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Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Jurassic Park: The Game (PC)

When I say Telltale Games, what comes to mind? More than likely, it's 'point and click' adventure titles. Get ready to rethink that a bit, since Jurassic Park: The Game redefines what a point and click can be as well as what it can do.

I should probably mention, before I get into the actual game, that I'm a big fan of the source material. To me, the first pair of JP films (let's leave the third one out of this) are both classics of the adventure genre and the books that went along with them were two of the greatest action/sci-fi/adventure tales ever written- at least for a dino-junkie like me.

With that kind of enthusiasm for the IP, you can safely assume that I was most definitely looking forward to Telltale Games' vision for the franchise. The company has, after all, a tremendous track record for developing neo-classic adventure games. Their titles keep all of the mechanics of the past (games like Maniac Mansion) while infusing them with top notch graphics and sound. To put it bluntly, their presentation is nothing short of awesome. Just as Wayforward is the modern master of the 2D side-scroller, Telltale owns modern adventure tales.

Get to the Choppah!!
Then I found out that JP had QTE's. Lots of QTE's. Quick Time Events are staples of games like Sony's God of War series- and I hate them with a passion. In fact, while we're on the subject, the GoW series could seriously do without them interrupting what is otherwise a fine hack-n-slash. Personally, I could never really totally get into Kratos' adventures because of the obtrusive regularity of the QTE. No thanks.

But something strange happened when I started playing- I actually liked the use of QTE's here. It just 'fits'. See, JP isn't your typical point and click anyway since you don't actually move your charaacter around by clicking your mouse on different areas of the screen. You instead select different 'video camera' style panels accessed via an icon on the bottom left of the screen to move around.

But how do you avoid obstacles and dinosaurs you ask? That's where the quick times come in. Here's an example (that doesn't spoil anything, trust me): you're in a fast moving vehicle and a dino latches onto the roof. You have to drive the car, avoid the dino's random stabs at you, and try to steer the car into something low that'll knock said thunder-lizard off your conveyance.

Quick- left, right, up
All of that stuff would be handled with QTE's. The up side of it is that you can have plenty of fast action scenes in an adventure game- something you normally don't see. The unfortunate down side is that you will die a lot. A lot. I said 'a lot' right? It's really not that bad though, since the game is pretty forgiving and will just start you up right at the top of the event with minimal 'I saw all this already' feel.

The only permanent thing is that your score will drop and you'll lose out on that elusive gold medal. Every section is scored independently and a kind of achievement system awards you bronze, silver, or gold depending on just how perfect you pulled things off. Mess up too much and you won't get a medal at all. But remember- I said the game was pretty forgiving -and (unlike in the Olympics) you'll still proceed through the main story, even without getting a medal on your event.

Another issue I had with the game is that the graphics, while very good overall, seem to stutter a bit in the animation department. Characters simply stop and freeze at times, as new scenarios and actions load up. It was annoying, not horrible, but annoying.

Spared no expense...
Other than that though, there isn't a whole lot to complain about here. The sound design is just plain awesome with both human voices and bone chilling dinosaur roars coming across as stunningly polished and studio perfect. The T-Rex in particular sounds just like the films. Sound effects are solid if a little unspectacular (give yourself a 'no prize' if you can pick out the door effect from Doom- yes seriously) but they get the job done.

So some minor quibbles aside though, I really liked this game. It was a joy to play through a title that actually respected and understood the license so well after playing all the hair-brained action games that came out of it for so many years. The general flow of the story and the way that the game tells it, is so fantastic that I literally sat down to play and didn't realize that hours had passed and I was more than half way through the story. It was that well done. I think the bottom line here is that, if you're a JP fan, you're going to find a lot to enjoy in Jurassic Park: The Game.

The story is extremely well crafted and takes place during and just after the first movie, characters are actually likable (with some you may recognize from the novels and not the screen), and there's some genuinely scarey/intense action scenes. But I'm a fan, what if you're not? Well, I still think it's worth a go. This is a game that dares to do something different with the genre and for that alone it's worth a try.

Jurassic Park: The Game had me all the way through. Action, suspense, some legit chills- and the game is dripping with quality storytelling. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

- Jason M





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Review: Jurassic Park: The Game (PC)
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