out, something goes wrong. Some of it actually works rather well with the movies; some of it, however, seems a bit disjointed. You have to kind of forget that there is a whole other cast of characters that logically knows that this group is on the island. They also introduce new areas and such that once again requires you to not worry about its absence in the movie.

In fact, that’s one of the overall things with Telltale games in general, the need to tie to the IP that everyone loves, while still somehow keeping it separate. Some have done so pretty successfully, having Glen there for just a bit in The Walking Dead, as a for instance. It works well enough with Jurassic Park, but more because you want it to work and not because it actually does. There are more than a few plot holes when you really think about how the two work together.

There is also the fact that it almost feels like the book had some influence, specifically Dr. Sorkin and her relationship with Hammond. In the books, Hammond is not the lovable guy he was in the movie, but rather a greedy and selfish man who took advantage of most of the employees at the park. Sorkin discusses Hammond and his greed in a way that makes a lot more sense for the book version. But I digress.

Gameplay, as stated, is mostly puzzle sections and then QTEs. As the Telltale series went on, the cutscenes without QTEs got much longer, and gameplay took an even further backseat. While replaying this, I have to admit it took me a moment to readjust to the fact that I couldn’t simply sit back as often as I have gotten used to, and you know what? I liked it.

The puzzles are pretty standard. You need to move a few things around to progress. Sometimes it’s dinosaurs, sometimes just general stuff in your way. The locations in the game are also pretty great. Remember the places that weren’t in the movie? Well, one is a rollercoaster, which is just a silly but awesome section. Another is an underwater section, which is pretty cool.

There is a new dinosaur type also introduced but a lack of satisfying conclusion on that front. In fact, it’s one of a few things introduced in the story that don’t properly get wrapped up. However, by and large, most of it does, even if again, not the most compelling story.

However, there are a few flaws that I think are primarily due to age. Sound mixing is a mess. The audio is inconsistent between chapters, and even individual sections in each chapter will have weird audio. This means you will constantly be adjusting the audio settings. Also, the controller input doesn’t always work well. I remember having issues, especially with button smashing parts, when I originally played this game, and those issues are still alive and well, unfortunately.

However, the game is almost fun to fail at times because it was clear they had fun with some of the deaths. The game is not overly gory, so it’s actually pretty easy to lose yourself in how goofy it can be at times.

So bottom line? I actually enjoyed this recent playthrough more than I remember. The game is not perfect, some scenes are downright annoying, and again age has not been totally kind. However, it is actually a lot of fun. I like that there is more to do than later games, I love the IP, and there is something enjoyable about the silliness. It’s a bit of a shallow experience overall with characters and story, but not so much so that it’s unenjoyable. I genuinely had a lot of fun replaying it, and frankly, it beats out some of the later Telltale experiences for me. If you haven’t played this Telltale game, I would suggest it. If you have, it might be worth a revisit, I know I am glad I did.

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