Movie-based games usually suck, but there was something that really intrigued me about Jurassic Park for the Super NES. Maybe it's because it was quite different from any other game I'd played before. Or maybe there was just something cool about being on an island infested with Raptors and T-Rexes that could be lurking around any corner. Whatever the case may be, Jurassic Park was good for a few hours worth of entertainment.
While walking around the island of Jurassic Park, you'll view the action from an overhead, Zelda-like perspective. You control Dr. Alan Grant (who was the Sam Neil character in the movie) as you search through the lush jungles and rocky mountains of Isla Nublar. The graphics and animation are terrific! The dinosaurs, which include small compys, hopping spitters, stampeding triceratops, ravenous raptors and more, all look fairly realistic. But the most spectacular of all is the thundering T-Rex! If you see him, you're likely to get eaten by him and lose a life, but it's worth it!
When you enter a building, ship, or cave, you'll end up moving around in a first-person perspective similar to DOOM. Although the graphics here are quite pixelated, they're still quite nice. The SNES version of DOOM looked similar, but it utilized the Super FX chip. Jurassic Park does not, and yet it still looks just as good. I'm also amazed at the amount of variety used in the interior areas, especially when considering that I've played first-person games on more powerful systems in which everything looked almost exactly alike! But in Jurassic Park, the inside of the ship looks like a ship, complete with life preservers. There's even a kitchen and incubator room in the Visitor's Center! You'll only encounter Raptors and Spitters in these areas, and like the backgrounds, they're very pixelated, but it's still cool to see them up close, especially when a Raptor charges you or a Spitter opens the fan around his neck.
When you begin the game, a deep voice welcomes you to Jurassic Park, which is immediately followed by the sound of pounding jungle drums and chirping insects. From there on out, the music takes on a pseudo-techno beat, and I have to wonder...why?? But it doesn't really matter much. The music isn't much like the movie's, but it's still pretty cool and changes as you move around the island. My particular favorite is the ominous mountain theme that is dominated by the haunting melody of a native flute. The music for the interior areas relaxes from the techno jive into a soft, but very suspenseful theme.
The true highlight of Jurassic Park's sound is not its music, but its effects. The dinosaur screams, some of which were digitized from movie sound samples, are realistic and chilling. The roar of the T-Rex really freaked me out when I first heard it and it still does! In fact, if you just get too close to an area where the T-Rex may appear, the music suddenly changes to this bizarre "warning" song that sounds like a zillion beating drums. Monster sounds can even be heard in other rooms, which gives you an idea if something's going to be waiting behind a door for you.
The play control of Jurassic Park is responsive enough, but it can be tricky to master. In the overworld, the A button fires your primary weapon, Y fires your secondary weapon, X picks things up, and B makes you jump. If that sounds confusing it's because it probably is. It's so easy to hit the wrong button or be in a tight situation (ie, while getting the snot ripped out of you by Raptors) and unable to remember which button to hit! Controls for the interiors are a little simpler, since you don't have to worry about jumping or using a button to pick things up. But as you move and turn, the framerate seems a bit jumpy, which makes the control feel "touchy". Therefore, it's difficult to run and shoot at the same time. However, you almost never have to do that since the dinosaurs rarely come after you unless you get too close.
Jurassic Park is based on the hit movie, but it doesn't follow the movie's events exactly. In the SNES game, only Dr. Alan Grant is trying to get off the island. Other characters from the movie appear in text windows to give Alan advice and tell him what to do. Apparently, they're gonna make him do all the work. How nice! Anyway, Jurassic Park's gameplay is completely driven by its storyline, since you have to finish the tasks in the order they're given to you to proceed. If you don't follow what the characters tell you to do, you'd surely become lost, since the game world is huge and non-linear. Aside from the story, Jurassic Park has cool atmosphere. Overall, it's not as suspenseful and dramatic as the movie, but it has its moments, like when a T-Rex comes lumbering after you. (And if you get eaten by it...man, that's just nasty!) Or when you're searching through those dark buildings and you spot the beady eyes of a Spitter glowing in the distance.
Jurassic Park was a tough game for me to conquer. It doesn't have any kind of save feature, so it has to be completed in one sitting. The only way I was able to solve it was by taking notes and writing an outline each time I played, so that I could quickly work my way back to where I had left off. (I converted this outline into a mini-walkthrough which you can find here.) The main challenge of this game will be figuring out where you have to go, and finding the appropriate items. By touching a Motion Sensor, you'll get a tip from one of the other characters as to what you're supposed to be doing now, but it's usually just a vague clue. For example, you may be told that you have to stop the Raptors from escaping on the ship. But, you'll have to figure out where the ship is and how to get into it. And once you get into the ship, you may find some of the doors are inaccessible. You'll have to look for the items that will give you access, but they could be hidden anywhere in the island's buildings! There may even be things you'd have to do before you could get those items, too.
So, as an adventure challenge, Jurassic Park somewhat succeeds. But as an action challenge, it doesn't. The game just doesn't seem to generate enough excitement. Yes, it's thrilling to have a T-Rex come charging after you, or a pair of Raptors suddenly leap out of the trees to attack. But it's easy to memorize where these creatures will appear (it's not random). So, once you're prepared, they probably won't be much of a threat to you, anymore. Inside the buildings, dinosaurs don't usually come after you, unless you get too close. And even when they do, it's easy to pick them off, especially if you're using the weapons that kill them in one hit.
Despite its shortcomings, I still liked Jurassic Park. It was fun exploring the island and crawling through those dark interiors. (The Raptor's Nest makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking about it!) Perhaps, if Ocean had included a save feature, they could have made the game harder. But without one, it probably would've made the game impossible to finish had the action been more intense. As it is, unless you have about four or five hours to spare, you may end up having to leave your Super NES turned on overnight to finish it. If you do finally finish it, you'll be treated to one of the worst video game endings I've ever seen. I think Ocean should have at least given us a scene of the T-Rex eating the lawyer off the toilet for beating it. That would've been sooo worth it! They could've gotten Lorenzo Quintana to render it!
Another thing I thought I should mention is that I think it's pretty funny that the "Newman" character gives you false information and laughs at you from time-to-time. Yes, I know he had some other name in the movie, but let's face it - it's Newman!! I remember hearing people philosophize that the moral behind Jurassic Park was that Man shouldn't mess with Mother Nature. No, the real lesson we learned was, "Don't ever trust Newman!"
Jurassic Park is a pretty decent game, especially for one based on a movie. That almost never happens. It's also one of the better video game incarnations of Jurassic Park - I've played some of the others, and they didn't seem as fun. And while it may have one of the worst endings in video game history, at least finishing it gave me the satisfaction of having survived Jurassic Park!
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