Jurassic Park: The Game (PC Review)

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Telltale Games have really been having some fun lately. Not content with bringing us the re-imaging of perhaps their greatest ever creation, in Tales from Monkey Island some years back, they’ve also been busy at work bringing our Movie and TV idols to life – with titles such as Back to the Future, Law and Order, Wallace and Gromit and even The Walking Dead. But they’ve also turned their attention to another, perhaps criminally overlooked franchise, which hasn’t had a decent video game in at least…well, ever! I’m talking, of course, about Jurassic Park.

When a Telltale Developer was talking about BTTF, he mentioned that a lot of those working on it considered it ‘their Star Wars’ and I could see what they meant, but in the same way I’d consider Jurassic Park to be my Star Wars! Because, despite being 9 years of age, I can still remember with clarity where I was and what I was doing (and even what day of the week it was) when I first saw Jurassic Park in 1993. Thus, in preparation for reviewing this game, I didn’t need much convincing to re-watch the original movie (and that wasn’t to jog my memory, as I’d seen it’s return to cinema just a few months back for the Digital Remaster). I’ve even read the original novel a few times in the past decade, so I know all about the alternative story line and uses for the different characters, and how the film drastically altered that.

It’s at this point I should talk about the game, and introduce Gerry Harding, the Chief Veterinarian of Jurassic Park who serves as one of the games main characters. A little fun fact here, Gerry had a much bigger part in the novel then he did in the film, in the latter he only appeared on screen for a brief scene and was played by Jurassic Park’s producer Gerard Molen. Harding’s hard at work struggling between this and the visit of his estranged daughter Sara. After a mysterious prologue (spoiler alert) we’re then introduced to the main catalyst for the story, and finally discover what happened to the Embryo’s that Dennis Nedry was attempting to steal in the first film. The plots move quick and fast over four Episodic features and you’re tossed from conspiracy to confusion in an attempt to save yourself from an island overrun with Dinosaurs. The plot works so fast, at times, that you might find characters disappear off screen with little to no explanation as to why – and you’re left wondering if it wouldn’t have been a little better if they’d survived and the scriptwriter wasn’t so trigger happy (or should that be Dino happy).

Graphically, this game looks incredible, and the attention to detail (and fan service) meant my Flash Drive has never worked harder bringing it all to life. I can only speculate, but I imagine the developers must have really looked closely at those little extras in the film (the East Dock road sign, the color of the InGen jacket, the DNA cartoon from the Tour film) in order to faithfully recreate them all here. Dialogue and voice acting is very smooth, with the characters gelling well and arguing where appropriate, and those doing the English voice work sounding as powerful and charismatic in the role as you’d expect. Dinosaurs like Raptors and T Rex are created beautifully – my personal favorite being the Dilophosauras – as we’re also introduced to a brand new Dinosaur. But that would be telling. Suffice to say, they play a big part in the plot, and you’d be wise to pay attention.

The game is split into four Episodes, each of which bring you about an hour of game-play, with the whole thing taking me less than five hours to play on my first run through. Looking at previous Telltale efforts it’s incredibly short, but there’s so much action going on, it’s an absorbing experience. Then you’ve also got a new feature, which means you could die at certain points in the game, unless actions are performed fast enough or accurately enough (or sometimes both) to get you through. In these cases you’re awarded a specific rank or medal after the task has been completed, and if you’ve not managed to get Gold, you have the option to replay the specific scenarios at a later stage. Some scenarios are harder, faster, longer, shorter and more puzzling then others – and there doesn’t seem to be any difficulty rate or progression as you move through the game – with everything at the same level for the casual gamer. Some puzzles in Episode 4, for example, will be easier then those in Episode 1.

Control wise I wouldn’t recommend a Gamepad for the PC version of this title, mainly because you won’t need it, and you certainly shouldn’t seek one out purposely to play it. Mouse controls do a perfect job, using just a few buttons, helping you navigate with ease. There are no options to turn difficulty up or down, but if you are struggling at certain points, the game will (after a few chances) lower the difficulty for you significantly. With that being said, the ending of the game doesn’t bring any great reward, there’s no ranking system – alternative ending for doing better or worse or making a different decision – and while it’s easy to draw comparisons between this game and Heavy Rain for PS3 I think this game has even less interactivity. When you want to move your character to a different viewpoint, for example, you have to actually change the camera angle and the AI moves him for you. Your not going to find a scene where, should you replay the game a second time, something different happens – and if you do the right thing in the right situation on the first run through it can cut out a lot of dialogue that you might want to hear.

Given that in Telltales previous movie tie in, Back to the Future, you could easily control either Marty or Doc depending on where you went and what you did I find this a personally bizarre way to control the character. Having also experienced the console version of this title I know it’s not just a frame rate or PC exclusive issue and I’m baffled as to why the game seems to lack such basic character control.

In short, Telltale Games have developed a rather great “Director’s Cut” to the original Jurassic Park film, and although there are a lot of elements of puzzle solving, map quest, action and reaction there just isn’t enough here to justify it being called a game. This title is more like an interactive movie, with gamers doing very little to impact the storyline of the characters their controlling, and with just too short of a game to justify this full price release. I would implore Telltale to also consider releasing another title, in the form of an extra Chapter or a “Director’s Cut” for this game itself where they considering putting some more content in and bulking up the length of the story. That being said, for fans of CSI and Law and Order type point and click adventures, this is a game you’ll want to get a hold of.

Summary:

Pros: For Jurassic Park fans this game is a must, as it’s story alone fills in some gaps from the franchise, and lets you once again revisit the scene of the first film. Graphically this looks and runs amazingly. A good game for those who love CSI point and click adventures.

Cons: Criminally short and extremely non-interactive – with little incitement to replay once you’ve completed it the first time. Given the hype of this title and the success of their previous franchise this is, sadly, a let down. Content needs to be bulked up while the story could have been just a little bit longer.

Plus Booking Fee…Goodbye Yellow Brick Road… (Original Draft, Exclusive)

I wrote an article in 2013 that was published in the fantastic music magazine NEMM. This is the original, second draft, which actually featured an extension of 300 words. The facts, figures and quotes relate to the time when the article was published and do not reflect the current opinions, moods or figures of the 2016 economy – however, it is still worth reading. Your feedback is welcomed.

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Homer: What? This is the highest tax increase in history!

Lisa: Actually it’s the lowest tax increase in history, Dad.

Homer: I pay the Homer tax. Let the bears pay the bear tax.

Lisa: That’s Home Owners tax, Dad.

The Simpsons, Much Apu About Nothing (1996)

On Wednesday July 2nd Elton John (and his band) is set to perform at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena. The website quotes that he is “undeniably one of the most acclaimed and adored solo artists of all time” and you’ll get no argument from me. His career success parallels few artists of any genre and his recordings are, quite literally, embedded into popular culture.

Tickets for the event are listed at £55 and £75, a look beyond the home page and prices have now risen to £62.75 and £83.75 respectively with the click of a mouse. The rise in price equates to a booking fee of £8.75 for purchasing tickets online, with an optional “missed event insurance” of £3.75 and a further, mandatory, minimum mail or venue collection charge of £2.50 – none covered in the previous charges.

England, like most other first world countries, is a market economy. In a world where we’re more readily checking our pockets and bank balances it seems unusual to pay an additional £2.50 for sending a letter by first class post. Even more unusual when the £8.75 booking fee doesn’t, on its own, include any form of insurance and is more than what you’d be paid for doing an hour’s work on minimum wage.

With new rules introduced in April 2013 by the UK Government to cut down on credit card surcharges, Booking Fee’s for performances have remained unaffected, with Elton John’s performance at Nottingham Arena also demanding a £9.25 fee atop a £75 ticket price via Ticketline. This is far from a regional occurrence.

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In 2013 Ticketmaster UK appointed Chris Edmonds as their new chairman. He’d spoken to the BBC about ticket pricing as managing director, in Dec 2012, saying that “there’s a misunderstanding about what the fee’s are for…in reality we wouldn’t see any share of the actual ticket price. That would be shared between the promoter, venues and the artist” and went on to say that “the actual per ticket fees that we charge to our consumer are our sole source of revenue…in some instances some of those may be shared with the actual event organiser”

By that logic, the Metro Arena has already been paid prior to Booking Fee; a quick survey of their website informs us that all online sales are powered by Eventim.co.uk – the English branch of CTS Eventim AG, a German registered company who purport to be the largest ticket seller in Europe and who reported a turnover of €520 million in 2012. What it doesn’t tell us is why £8.75 per ticket is being charged for simply clicking a few buttons. Do we blame the Arena, Eventim, MasterCard and Visa, the tax man or Elton John?

So, how can you save money? Phones4U Arena in Manchester is just one venue who informs consumers – through its website – that all tickets purchased from the venue box office, and with cash, will not be charged a booking fee. It might seem like small consolation but if you live near the venue and don’t believe the gig will sell out within moments of tickets going on sale then the advice is clear, visit your venue and purchase tickets in person. Organise a pooling system with friends or relatives.

I spoke with Paul Tappenden, the General Manager of Metro Radio Arena, to establish some facts. Mr Tappenden first assured me that all tickets purchased as cash transactions from Metro Radio Arena are not subject to any booking fee. But Paul was clear to state that the Arena would receive absolutely no money from any tickets sold in this way and that they only offer this service as an alternative to their customers who wish to forgo what he called “the convenience of booking online or by telephone”

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Using the Elton John example, Paul went onto say that of the standard £55 or £75 ticket price the arena will not receive a penny – with that money shared out between the promoter, event organiser and performers – with the additional booking fee being the only chance for profit the arena has prior to the event itself.

As more and more artists are employing larger productions and bigger crews for Arena shows the average ticket price has risen for a variety of reasons which include everything from life on the road to EU custom and excise duty.

But there is hope for the future on excessive booking and admission prices as the EU plans to crack down on credit card surcharges and online fee’s, calling for them to be more representative of the services offered, though it’s more likely that artists and performers should be made accountable for their personal fee’s and the scope of their own productions. Audiences demand entertainment but an entertainer should be able to relate to his audience.