I should probably preface my impressions of Telltale's take on Jurassic Park by saying that the original film is my favorite movie of all time. So, when starting up the demo at Telltale's booth at GDC, I was filled with both excitement and fear at what the company best known for comical adventure games would do to my favorite franchise. And I'm happy to say that, based on what I've seen, it is a far more worthy addition to the original than either of its film sequels.
The story of the Jurassic Park game takes place parallel to the events of the film. Moviegoers likely remember the shaving cream can of stolen dinosaur embryos, which was buried in the mud as Dennis Nedry made friends with a dilophosaurus. It turns out that Nedry had a partner waiting at the docks, and she becomes a focal character in Telltale's game as she attempts to retrieve the embryos and escape the island.
Read on for impressions from the game's playable GDC demo.
The demo opened with that accomplice character covered in blood, injuries that a Telltale representative told me were sustained by a new breed of dinosaur not seen in any of the films. She was unconscious in the arms of a man while the man's daughter drove them through the park's jungle. Suddenly the jeep stopped, and the headlights revealed a triceratops standing in the middle of the road gnawing at a fallen branch. This is when the gameplay actually started, controlling the father as he stepped out of the jeep to solve the triceratops problem. Standing still, the camera could pan around the scene with the left analog stick (the demo was played with a wired Xbox 360 controller plugged into a PC). Context-sensitive buttons would appear as the camera moved to show actions that could be performed, much like in Heavy Rain.
A Telltale representative pressing the left trigger and pulled up a menu of locations and moved to the triceratops pen control panel. The control panel needed a password to activate the backup generators, and by simply switching to the daughter, who was still in the jeep, we were able to look up the password in the park's directory located in the jeep's glove compartment. The Heavy Rain comparisons continue as all of these actions, from opening the glove compartment to pulling a lever, were performed with a combination of button presses and movements of the right analog stick.
With the pen open, it was time to get the triceratops back inside and out of the road. Activating the car's headlights and alarm was enough to startle the triceratops, allowing the father to quickly grab the branch and throw it into the pen for the dinosaur to follow. Mission accomplished, right?
However, no victories are long-lived in Jurassic Park. It becomes immediately apparent that the triceratops in the road was only an infant, and that a much larger and over-protective mother has been attracted by the light and sound from the jeep. The larger triceratops charges, knocking down the gate on top of the father, and skewers the jeep. Of course, things go from bad to worse when a T-Rex shows up. A quick-time event plays out as the father maneuvers around the two battling dinosaurs to rescue his daughter and the mysterious blood-soaked woman from the jeep. It's an incredible scene, rightfully putting the focus on the human characters simply trying to survive amid the chaos. You aren't fighting the dinosaurs, you're just trying to stay out of their way. The intensity is reminiscent of the kitchen scene in the film, the sort of scene that likely wouldn't have appeared if the Jurassic Park license had been given to a different developer and turned into an action game. And as far as quick-time events are concerned, this one was fairly unique, with multiple button prompts often on-screen giving you split-second options between multiple paths or actions.
Failing in the quick-time events can lead to any number of dinosaur-related deaths. From getting crushed under a scaly foot or getting slammed into a wall by a triceratops tail, to getting devoured by a T-Rex or crushed between the two dinosaurs in the above screenshot. Unlike Heavy Rain, the game can't continue if a character dies, but thankfully there are plenty of checkpoints within each quick-time event so that death never forces you to replay more than one or two actions before the one that got you killed. Since there's little penalty for death, I'd highly recommended purposefully failing some of the quick-time events just to see the death animations. It's totally worth it.
After getting eaten a few times more than I'd like to admit, everyone escaped to safety and the demo concluded. I do have a few slight criticisms from what was shown in the demo. There were a few more instances of quick-time button mashing than I would have liked (there was at least one, which is one too many). And if I'm really getting into nit-picking, then I would say that the daughter character has a more baby-faced, cartoony look that isn't consistent with the detailed look of the dinosaurs, environments, and even the other human characters, but that may be more a matter of personal opinion. Overall though, I came away very impressed by Telltale's Jurassic Park. It captures the pacing of the first movie between moments of calm and danger, all while telling a new story to fit within the existing mythos. As a die-hard Jurassic Park fan, and as a gamer, I can't wait until April to uncover what hidden secrets remain on Isla Nublar.