Jurassic Park is awesome. Anyone who says otherwise has only seen the third movie. With Jurassic Park being released in the UK today, I'd thought we'd take a look at some of the games inspired on the franchise. There's a ton based on the first movie alone so let's dig in...
Both SEGA and Ocean software wrangled the videogame rights for different platforms. Ocean, who developed the computer and Nintendo versions had a large variety of game styles. Their Super Nintendo version was the only one that I was familiar with before now and it treats its license well.
You are Dr. Alan Grant as her wonders around the park from a top-down perspective, collecting weapons and shooting dinosaurs. This open world can be explored at your leisure, but some areas are cordoned off requiring keycards to enter. Once you enter the buildings, the game-play is switched to that of a first person shooter, which wowed me when I first saw it two decades ago. After a few minutes of play though, they can become repetitive and tedious.It's no Wolfenstein 3D.
The exterior sections are basically treasure hunt sections which can get frustrating if you don't know what to do. Exploration is the key here mixed with a bit of trial and error. The areas are huge and without a save file or password system in the original cart which meant your first playthrough isn't very entertaining. You'll acquire a radar later on which helps a lot, but doesn't hide the repetitive nature in a slightly above average game.
The Mega Drive (or Genesis) version differed drastically. This is a fairly standard platform game that was typical of the era. Where this truly stands out is that there are essentially two games here. You can control Dr. Grant in one storyline or a velociraptor in another, each having their own level designs and mechanics.
Dr. Grant is generally OK to control; he can run and shoot with a fair amount of accuracy, but the need for precise jumping shows how broken his segments actually are. There may be the odd puzzle lying around to break up the action, but you'll be spending most of your time cursing the screen at a mandatory jump you just can't seem to cross. The dinosaurs tend to bum rush you and knock you over. The amount of time it takes for you to get back up is just about the same time as it takes for that triceratops to turn around and hit you again. It's best to just bypass the vast majority of these creatures.
The velociraptor levels play a lot differently. Your puny claws cannot grip weapons so all of your attacks are all close range bits and slashes. He controls far better than Dr. Grant, having a super high jump which means any gap can be cleared with ease. You have a health bar which can be replenished a little if you choose to eat fallen foes which make it a little easier. Despite this, it all seem s a little uninspired.
An direct sequel subtitled Rampage Edition was released a year later. Some area were improved, most notable in the controls, but others have been woefully neglected. For starters there's a stage select screen and the graphics have changed to make the characters stand out more while simultaneously making it look more cartoonish. Overall it's a better game than the original, but not by enough to make it seem like anything other than a glorified remake.
The GameBoy and NES got their own games by Ocean, this time rejigging the Super Nintendo's outdoor sections. Like all NES games the difficulty in often punishing and I barely got past the first level. The areas aren't as huge here and it overall feels like less of a meandering treasure hunt but as actual arcade game.
In each level you're required to find a number of dinosaur eggs and then reach the exit. The graphics are of a fairly high quality being at the end of the Nintendo's lifespan, but are by no means jaw-dropping. If you're playing the GameBoy version, it looks a lot better compared to its peers on the system. They're worth a go if your interested and can handle the challenge.
Nintendo wasn't the only company to have Jurassic Park games on their 8-bit systems. SEGA also had unique games for the Master System and Game Gear. Like most games that share these two console brothers, there is very little to distinguish between the two.
Strangely enough, I found these titles to be highly entertaining. The levels come in two flavours: a chase section where you aim with a crosshair and shoot dinos before they attack your car, and some platforming levels. Unlike the Mega Drive version and its sequel, there's little wrong with the controls. They are fluid, intuitive and varied which is unusual for the system.
Being a late title for system meant that the graphics were also some of the best it's seen. A lot of effort and memory went into them that unfortunately left little room for the actual game - it's major downfall is the length with only five distinct levels. It's a fun game that's well worth our time.
Ocean's take on the license for computers shares the basics of the SNES version, while still remaining their own games. The DOS version is very similar to it's Amiga port, but only the need to swap disks makes the latter less appealing.
I found the exterior levels to be at once less interesting than it's console cousin but also far less frustrating. The FPS segments also benefit from the power these systems can provide them and are far more entertaining. Getting lost is still a problem, though and there's not much variety but it's overall a far more satisfying experience than what we've seen before.
When I first booted up the SEGA CD version of Jurassic Park, I initially expected it to be the Mega Drive version but with added movie clips to fill up the CD space. I was very much surprise to see not a side-scrolling platform game not a top-down action game but a first-person point-and-click adventure game!
The story takes place after the first book and not the movie. There are many differences between the two medium so I don't know why this is but it is very welcome. It's also a great excuse to not have the expensive movie actors in the FMV cutscenes.
You are a "brave adventurer" tasked with obtaining seven live dinosaur eggs for the company you work for. Naturally your helicopter crash on the island and you need to escape. You'll get no help from your employers however, not until all seven eggs are safely in their hands. To do this you explore the beautiful 16-bit vistas of the island, solving some entertaining puzzles and occasionally attack a stray dinosaur. The surprise attacks sure do keep you on your toes but I would've been just as happy without them.
The world of Jurassic Park is a joy to explore and I can think of no other game that allows you to do so in such immersive detail. The only limitations is the lack of mouse support, a peripheral so few games took advantage of. This is a must play for adventure fans and a highlight of the collection.
Another little known game based on the first movie was also released in arcades. It's a fun and hectic light gun game that has not had any home ports. This too was made by SEGA and their internal AM3 division who are best known for Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis and Daytona USA.
It uses a heavy amount of sprite scaling to simulate the huge 3D world you travel through. It may not be as realistic as true 3D rendering which wasn't quite so accomplished in 1994 when the cabinets were released, but it is still very beautiful. All of the object are clear and well animated compared to its peers. The T-Rex chase, which happens multiple times are fantastically tense. It remains fun and frantic without being so difficult as to feel like an unfair lust for your coins. I would consider this a lost arcade classic.
After the success of both the movie and the first game, Ocean decided to pre-empt the movie's inevitable sequel by coming up with one of their own. Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues, the last two games in the collection, were released only a year later in 1994. They share very little with the first game, eschewing the top-down exploration and the FPS segment in favour of a traditional side-scroller.
The unoriginality doesn't stop there. The platforming takes second place to the running and the shooting making it feel like a Contra rip-off. In fact that's exactly what it is. Dinosaurs take several hits before they die and they are super fast. In every encounter, I found it almost impossible to kill them without taking damage myself. I was also stuck for ages at the end of the first screen before I realised you could press up to go into the background. There are arrows on the floor to indicate when you can move like this but the very first one is completely obscured by the foreground foliage. Despite the awful game design, the controls are smooth and the graphics are sound, but that doesn't stop it from feeling very stale.
The GameBoy port fares much worse. Due to the limitations of the handheld, it is an entirely different game while still keeping the same basic premise. Platforming has more of a place here, but the levels are so simple and uninspired as to almost be insulting. The difficulty arises in taking down the loose dinosaurs who can take several bullets before exploding. In both games you play as Dr. Grant, but he seems to live on the moon here. The controls are very floaty and slightly delayed making it a chore to play through. These are perhaps the only games on this collection that I would call bad.
Not all of these games are the best the medium has to offer, but considering the bad rep movie licensed games get, SEGA and Ocean gave Jurassic Park a very good run. I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of these games, both in quality and variety and I would recommend them to any fans of the franchise.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox, FS-UAE, M.A.M.E. and Retroarch with the SNES9X, TGBDual, Nestopia and Genesis Plus GX cores to emulate the games on modern PCs. XBox 360 controllers supported for the console games. Manuals for most games included. Tested on Windows 7 and Windows 10.
18.05.2016 - Version 2 - Compressed SEGA CD audio
Updated emulators and improves installers
Jurassic Park for Nintendo, DOS and Amiga are © Ocean
Jurassic Park for SEGA and Arcade is © SEGA
Jurassic Park (The Movie) is © Universal
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me