Last year Telltale Games acquired licenses from Universal to create games for two of it’s biggest franchises, Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. After a successful run with Back to the Future I have been looking forward to the release of Jurassic Park, originally set for an April drop, it suffered a major delay but the day finally arrived this week and I managed to get my grubby mitts on a copy.
Starting the game up, I’m immediately I’m taken back to 1993, and my fear of a velociraptor jumping out the toilet to eat me is reignited. The story introduces new characters not found in the movies, but everything runs parallel to its events. Ever wondered what happened to the shaving cream canister after Nedry dropped it? You will find out here, as you jump between various characters built into this side story.
Music and sound effects are absolutely on par with what you expect from a Jurassic Park production. The dinosaurs are also modeled perfectly against their movie counterparts, easily making this Telltale’s biggest graphical accomplishment on the iPad. This does have it’s drawbacks though, Jurassic Park is a little on the dark side when it comes to general brightness so is best played in a low lighted room if you want to know what’s going on half of the time and headphones are a must. Telltale in my opinion, although I adore their releases are notorious on the iPad scene for releasing games that simply do not perform technically to a satisfactory level. So when I saw that Jurassic Park is a iPad 2 only game I took the assumption that Telltale have sensibly approached the release by dropping support for the product that wouldn’t perform correctly. Even on the iPad 2 though Jurassic Park suffers from audio jumps and minor freezes that completely ruin momentum. I can’t say exactly why Telltale seems to always have this problem, but taking a stab at it I would assume it could be their game engine still needs some major work for it to be fully compatible for the iPad.
Momentum is a big part of Jurassic Park where it’s action sequences are concerned. Gameplay is very much like the PS3′s Heavy Rain, the entire game is basically a long running quicktime event with no direct control over the characters. You interact by correctly inputting commands such as swiping your finger in the indicated direction, rubbing the screen or tapping to fill up a meter. It might not sound very exciting on paper, but when playing I realized that if I was given more of these actions to do I would lose focus of the amazingly cinematic sequence I was watching, so in retrospect, what’s required from the player is balanced intelligently so you can feel like you have control over what’s happening on screen and manage to still watch the scene play out.
When you’re not ducking and diving away from an angry T-Rex or hiding from a hell-bent Dilophosaurus Telltale have thrown in some of its trademark puzzle work. One of the biggest criticisms from Back to the Future was how easy the puzzles had been made and the same is true for Jurassic Park, even more so. Although not advertised as a puzzle game the puzzles that are in the game are blatantly obvious to solve, almost to point where you feel they’re only present to add filler to the game’s total gameplay time, the same goes for the dialogue choices. Regardless of how you decide to proceed with conversation you will always end up with the same result.
Split up over 12 varied scenarios you’re scored on successfully tapping the onscreen commands in time. The top right of your screen will display a gold medal and for every missed command the medal will drop a rank from gold, to nothing. The medals are a way of getting you to replay sequences, but to be perfectly honest the only reason I’ve had to boot the game back up again since completing it has been to show a few friends how cool the T-Rex looks battling a Triceratops.
My biggest infuriating gripe with the game though is the total gameplay time, it took me 1hr 30minutes to complete, regardless of this being only episode 1 or a 4 part series the $6.99 (£4.99) price tag is too steep for my liking.
Jurassic Park most certainly can’t be classed as a game in the traditional sense of the word. Much like the handful of titles in this genre, it’s the experience, the thrill of watching a higher pressure scene and then being prompted to rapidly rub the screen to escape from what looks like an inescapable situation, it’s about feeling like you are actually at Jurassic Park. Although this nostalgia-induced experience is enjoyable, it’s criminally short gameplay time, questionable performance on the iPad 2 and price leave me feeling a considerably underwhelmed.