Being a fan of adventure games, and having thoroughly enjoyed previous titles by Telltale Games, I found myself quite exited at the chance to run through their latest outing, Jurassic Park: The Game. Not only would I have all the puzzle-solving goodness, witty dialogue, sly humor, and charming fun of their previous games, but it would also be chock-full of dinosaurs! How could I go wrong?
Well, at least it has dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park: The Game marks a new style in Telltale Games titles, one I hope they reconsider. Barely able to be called an adventure game, Jurassic Park: The Game feels much more like a slightly-interactive movie. Replacing most puzzles with Quick-Time Events, players are pushed along at a break-neck pace from one scene to the next, barely pausing long enough to actually enjoy the scenery. I understand the need to maintain a sense of urgency and danger, perfectly fitting to the movie, but throwing almost all of the traditional aspects of a beloved genre out the window to do so requires the remainder of the game to be blazing with top-notch play. Unfortunately, it falls short.
Picking up somewhere near the last quarter of the movie, Jurassic Park: The Game focuses on a group of stragglers that Spielberg's cameras failed to capture. This motley crew, including a park veterinarian,his daughter, a geneticist, a squad of InGen mercenaries, and a smuggler awaiting that infamous Barbasol cannister, are just beginning to feel the effects of the power outage. The voice acting is quite good, and dialogue is generally entertaining if never terribly deep. Decidedly less cartoony than Telltale's other titles, Jurassic Park also manages to capture the more serious feel of the survival thriller. The dinosaurs, obvious stars of the show, are very well done, even if the humans animations suffer a bit in comparison. The environments are probably the weakest point, as the lush jungles, cramped compound corridors, and other settings failed to live up to their inhabitants. Truthfully, though, I didn't spend all that much time looking at the scenery, as much of the game is spent frantically trying to catch the lightning-fast QTE indicators and avoid yet another (surprisingly gory) character death.
Game play, such as it is, is mostly divided in two ways. First, and more sedate, is the "exploration" part of the game. Here, players will be presented with up to four static scenes from which to pick out various hotspots and take time for chats among themselves. The "puzzle" part of most of the scenes involves nothing more than simply clicking at the various hotspots, sometimes in an easy-to-deduce order, and then moving on. There were a few exceptions to this "click it until it works" tactic, but in the entire 6-or-so hour game there were only a couple places that really involved any sort of thought to move on, and even those were elementary at best.
Unlike most adventure games, players don't really control a single character throughout, but instead they control whomever might be the central figure of a given screen. This can become a bit disorienting, not only for the purposes of working through the puzzles, but most jarringly during dialogue. Especially later in the game, players are often given dialogue options for both participants, which really gave me the weirdest feeling of carrying on a conversation with myself. Much of the dialogue was decent, but many times it was overshadowed with a creepy sense of schizophrenia.
When not talking or leisurely clicking through hotspots, Jurassic Park takes a frenetic turn. Much of the game's "challenge" lies in the Quick Time Events, fast-paced WASD-and-mouse gymnastics that quickly overstay their welcome. While the triggers are sometimes intuitive, most of the time the commands just seem to be arbitrary. When I thought a character should be jumping a particular direction, as cued in by the action onscreen, many times the commands would call for "Up Up Down" or some equally random sequence. Many times the button presses made sense after the move was made, but by then I was a dinosaur's dinner and had to replay the sequence. And, yes, there are a lot of gory and quick deaths in this game. Although there are never really any overlong stretches of time between save points, there were several sequences I witnessed many more times than I would have liked. A few of these QTE sequences would have been fine, but an entire game full of them is just plain tiring.
Much more frustrating than the QTEs, however, were the game-stopping bugs. On more than one occasion, I'd finish a scene only to be booted to the main menu, with the next scene still locked. Each of these restarts only lost me about 10 to 15 minutes' time, but it got old quickly. In addition, I had a few occasions where my cursor would simply disappear, again requiring me to re-start and lose all unsaved play.
With nothing but pseudo-puzzles and QTEs, Jurassic Park: The Game pretty much plays out as a slightly-interactive movie. And while it might have been entertaining if compacted into an hour and a half, the roughly six-hour stretch really taxed my patience. Toward the end, no matter how well the characters were fleshed out, I have to admit much of my enjoyment came from watching the grisly consequences of yet another failed button press. This certainly doesn't live up to the standards of Telltale Games' previous titles.
But, hey, dinosaurs. That's worth something, at least.