I don’t remember if my childhood obsession with dinosaurs began with Jurassic Park or was just fueled by it, but either way, the series has been a big part of my life growing up, both as films and games.
Having just reviewed Telltale’s recent Jurassic Park game, I found I enjoyed it, despite the rather awful gameplay. It got me reminiscing about previous games based on the license, and as I looked back on them all fondly, it occurred to me that nostalgia was clouding my judgement – they were all quite flawed as games, but enjoyable nonetheless.
So if, like me, you really tried to like the new game, let’s look back into the nostalgia-clouded past, and revisit earlier Jurassic Park games that probably aren’t as good as we remember them.
Title: Jurassic Park
Platform: Super Nintendo
This was one of the very first games I played, on a SNES console we hired for a weekend. Combining my obsession with dinosaurs and my burgeoning curiosity of those fancy video game things, this game might be largely responsible for my love of video games.
From an isometric, Zelda-esque viewpoint, the player controls Alan Grant as he explores the park and tries to get it back under control. The tasks you undertake obviously follow the film’s plot, as you attempt to restore power to the park and make contact to get you out of there safely.
But interestingly, some aspects of the original novel didn’t make the film, but found their way into the game, such as the focus on finding raptor eggs in the wild, and clearing out raptors that have stowed away on a supply ship bound for the mainland.
It cut between the third-person, top-down perspective of the exterior scenes with a first-person view when you enter a building. I remember the interior scenes being too scary for six-year old me to finish, but I’m sure they’d be pretty laughable today.
Jurassic Park 2 – The Chaos Continues
This game diverged from Jurassic Park canon, with an original story set after the events of the first film, as a rival genetics company raids the abandoned island to salvage dinosaur specimens and DNA. In response, park owner John Hammond sends in Alan Grant and some marine guy to cut them off.
It plays out as a side-scrolling shooter/platformer, and while it hasn’t lasted as long in the collective minds of gamers, playing co-op with my brother sparked some of my earliest multiplayer trolling memories. You know, shooting him “accidentally”, letting him go first into the raptor-infested buildings, pushing him off the jeep so the T-Rex eats him.
Ah, good times.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Amidst the classics of my Playstation One game collection, including Grand Theft Auto, Oddworld, Crash Bandicoot and Soul Reaver, stood The Lost World, a game fittingly lost amongst the beginnings of some awesome, enduring franchises.
But although it didn’t stand the test of time quite as well, I still loved the opportunity to finally play as the dinosaurs. You start off as a lowly compsognathus, the harmless little chickensaurus you see throughout the second film. All you can really do is run and avoid the big predators, but the fun really begins once you get to the velociraptor and tyrannosaurus levels. You’re pretty much unstoppable as a rampaging T-Rex, so the game kinda loses some of the difficulty, but no one cares.
Challenge takes a back seat to fun when you can swallow enemies whole and stamp on military jeeps.
Warpath: Jurassic Park
Could a raptor take down a T-Rex? Could a Triceratops hold its ground against a Spinosaurus? And what the hell is a Carcharodontosaurus?
Warpath allowed players to answer all these questions by pitting dinosaurs against each other in tooth-and-nail battles to the death. Dinosaurs might seem a bit stiff and cumbersome for a Street Fighter-esque brawler, and I’m sure hardcore fighter fans consider it sub-par, but I remember some brutal fights with these prehistoric beasts.
It all takes place in dynamic, partially-destructible environments recognisable from the films, so you can grab an opponent in your jaws and throw them into an electric fence, snap up an unfortunate goat as it runs past to boost your health, and swing your tail around to knock stuff over, just because it looks cool.
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis
PS2, Xbox, PC
Theme Park Sim
Developed right here in Melbourne, Operation Genesis allows players to create and run their own version of John Hammond’s original vision, with or without the catastrophic failure.
It plays like a zoo tycoon game, with players building paths, food and gift stalls, amenities, viewing platforms and other attractions, as well as looking after the animals in the park. Except, the animals are, you know, dinosaurs.
It was generally pretty easy to keep your staff, visitors and dinosaurs happy and healthy, but occasionally a storm would blow through, wipe out half your fences, and suddenly the plot of the film is playing out in front of you.
Once you get everything running smoothly again, you’ll miss the chaos, and the game becomes a test of how much you can trash your park and still bring it back to order. Before trashing it again.
At least, that’s what it became for me.
Check out our latest review for Jurassic Park : The Game here