Jurassic Park: The Game – Preview and Interview

Your tour guide wasn't what you expected...

“They were so pre-occupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Or so I once read on the back of a butterfly’s wing. Jurassic Park is a quality franchise and anyone taking it on would have a tricky time doing it justice. In securing the license to a title like this, one always has to ask whether the developer can now live up to the expectations, face the enhanced risk of failure, and meet the question of whether the game actually should or, indeed, needs to be made. Will Telltale Games meet the challenge and succeed? It has been a long time since videogames have ventured into the heart of Isla Nublar and left the player battling to survive in the dangerous wreckage of John Hammond’s once grand vision. We managed to snatch some time with Telltale in the chaos of PAX East to find out more and grab some hands on time with the game, and were impressed with their direction.

Telltale’s Jurassic Park is based more on the film than the book (which contained several striking differences – mainly in which characters lived and died), and runs parallel to many of the events of the film, serving to fill some of the mysterious blanks left by Spielberg’s offering (and, indeed, Crichton’s original novel). While on the silver-screen, we saw Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler battling raptors and avoiding T. Rex, they don’t make an appearance here, instead, the story focuses on the others stranded on the island, in particular the park’s chief veterinarian, Gerry Harding, and his wayward daughter, Jess, who get snarled up in the chaos that befalls the park.

The storyteller in me honestly loved this idea and it certainly makes for an interesting concept. The island, though a park, always seemed strangely empty – not everyone could have conceivably been evacuated in time, or would have been able to escape the island’s denizens, so this fits in perfectly and offers a much more satisfying arena for a story than the new island location which popped up in the film’s sequels. This way, we’re promised that we’ll be treading familiar territory, meeting old, scaly faces, and enjoying a number of nods and touches which help ground the new story in this established setting, with the narrative here settling into the original nest of events like an altogether more subtle cuckoo’s egg.

In addition, it isn’t just the island’s staff who are struggling to stay alive and make it off Isla Nublar: our favourite financially challenged hacker, and erstwhile Elvis fan, Dennis Nedry was last seen hurrying to the docks for a rendezvous…which he never made. In Telltale’s Jurassic Park, we get to explore this further, since, rather than doing the sensible thing and sailing off, his buyers decide to take matters into their own hands and set off to retrieve Nedry’s lost can of dino embryos – last seen being buried beneath a mud slick. How? The canister has a tracking device built in. It may sound a tad convenient, but it helps to weave in one of the book/film’s most tantalising threads, while simultaneously acting as a lure to draw new characters onto the scene – at once giving the island a little more life, which, in retrospect, it seemed to lack somewhat.

In the hands on demo that we got to play, we stepped into a scene with a younger Gerry Harding and his daughter, Jess, who have rolled up to a gate to find their way blocked by a Triceratops. We had to puzzle through the scene, working out how to shift it with what was available to us. To help with this, the player can jump back and forth between the characters as and when needed and they each have skills that can get you out of a tight spot. Jess’s bad girl history is laced with car-jacking experience, which means that in a pinch, she will likely be handy to have around. In fact, we used her to turn off the trashed car’s horn and lights after we managed to attract the attention of a T. Rex (among other things) while trying to scare off the Tric.

The movement feels very smooth, and the controls are simple: thumbsticks pan the camera to enable you to search for clues and check out the scene, and objects are interacted with in a variety of ways, from simple button pushes, circling sticks, or via QTEs. It feels simple – perhaps overly so at times – but it is actually pretty relaxing and intuitive, and the controls always relate well to the onscreen action. In fact, the game could be almost a perfect fit for something like Playstation Move. And there is a lot of onscreen action – more so than Telltale’s previous offerings – after all, this is Jurassic Park…

Trying to shift a Triceratops out of the way was an interesting and very apt puzzle, but in doing so, we attracted the attention of a T. Rex who, presumably, didn’t appreciate us disturbing its late night snack of goat on rye. Mr Rex promptly pitches up in shitty mood and picks a fight… with everyone – not only with our car, but the mama Triceratops whose oblivious baby was recently blocking our path. In actions scenes like this, there is no sedate exploration. QTES will kick in among some gorgeous cut-scenes, in which you are expected to act swiftly to progress and try to escape any dino wrath. After the T-Daddy and big Triceratops purée your car between them, they step up their mutual animosity towards one another and chaos swiftly ensues. Watching dinosaurs fight is always impressive, but having your characters caught in the middle means some quick reactions are needed in order to survive.

One of the things that was most interesting (and exciting) about Jurassic Park, was that you can die. Although the game is still family friendly, it isn’t pulling too many punches in this respect, so while you won’t see NeatherRealm-style gut-ripping action, Telltale are promising that your characters can go to the big Kenny Rogers convention in the sky in a number of delicious ways. Fail to slide beneath the T. Rex’s flailing tail and you’ll get gouged or splatted, leaving a whining daughter wondering who will be paying her allowance next week. Miss a dodge during the scrap and you’ll end up speared or eaten. It’s an interesting new move from Telltale, and although Mr Threepwod isn’t beyond death’s embrace at times, was obviously very necessary here to maintain the element of danger and tension – it would be unrealistic to have an action/adventure game in this sort of setting and not be able to die. However, Telltale have one eye on the player’s needs and the game will smartly adjust its difficulty if you kick the bucket too many times in a row, in order to avoid players becoming stuck in a frustrating cycle of death.

Heeeeere's Rexy!

One question that we asked and very quickly answered ourselves was ‘would we want to avoid it?’ Just from the (all too brief) time we spent with the game, a fat slice of fun came from deliberately failing to act at crucial moments, just to see what would happen, and we weren’t disappointed. Sadistic and inquisitive gamers will derive a great deal of enjoyment from exploring the numerous ways in which our characters can die. Those hoping for some Turok style knife vengeance though will be disappointed; while Telltale were pretty much free to use the licence however they wanted, one thing that they couldn’t do was kill dinosaurs. All very English – screw with the humans however you please, but don’t think about harming an animal… even one with more teeth than the average prom committee.

Yep, no matter how vexing it may be to have your face chewed off by pissed off Velociraptor, you can’t unleash a double barrelled shit-storm. You just need to get smart. Or failing that, run. Fast. It is a shame in a way, but this just isn’t that kind of game… Telltale’s strength and obvious passion lies in the ability to spin a good story and present compelling characters and puzzles. So, no exquisite pain of the knife for your cretaceous foes, you’ll have to use your brains instead… provided they aren’t slowly spreading over the latest T. Rex footprint next to your cooling corpse.

As previously mentioned, it has been a long time since the last Jurassic Park game, so it was always a concern as to how this one will turn out. If anyone can do it justice though, Telltale likely can if their recent handling of one of the most popular film franchises of all time in Back to the Future is anything to go by. Jurassic Park is set to offer a similar level of in-jokes and nods with the benefit of a very familiar setting and chain of events, not to mention some fresh dinosaurs to spice things up a little. As someone who places story above all else, I personally love that Telltale have gone back to the first film in not only location, but timeline, with all of its waiting potential, and filled in some of the blanks in their own style. Some gamers may be disappointed in the shift from Grant, Malcolm, and co., but the new characters offer an excellent opportunity to weave another set of stories through the chain of events set off by Nedry and the storm.

The idea of a point and click adventure in this setting is, perhaps, an unusual one, compared to a full on action title, but with the broken down state of the island, I can actually see it working well and offering up some suitably diverting puzzles with which to break up the QTE action – often high on gamers’ ‘least favourite mechanic’ list. We only got a glimpse at a few puzzles, but what we saw seemed to fit well with the story. The hands on demo that we got to try offered just a tantalising look at the action and gameplay (and some great looking cut-scenes) and, while we will have to wait for the full tale to be unleashed, coming as it is in the usual episodic format, Jurassic Park is going to be one to watch. If it goes well, I strongly suspect that we can expect a sequel, after all, we’ve waited a long time for the franchise to return – let’s hope it is done justice.

The Interview
In addition to some hands on time with Jurassic Park: The Game, we were given the chance to talk with Nick Herman, one of the cinematic artists from Telltale Games…

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Adam Adam says:

    ‘There are some things we can do to dinosaurs *subtle nod and wink*’ -Scariest thing ever.

    That was a really awesome interview, cool of Nick to take the time. The game looks great and after TellTales success with Back to the Future, it would be hard to see them do anything other than shine with this.

  2. Samuel Samuel says:

    Looking forwards to this. Until I was about 7 or 8 and discovered Star Trek, dinosaurs were my big thing. Had loads of toy dinos and books and things, and of course I forced my parents to take me to see Jurassic Park at the cinema. That T-Rex still scares the crap out of me.

    Hopefully this will be as good as it looks like being, because the film franchise went progressively downhill (first was amazing, second one was fun but a bit silly, third was just crap). I’d have liked it if they’d focused on the books more, because they were better and made more sense, but hey, if it’s going to mostly be based around the first film that’s still awesome.

    Curious thing though, he mentions in the interview that he doesn’t know anything about the game being on consoles, just PC… but all of the clips of gameplay you showed were someone playing it with an Xbox 360 controller.

  3. Adam Adam says:

    360 Pads work on PC, lots of games implement a 360 control scheme and most of them can detect which your using at any given time and change the on screen things accordingly :)

    If I was a PAX showcaser type person, I’d show my games off with a gamepad over a mouse and keyboard where possible too

  4. Samuel Samuel says:

    I know the wired controllers work with the PC, I play Fallout 3 on my laptop with my spare wired 360 controller. But the tooltips that pop up on the screen on PC games don’t normally show 360 prompts, even using the controller.

    I dunno. Like he said, it’s bound to hit consoles eventually anyway. Just struck me as a bit odd. Best way to know will be when I play it on the PC if I plug my 360 pad in.

  5. Adam Adam says:

    You can get the wireless ones working too ^_^

    You have to track down one of the Microsoft Wireless receivers which aren’t easy to come by in store but they work too once you have that set up.

    Pretty much anything labelled as GFWindows will have 360 styled button prompts. GTA IV, DiRT 1/2, Just Cause 2, The new Tomb Raider, The Undergardern etc..

    Out of curiosity I just booted up Screaming Narwhal and BTTF, they both have 360 pad support with no setup required but this is definately the first time that TT have put the buttons on screen. Congratulations Dr Sam! You have uncovered a clue as to TT’s intentions for this one ;)

  6. Jo Jo says:

    Ooooooh I’m tempted! But then I was removed from the cinema when watching the second film as I was crying so much… Keep in mind I was 6/7. Will I be able to handle so much Dino action? Who knows…

  7. Edward Edward says:

    Amazing interview that (especially thanks to the question about minimum specs) has made me even more excited about this.

    However, there’s one question that the interview didn’t cover that is all-important for me…


  8. Samuel Samuel says:

    I think they know, Ed. That thousand red roses and the human heart in the cooler box you posted them should have given it away.

  9. Kat says:

    Aww this sounds quite cool! Would def be interested in having a go… again if my crappy pc could handle it >_<

  10. Lorna Lorna says:

    Had great fun with the Telltale guys. They were very passionate about their work and very laid back :) The game looked stunning and like a lot of fun, if not too taxing. Sorry Ed, but you were there with us in spirit :) Thanks for the snaps and the retweets folks :)

  11. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    The thing that stood out for me while Lorna was playing the game was the humour… I had expected Telltale to be forced into that ridiculous position of having to follow extreme protocol when touching the franchise and never allowing it to stray from the guidelines set out by the original movie (assuming, as is generally the case, that the movie rights buyout has precedence over the author’s original wishes) so when I saw the humour, I was over the moon.

    Have to say though, everyone from Telltale was really cool and had a great vibe around them.

  12. Tania Tania says:

    This looks really good, I might give it a go. Jess Harding’s screaming might get a bit annoying after a while though. And I have to admit to laughing at her after her dad got killed ;)
    Great coverage, with a side-effect of making me want to read the books again!

  13. [...] with the console releases and, presumably, to give the game some extra polish.  We snagged some hands on time with Jurassic Park at the recent PAX East 2011 and, while the story and graphics were impressive, the very on-rails nature of it left us a little [...]

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