Cue the theme, the logo, the dinosaurs…
From the moment it starts, Telltale’s Jurassic Park instantly transports you to Isla Nublar and the magical and dangerous grounds of Jurassic Park. This IS John Hammond’s dream park of dinosaurs, born from a little DNA trapped within amber; the world you remember so fondly, the sights, the sounds, the formerly extinct dinosaurs, both graceful and downright deadly.
The game’s storyline takes place during the time-frame of the first book/movie and builds off of some of the plot lines of the source material, introducing a new cast of characters and situations. Dennis Nedry still attempts to escape with the Barbasol can filled with Dino DNA, only to meet a gruesome demise. Instead of Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill in the film) the story focuses on a veterinarian, Dr. Harding and his daughter (who have a rich back story) as well as a mysterious female mercenary. These characters are interesting, and the dialog and plot lines of the game are one of its biggest strengths. This, coupled with some great visuals and stellar voice work will keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat for much of the ride. I’m curious to see where they take the story in the final 3 episodes. However, even on my iPad 2 (for which this game is exclusively designed), there were some occasional stutters in playback and slow loading times, but nothing that I felt was bad enough for me to give up on the game completely. The folks at Telltale had suggested closing all other open Apps, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. Jurassic Park also supports viewing on your home television via AirPlay, but I didn’t have the equipment to try this out.
Movement within Jurassic Park is accomplished via a simple to use picture-in-picture scene navigation mechanism, which allows you to jump to certain locations within a scene. Once there, you can drag your fingers around to pan the camera and explore your surroundings, looking for hand prints which can then be tapped to interact with a particular object or person. This means of navigation worked rather well, as did the dialog on demand system which allows you to select from multiple choices for dialog and interact with other characters at will.
Jurassic Park is probably best classified as more of an interactive film, than a game. For better or for worse, you’ll quickly discover that much of the interactive puzzle elements delve into the Dragon’s Lair / Space Ace model of time-based reactionary gestures, rather than outright puzzle solving or action gaming. There is a bronze /silver/gold scoring system that tries to encourage a vested interest, and if you fail too many times, then you’ll have to start the sequence over. There are moments where you need to drag something down, or swipe your finger in a specified direction on a particular location on the screen.
I guess I was just hoping for a little more action and unpredictability rather than just some repetitive gestures, which quite honestly get a bit tiresome and distracting. I often found myself wishing that Telltale had just stuck with a more traditional collect/combine/use adventure game style that was more cerebral. While the exploration aspects of the game feel open and expansive, the puzzle element just feel too restrictive and contrived. Almost like they were added on just to create some more interactivity. Sure, at first these gestures do kind of pull you into the story, but after a while they just become repetitive and distracting, taking you out of the moment and disrupting the enjoyment of the cinematic adventure unfolding before you.
Overall I enjoyed this trip back to Jurassic Park. I’ve read the books and seen the films and I must say that Telltale has done a brilliant job reproducing this larger than life world that had me so entranced and wide-eyed when I first experienced it 18 years ago. Telltale shows a deep respect for the source material and the world created by the late Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s big screen adaptation. This feels like an authentic and true Jurassic Park adventure with all the thrills and chills (and even the humor) that you’d expect. Unfortunately the experience is somewhat sullied by a repetitive and uninspired interactive element that feels a bit forced for interactivity’s sake. To the curious buyer, I’d advise waiting until this one goes on sale, to the Jurassic Park enthusiasts, $6.99 is less than a movie ticket and Jurassic Park offers up plenty of fan service.