Jurassic Park is one of my favorite movies of all time. I could easily watch it over and over without ever losing interest. So, when I found out Telltale was making a game based on the franchise, to say I was excited would be a bit of an understatement. The reverence and love brought to the Back to the Future franchise showed their respect for the license and their storytelling ability. With a license as used (and abused) as Jurassic Park, it can definitely be a daunting task to take on. Luckily, Telltale was up to the challenge.
From the first notes of John Williams’ epic score, you’re drawn into the world of Jurassic Park. One of the highlights of any Telltale game is their story and characters, and Jurassic Park is no exception. The overall production value for the game is very high for an iOS title. Graphics are impressive, characters are detailed, and sound is full and rich. Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself in various locales from the film, such as the visitor center. These are faithfully recreated, and help really draw the player into the experience. The entire experience feels much more like a console experience than a typical iOS game; due in no small part of course to the fact that this more or less the same experience provided on consoles and PC, brought to the iPad.
The story centers around the can of dinosaur embryos that Dennis Nedry was trying to sneak off the island in the film. (You remember) You start the game as mercenaries trying to recover said canister, and continue as Dr. Harding (a minor character from the film) and his daughter. All the characters are well-written and voiced. Telltale is known for great characters, and these are no exception. The characters are not simply two dimensional stereotypes, and you’ll find yourself really caring what happens to these people. The story draws you in, and will leave you wanting to know what happens next and will surely keep you engaged throughout.
The gameplay is one of the more unique aspects of Jurassic Park. If you ever played Heavy Rain, you’ll instantly recognize many elements. The game is largely based on quick time events, mixed in with choice-based dialogue and puzzles. The QTEs consist of well-timed swipes and taps on the screen. The touch screen performs admirably for these QTEs, and the actions almost always make sense; swiping a door to open it, for instance. Puzzles have you switching perspectives throughout a scene, and sometimes even characters, to find a solution. While the puzzles are not very complex, and there is only one way to solve them, the solution is never simply handed to you and requires some environmental exploration. The result is rewarding, and the puzzles are varied enough to stay interesting. The game maintains good pacing throughout, and the balance between all of these elements is handled well.
While the game does offer some choices to make along the line, it all seems like the player doesn’t have much influence over the outcome of the story. While missing a QTE or choosing a specific line of dialogue can change a few minor details, overall the game feels a bit like you’re being channeled down a predefined path. One of the big draws to a game like Heavy Rain (which the developers said they hoped to emulate) is truly branching story lines where choices and actions can significantly change the outcome, and even kill a character. In Jurassic Park, if you die, you simply start the sequence over again. While the sense of danger is very real, it would have been nice to have a more diverse and branching story.
Also, the game is not without its problems, and there are some major ones. At times, the frame rate stutters and even freezes momentarily. For a game that is so cinematic and relies so heavily on quick time events, that can be a real game breaker. There were times where the action would just simply stop for several seconds while the iPad tried to catch up with what was happening. While dips in frame rate are understandable, due to the console quality of the game ported to a portable system, they can be really frustrating and pull you out of the experience. Not only that, but when quick time events really on fast reactions, the pauses in action can easily result in missed timing, leading to lower scores and even death. At times it can really be quite game-breaking.
If you can struggle through the sometimes chugging frame rate, there is definitely a game worth playing here. While it is missing some polish, which is unfortunate, the game is still quite playable. For it’s flaws, I still found myself unable to put it down, right up until the credits rolled. The story and characters really shine, and keep you wanting more throughout the experience. Enjoying this game is really dependent upon your expectations going in; it definitely won’t appeal to every gamer, but if you like a well-told story and strong characters, you really should check out Jurassic Park on your iPad.
Here’s The Rundown:
+Strong Characters and Story
+High production values for an iOS title
-Poor frame rate that can be game-breaking
-Very little story branching
7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth your money. These scores are for games that are relatively good, but you would generally only consider them as a rental.
Jurassic Park on iOS is a thing that exists. Telltale gave Bradon a code for it. He played and reviewed it. Dinosaurs. Rawr.