Ten Minute Game Review: Jurassic Park (SNES)

A Review 65 Million Years (and ten minutes) in the making. No? Too corny?

Game #2: Jurassic Park
Format: SNES
My copy is: Unboxed (and critically, lacks instructions)

Now this is a game I’ve not bothered to play for a very long period of time. And frankly, it might have sat on the pile a while longer, were it not for the fact that I spent today as a sick day, unable to concentrate on paying work. Finding a mild bit of health returning, I decided to do something slightly creative… and so this.
Jurassic Park, eh? I remember back when it was “the” film to see, because, well, “the dinosaurs! THEY LOOK REAL!“. Oddly, although I was still seeing a fair few films at the time, Jurassic Park (the fillum) evaded me for a number of years. I think I finally saw it on commercial TV, of all things.
The game, though, I played when it was still fresh, albeit as a rental. The SNES version, that is — I’m informed (but not personally willing to assert) that the Megadrive version was pretty bad.  Still, how many games feature Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum in leading roles?
(Side note to Hollywood: It’s not too late for the videogame adaptation of “The Tall Guy”. Just sayin’).

Anyway, with that too lengthy prelude out of the way, on with the actual playing!
Ten Minutes Later:
After getting over the initial thrill of the spinning island, and the excruciating choice — will I go for Stereo sound, or only Mono? — I’m into the game proper. “Welcome To Jurassic Park”, it tells me. I can also pause the game, I find, for “Mr DNA” to tell me interesting Dino facts.
It’s only then that I realise I don’t have the game’s instructions any more, and dino facts just won’t cut it.

"Jurassic Park Is Frightening In The Dark, All The Dinosaurs Are Running Wild....". Ah, Weird Al. Maestro of Maestros. How right you were.

Jurassic Park is, as Weird Al used to warn us, frightening in the dark.

Moreover Jurassic Park is rather free-form for a game of this generation. I spend a couple of minutes just mucking around with the buttons, and trying to work out why when Sam bends down to pick up something, it looks like he’s lining up for the 100m. Also, I’m still not sure why he seemingly has force lightning at his command.
With the control hurdles out of the way, I begin to explore. And at first it’s actually quite likeable — the overland layouts are well displayed, and there’s some nice tension created through the clever use of sound, and also of having the odd stray dino just flicker past behind you. You’re never quite sure if they’re coming for you — or just wandering past.
So far, so good, and I even find a Dino egg (for whatever reason — remember, no instructions) before being  crushed to death by a falling rock. Miraculously, I survived and respawned — and decided in the interests of working out whether to keep Jurassic Park or not, I should go check out the indoor sections, which I remembered were first person affairs.
What I didn’t remember were how poor and frustrating they were.
Oh dear. FPS titles were never the SNES’ forte, and Jurassic Park shows why. It’s slow. It’s unresponsive. The weapons have no kick. I wander into the kitchen from the entranceway to the Vistor’s Centre (what kind of Visitor’s Centre is full of bleedin’ reptiles?), and get set upon by a velociraptor and some kind of… green dinosaur. Probably Yoshi on Crystal Meth. In any case, I’m quickly “dead”, which is to say I regenerate just outside the visitor’s centre.

This might look like a static screenshot, but it's actually a stunning recreation of the frame rate of the FPS sections. In three seconds, you will be dead.
This might look like a static screenshot, but it's actually a stunning recreation of the frame rate of the FPS sections. In three seconds, you will be dead, by the way.

There’s an enormous contrast between the indoor and outdoor sections, and not one I welcome, so I end out my ten minutes going on an outdoors egg hunt. I still don’t know why I’m hunting Dino eggs… I just am, I suppose.
I’m struck by how the game does offer you something of a moral choice in the outdoor arenas — there are plenty of Dinos who are willing to just run back and forth, and while you don’t want to get run over by them, you’re quite free to avoid them. Or, if you’re mildly annoyed, gun them down in cold blood. Hang on.. they’re reptiles. I guess to be a true bastard, you gun reptiles down in hot blood.
My ten minutes ends out with me finding a big grid with yellow stripes and danger written on it. Wondering why, I walk into it — and Sam is zapped, fried, and disintegrates. It seems rather fitting.

The Ten Minute Verdict:
Not a keeper.
Sad but true — I do like the overground sections, and licensing issues mean that this is pretty much guaranteed to never appear on any retro/virtual/arcade console service — but the FPS sections are slow and annoying.. and a large part of the game. It’ll be a while before I sell it off though, if only because it’s not like it’s a rare title, and the amount of effort involved in eBay sales means it’s not worth listing just one game at a time.

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