Jurassic Park was so heavily marketed when it was released that a version of the game appeared on every console that was out at the time. Even the little Tiger handheld games had one. Most of these focused on some sort of scrolling action hooey. Only one, excluding the PC’s flawed Trespasser, actually put you on the island in a true adventure, and tasked you with escaping.
You just happen to be looking at that game.
Jurassic Park CD represents a great example of smart design. Sega took the time to create a unique adventure that actually played to the CD medium’s strengths. Like Road Avenger, they chose animation over FMV. Like Iron Helix, they chose to make a great adventure over trying to stuff a CD with video. Everything in the game takes advantage of the Sega CD’s improvements over the stock Genesis, and also plays to making a top-notch, PC-esque experience. Truly, golf claps all around for you fellas. You’ve crafted an adventure based on a bloated IP that’s actually worth playing through.
JP-CD begins with your helicopter unluckily crashing on the northern coast of the island; a typical “stranded” gimmick that you will see again. Your initial moments will be spent getting a feel for the layout of the island and looking for signs of civilization that might allow you to contact a rescue. The game takes place after the events in the book, but rarely references it. You’ll see overturned cars and broken T-Rex fences, but you won’t meet characters from the story or find many, if any, signs of their passing. Mostly the game just focuses on the core ideas – you’re the only human left on the island, the park’s systems are down, and the dinos are hungry.
Exploration and escape is your main job here, not repairing the park. However, you are required to find and secure seven species of dino eggs before the company will send a rescue chopper. This is nothing more than a contrivance to get you into seven dino nests, but it isn’t unwelcome. It gives you a goal, and keeps you moving around the park. As you progress, you’ll always be looking for new keycards to expand your security clearance.
There are also a generous dose of puzzles to defeat. Almost all of these are of the mechanical variety – leaky pipes, locked grate, bolted fence – and only require the requisite tools to defeat them. You’ll find those tools scattered throughout the park. Whenever dinosaurs get involved, you’ll either zap them with various tranquilizing guns, or use objects to exploit some dino-weakness of theirs. These are always covered on kiosks scattered around, which play a short information video from paleontologist Robert Bakker, and contain the necessary clue within.
I’m not really jazzing this description up, so it sounds a little boring. The game doesn’t feel that way. It’s somewhat intellectual; taking more reference from the novel than the film, and quite entertaining for the point-and-click adventure crowd. It is not the thrill-a-minute action game from the other consoles. Dinos don’t chase you. You don’t outrun them in a jeep while shooting tranq darts from the back. Most of the time, you’re just strolling through the park, looking for equipment, and watching dinosaurs. I like it.
Now, there are definitely sequences where you’re cornered and only have a few seconds to react, and the movie’s spitting Dilophosaurus frequently shows up to give you something to shoot at, but the game is globally focused more on adventure. I find this a refreshing way to play though Jurassic Park, and more faithful to the book. Make no mistake though, there is a time limit before something happens, and dino eggs must be rushed back to the nursery after retrieval or they’ll die, but you’re rarely looking at a Game Over.
Jurassic Park uses a variant of the Myst gameplay style to move you around the park. You can only travel between fixed points, but each point is a 360-degree panoramic screen of the surrounding area. It looks nice, and frees some of the fixed-screen restrictions of Myst. At least now you can pan around to look nearly everywhere you want to. Also, there’s much more activity and background animation in each area than in Myst, from dinos milling about, to machines spinning, to spitters popping up to… spit at you. A lot of complaints about Myst were that it was too boring, because “nothing happened” Not the case here.
Graphically, JP looks nice. Backgrounds are drawn well, and animation mixes in fluidly. The limited available colors hurt a little, and the CD compression oddly appears to affect the panoramic stills too, but the jungle still seems lush and vibrant. Every critical object is also clear and understandable. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll also recognize some familiar elements. The look of the vehicles and the visitor’s center are taken from there, but everything else seems to be inspired by the novels (like the volcanic Raptor nest). I like the fact that movie isn’t used as the design bible. It gives the designers more material to draw from, and ensures you won’t be simply playing through the same areas you’ve already seen in the film.
Sounds are generally great. It’s all CD audio, obviously, and perfectly atmospheric (except for the goofy, bloopy little transition themes). Dinosaurs sound like they did in the film, and the jungle ambiance encourages feelings of isolation and being far out of your element. What little voice acting there is in the game is done reasonably well, and Bakker’s video is clear, thankfully short, and generally useful.
It’s easy to control, but does require you to use the controller like a PC mouse, which irritates the hell of out some gamers. The D-pad controls a cursor on the screen, and sliding it to edges pans your view in that direction. The cursor changes to action icons (like a hand or magnifying glass) when over something you can interact with, and pressing C will execute the indicated action. B brings up an inventory menu, and you will needed to pull items from it for use on objects inside the world. The cursor changes to the object now in your hand, or the crosshairs for the gun, and C uses/fires until you select the default crosshair from the inventory again. A travels when the arrow icon indicates you can head in that direction. In all, standard stuff and no complaints or particular issues.
Jurassic Park CD isn’t a bad choice for any adventure gamer. If you really love adventure games, you know well that you can never have enough (they’re not quite as replayable as other genres), and this one will fill your needs nicely.
A true Jurassic Park adventure that’s worth playing through.
Point & click with a console controller may turn off some. Some pixelated images here and there. Not much to come back to once you’ve finished.