Jurassic Park: The Game
Telltale Games has always been about simplicity in design as an approach toward interactive storytelling. They make adventure games, much like the ones made when the genre was big, but they do so without the fat. By cutting out unnecessarily large inventory schemes and obtuse puzzles they can, and have, focused more on the presentation of the story. Jurassic Park makes a few changes on the usual Telltale formula, complete with a remarkable narrative attached. Some of those changes, however, have simplified the setup too much, leaving the gameplay empty and stale.
The story spins off from the first film, following the canister of embryos Dennis Nedry had attempted and failed to sneak off of the island. The main characters and events of the film are subtle touches that exist in the background. Instead you follow a small group of new characters as they attempt to make their way off of the island. They’re a unique band, falling together and pulling apart as the story appropriates tension at just the right moments. It’s the kind of story that Jurassic Park III wishes it could have been.
At times any illusion that these are not fanboys and fangirls who made this game evaporates. There are parts in the storyline that aren’t just homage to the classic film, but rather a reflection of its events. It’s a quirky little moment when it tries to be funny, but it also offsets the mood when something dramatic is going on.
The story is set up to follow multiple characters, frequently jumping back and forth between them. This exists not only to follow along with their separate narratives when they’re apart, but also with their separate motives when they’re together. Sometimes, when the whole group unites, the game allows you to switch between all members of the party, each with their own view on how to solve the problem at hand. This kind of mechanic shines brightest in one scene in which two of the characters are arguing, and you’re choosing the dialogue options for both. It’s almost like playing chess with yourself.
There’s also a game in this. Wrapped up within the interactive story there is an adventure game, but a highly simplified one at that. There is no inventory to keep track of or areas to backtrack to. About half of the playing time you’ll be exploring small set pieces. Each of these areas will usually be subdivided, involving a puzzle that requires using multiple characters to shift the various switches, platforms and boxes you come across.
The other half of the playing time, that being the more action oriented segments, are entirely quick-time events. Whether you’re sneaking by some dinosaurs, running down a hallway or climbing a staircase, there is usually some form of QTE to speed you along. There’s a desire to be like Heavy Rain, and at times Jurassic Park‘s QTEs have a similar, fluid feel. There are moments in which the QTE matches properly to what’s happening on screen. There are moments in which you can fail, and your character will merely stumble along. There are even moments in which the QTE is designed knowing you will fail, all with the intent to make the scene more dramatic.
And yet, there are moments in which you’ll die and get flung back to the last checkpoint over and over again, all because you missed a single button press. There’s enough of this within the game that it becomes distracting, making the dramatic less so and the game frustrating. These poorly implemented QTE sections cripple the intent of presenting an interactive storytelling experience.
Which is too bad, because there is an entertaining story there. It’s the kind of story that revives Jurassic Park, as it once was. If only all that gameplay filler wasn’t in the way.