Jurassic Park: Telltale’s quick-time dinosaur time

December 14, 2011

Everything about Telltale’s Jurassic Park feels like an homage to the original film. The characters would have worked in the movie, the situations genuinely feel like examples of how a day in Jurassic Park plays out, and the story, despite having to carefully step around the story of the film, is engrossing and would have made a better sequel than JP2 did. There are a few problems, but my love for the source material and Telltale’s great treatment of it was more than enough to overcome them.

As with all of Telltale’s games (except Poker Night at the Inventory), story is front and center here. If you’re not into Jurassic Park, then there is very little here for you. If you are a fan, then you’ll marvel at the triceratops along with Jessi, confront the dilophosaur herd that took out Dennis Nedry as a mercenary, and try desperately to stay out of the way as a tyrannosaur does its best to make the alpha triceratops its lunch with a wide grin on your face.

What doesn’t really hold up is the gameplay itself. Jurassic Park is one long, four-chapter quick-time event with a few light puzzles interspersed. I actually don’t mind quick-time events in games. I feel like they can add to the tension of a scene, and they serve to make things typically reserved to pre-canned non-interactive animation more interactive. They lose their appeal a little bit when every action your character takes is one. The really baffling thing, though, is how it is decided when the player needs to interact. Sometimes you have to guide a character down the stairs one step at a time (and if they’re moving quickly it is actually fairly easy to mess these up), and others you’ll be performing much simpler actions with no real time constraint to sprint across a room and avoid a dinosaur. The disconnect does keep you on your toes, but afterward you can almost hear somebody saying “there isn’t enough to do in this scene – make the player guide the little girl down the stairs.” I didn’t like the QTE for mundane things in Heavy Rain, and I don’t like it here.

Isla Nublar has been lovingly recreated here, and you will see many familiar places. In the first episode alone, you’ll see the docks where everybody with any luck evacuated from, the site of Nedry’s jeep crash cum dilophosaur battle, the visitor’s center, and the interior of one of the remote-controlled Ford Explorers with a custom JP paint job that every kid in my fifth-grade class desperately wanted. The music feels appropriate and channels the John Williams score of the film at just about every turn as well. There is very little about Jurassic Park that doesn’t jive with the movie, and what little parts don’t, I think, can be chalked up to technical issues instead of design choices. The music will occasionally drop out between scenes, and the outdoor environments feel a bit constrained, but you’re along the ride for a preset story not playing an open-world game set in the park so the feeling makes sense to me.

Deaths can sometimes feel arbitrary, but failure means rewinding at most a minute and trying again. I would mind a lot more if failing a quick time event meant restarting the entire scenario instead of just the last 60 seconds. It takes away from the tension, but it also takes away from any frustration since some of the aforementioned quick time events have a very short timer on them. You almost assuredly will fail some of the the first time, miss your gold rank on the scenario, and defeat that tyrannosaur through the magic of video game mechanics. There isn’t a ton of replay value here, but if you’re anything like me you aren’t interested in Jurassic Park solely as a game – it’s more of a story and location you love, and on that front Telltale delivers wonderfully.

Pros: interesting story that’s appropriate to the source, great dinosaur sequences that would be at home on a movie screen
Cons: low replay value, some cheap deaths

Score: 4/5

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