Remember that awesome scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant shot down the pterodactyl with the rocket launcher? Or when the raptor made the dinosaur skeletons explode? Well now thanks to JP the Genesis game, you can now relive all those exciting moments in your own living room! Like many 16-bit games that were based on movies, the story for the game has some variations from the basic plot of the movie. Usually these changes are necessary in order to make 2 hour movie with maybe 45 minutes of action into an interesting 15 hour game. However, in the case of Jurassic Park, all of these changes also help to illustrate just how insane the people making the game were.
When the game is this bad, choosing between the two characters is like trying to decide which sharp object to thrust into your eye.
There were a ton of platforming games based on movies back in the Genesis days, so in order to make Jurassic Park unique, the game offers the nifty feature of allowing you to play as either Dr. Grant or as a raptor. Each character has different abilities, and whichever one you pick, the storyline and levels will be different, so it’s really like getting 2 games in one. Before deciding to do such a thing, the programming team failed to ask themselves a few important questions, such as “Do we even know how to make a game about Dr. Grant?” or “Wait, do we even know how to make a game about a raptor, either?” and finally “Aren’t we just a bunch of hobos that a game company dragged in off the street and promised free sandwiches to if we made a game for them?” Sadly, none of these key issues were addressed, and the end result was probably twice as bad as it could have been had they only stuck to one character.
Dr. Grant is supposed to be escaping the island, but instead acts like he’s on a tour of the place, making stops at a pumping station and power plant, before deciding to go white-water rafting down a waterfall in a boat with almost no gas. Keep in mind that all these places he goes are crawling with hungry dinosaurs. Apparently this isn’t enough unnecessary risks for the suicidal Dr. Grant, because he then decides to go hiking in a steep canyon and follows this up by CLIMBING INSIDE AN ACTIVE VOLCANO. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you’re going to find the Visitor’s Center inside that volcano, doctor. The guy who built the park might have been a little eccentric, but he’s not a GI Joe villain..
As the raptor, your goal is to kill Dr. Grant. That’s it. Not “Kill Dr. Grant and escape the island”, or “Kill all the humans including Dr. Grant” or even “Kill Dr. Grant unless he goes inside a volcano, in which case he can probably just assume he’s dead.” No explanation is given for why the raptor wants to kill Grant so badly. There are plenty of other humans in the game to eat, but you’re not interested in them. It’s not like there’s a message at the beginning telling you that “The President has been kidnapped by paleontologists. Are you a bad enough dino to rescue the president?” or some scene before the game starts where Grant and some other guys walk up to your dinosaur girlfriend, punch her in the stomach and then walk off with her. Nothing like that. You just want to kill Dr. Grant. Maybe his hat is full of barbecue sauce or something.
Armed with his mighty darts, Dr. Grant decides to take a rafting trip down the park’s world-famous Goddamn Tyrannosaur Falls.
“Cheap” doesn’t even begin to describe the gameplay. The backgrounds blend with the foreground to make it impossible to tell what the hell is supposed to be going on, and most of your enemies attack you from off-screen without warning. The majority of the gameplay is spent intentionally falling into pits and hoping that they are the kind of pits that lead to the rest of the level, as opposed to the ones that make you die – it’s usually impossible to tell before you jump in. The rest of the time is made up of trying to jump to platforms that are either off-screen or camouflaged into the background, and hoping for the best. Most of the time, the only way you can really be sure of whether or not there’s anything off-screen to land on is if some unseen attacker is shooting or jumping out at you from that direction. This is not good level design.
Of course, don’t ever say that on an internet message board. In numerous discussions with others, I’ve learned that a lot of people out there actually remember JP fondly. I have no idea why. But if you read this and thought “Hey, I like that game,” I want you to try something – rather than writing me an angry email about how wrong I am, go play Jurassic Park again. I guarantee the game is not nearly as good as you remember, and the experience will be a painful reminder not to doubt me again.
Graphics: Most gamers tend to believe than a game’s graphics have little effect on how much fun it is. JP blurs this line by having visuals that make it impossible to see what’s going on, which in turn, makes the game a lot less fun.
Sound: To the game’s credit, it does have some pretty good music. Unfortunately, the sound effects I heard most frequently were those of Dr. Grant’s death screams followed by me cursing. Oh, and the game over melody.
Control: Honestly, it’s kind of hard to determine how much control you have over your character when he spends the majority of his time jumping to places you can’t see and hoping there’s something to land on there.
Final Verdict: Jurassic Park would have been bad enough on its own, but here’s the real kicker – this was one of the Genesis’ most high profile titles. Jurassic Park the game came out right around the same time that JP the movie was breaking box-office records. Worse yet, the Super Nintendo version, which was a totally different game made by a different company, was actually kinda decent. So not only did this awful game find its way into thousands of soon-to-be-disappointed children’s hands, it was also 10 times worse than the competitor’s version. Talk about a marketing disaster – the title screen might as well have said “Warning – you should have bought a Super Nintendo”, because this game couldn’t have made that point any more clearly.