Jurassic Park, both the 1990 book and 1993 film, is about the overreach of science, and man’s misguided attempt to resurrect long-extinct creatures. We’re not going to say that Telltale’s first episode in a new Jurassic Park adventure series is an abomination against nature, but it does bring back to life a gameplay mechanic– quick-time events– that are about as old and dead as the dinosaurs themselves.
First of all, Jurassic Park: The Game 1 HD only runs on the iPad 2; it won’t run on the first-generation iPad or any iPhone or iPod Touch. Even with the top-line hardware requirement, Jurassic Park still has a crop of audio glitches and stutters, which we’ve seen frequently in other Telltale games like Back To The Future. Restarting your iPad 2 or closing other apps doesn’t completely solve the problem, either.
Are those heavy? Then they’re expensive, put them back.
These glitches are especially painful because they get in the way of a highly cinematic storyline. The plot of Jurassic Park: The Game runs concurrent to the events of the first movie. None of the characters from the movie are depicted in this episode, except for Dennis Nedry’s bloated, venom-soaked corpse in the front of a Jeep. Instead, the game introduces a new cast: a pair of corporate saboteurs working to recover Nedry’s missing Barbasol canister, and a kind-but-distant park ranger whose teenage daughter has unwisely joined him on Isla Nublar.
You’ll switch between two groups– the saboteurs and the park ranger– at various points in the story, but even though the game’s plot is intriguing, the gameplay you’re presented with is not. Most of Jurassic Park: The Game 1 consists of quick-time events, those annoyingly urgent prompts that tell you to swipe, press, or scribble on the screen to continue a cutscene. Nearly everything, from opening doors to running from dinosaurs, requires a timed button press or swipe, rendering all these actions meaningless. By the end of the game, you won’t know if you’re swiping to cause a particular action, or just to avoid dying.
Nuh uh uh, you should have said the magic word.
The death sequences in Jurassic Park: The Game represent an interesting departure for Telltale, whose main protagonists almost never face death. However, the delight of seeing dinosaurs eat the main characters is quickly diminished when you’re forced to repeat the quick-time events that immediately preceded it. We like that the main characters face actual danger on Isla Nublar, but any direct control the player has over their fate has been wrested away by the weak gameplay.
Fortunately, it’s not all quick-time events. There are a few standout investigative scenes where you have to solve puzzles by searching the environment. Our favorite takes place on the mud-soaked hill where Nedry got his car stuck and met his fate. This alternate view of a famous movie scene is a nice reward for JP fans, even if the scene itself is easily solved by tapping on highlighted prompts.
We’ve found Nedry’s missing magnifying glass.
Based on the first episode, we’re not too excited for the rest of Telltale’s Jurassic Park series. Instead of designing a movie-based game with highly interactive characters, like in Gameloft’s upcoming Tintin game, Telltale took the opposite approach and made most of Jurassic Park: The Game an extended cutscene. While the animation, direction, and sound design are all top-notch, Jurassic Park sacrifices the interaction that separates games from movies. The balancing act of Telltale’s Back To The Future series, which combined classic characters and traditional adventure game design, is nowhere to be found.
If you’re eager to continue the story of Isla Nublar, Telltale’s new characters and scenarios shed some new light on the movie’s most famous scenes, with hopefully more to come. But as a game, this episode is a failure, with dull, reflexive activity required to keep the storyline moving. Like the scientists at Jurassic Park, the gamesmiths at Telltale were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.