Who didn’t love dinosaurs as a kid? Jurassic Park hit theaters in June of 1993 to critical and commercial success. Five short months later, Ocean released a movie video game adaptation on the SNES — although technically, it’s more based off the book than the movie. Jurassic Park is an overhead action adventure with a first person mode. Wait, Zelda meets Wolfenstein meets dinosaurs? It sounds like a wet dream. Dream being the operative word. Unfortunately, Ocean’s effort fell a bit flat. I guess uh, Ocean finds a way to mess it up didn’t they, Malcolm?
WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH
I was obsessed with dinosaurs growing up. In first grade, my class took a field trip to a museum that featured amazing dinosaur animatronics. I got to see my favorite, the T-Rex, in all its glory. It towered over me and I was absolutely terrified. The whole exhibit was breathtaking, recreating the wonder and terrors that roamed the earth more than 65 million years ago. Several years following this unforgettable field trip, Jurassic Park hit movie theaters nationwide in the summer of 1993. But as much as I loved dinosaurs, I somehow missed the theatrical run of Jurassic Park. That definitely ranks up there on my list of “Small Childhood Regrets.” My brother and I didn’t watch a lot of movies in the theater growing up. I guess we were too busy renting and playing the latest video games instead. Our first movie we caught in the theaters? Super Mario Brothers. Oh, lucky us indeed.
Made on a budget of 63 million dollars, it became the highest grossing film of the time, toppling E.T. on its way to a nutty 914 million. The movie was an adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel. The plot is simple: on an island off the coast of Costa Rica, a preserve has been built to host cloned dinosaurs. Jurassic Park was to be the theme park attraction of the ages. But of course, as Ian Malcolm prophetically stated in the film: LIFE FINDS A WAY. And sure enough, life does. And then massive dinosaur shit hits the fan. It was a simple concept that worked on so many levels thanks in no small part to its groundbreaking usage of computer generated images. The CGI was stellar for its time, and even to this day many feel it holds up particularly well. It’s an epic film with many memorable breathtaking scenes. F’rinstance, remember when Dr. Grant and the kids (Lex and Tim) rested on a tall tree limb overlooking an ominous night sky, complete with a Brachiosaurus enjoying a midnight snack? Scenes like this were buried in our minds and hearts even nearly 25 years later!
My favorite scene? The infamous one with the raptors stalking the kids in the kitchen. It’s one of the most (in)tense movie scenes I’ve ever seen. Just the sheer terror of being trapped in a kitchen with two wild ferocious raptors is enough to make my heart skip a couple beats. That moment where the one raptor is shown standing as upright as she can, snorting at the air like some kind of savage war cry, gives me the heebie-jeebies! And perfectly positioned in that same shot was poor little Tim, his face a frozen rictus of horror. The raptors in Jurassic Park were genuinely scary. Even today that scene still freaks the hell out of me. What a movie!
As for the game, it fell under the file of “I wanted to play this 20+ years ago but never did.” Thanks to Jurassic World, which came out in theaters summer of 2015, I decided it was finally time to quell a 20+ year childhood curiosity. I wish I could say the game is even half as awesome as the film, but it was largely a bittersweet experience…
DINO ROLL CALL
The Triceratops spent the film sick as hell but it’s perfectly healthy here. It only appears in a few sections, rumbling through the landscape each time it does appear. You can’t kill or sedate it, so get the hell out of its way.
Ah, Velociraptors. Arguably the star of Jurassic Park, raptors hunt in packs and strike with blinding speed. If not dealt with immediately they’ll slash you to pieces in no time flat. I recommend using either the bola or rocket launcher. The shotgun takes 2-3 shots to put them down, which leaves you vulnerable to counterattack. Raptors love to hide in the thick dense trees, revealing themselves only after you’ve crossed over into their territory. They may seem tough at first but they’re really not too bad once you know where the ammo and raptors are situated.
Ever a perennial favorite, the classic T-Rex is terror on two legs personified. Even though he only appears twice in the game and always at the same locations, his presence is still strongly felt. The music changes to this bone-chilling rhythmic jungle beat whenever you’re near a T-Rex zone. You’ll feel a jolt of adrenaline kick in when the king comes barreling out of the left side of your TV screen. Escaping the jaws of death at the very last possible moment is always a major rush!
KEY TIP 1: The cattle prod is most effective against the little Compys. Remember that…
KEY TIP 2: You can carry two weapons at a time. I highly recommend carrying the rocket launcher and bola
KEY TIP 3: Even when carrying two weapons, you can always press select to switch back to the cattle prod. Don’t forget to do that when running across a group of little angry Compys. Trust me…
Jurassic Park is a non-linear open world action adventure that can be viewed as sort of a sandbox survival horror game. Trust me, it isn’t nearly as awesome as that may sound, but it’s certainly playable. You won’t find set stages or levels here. The game is split into two modes: an overhead mode and a (primitive) first person mode whenever you enter a building. Unfortunately, these scenarios are rather plodding, not to mention clunky and somewhat confusing. In general, the game can be extremely confusing if you go into it blind so I recommend using a guide if you possibly can. To help you out, here’s a general overview.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Jurassic Park was well received by the critics of the time. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 8 and 8. GameFan lauded it with ratings of 89, 92, 95 and 95%. Super Play rated it 89% and called it the 84th best SNES game on their Top 100 list (issue #42, April 1996). However, reception among retro gamers is almost nearly the complete opposite. Most seem to find Jurassic Park clunky and not so good. Reasons for this mainly include the cumbersome first person sections as well as the ridiculous amount of backtracking, thanks to all the scattered ID cards required to grant you access. I find critical reception of this game to be quite fascinating; there weren’t too many games that were scored highly back in the day that people now more often than not DO NOT like. (ActRaiser 2 is another example). Jurassic Park also marks the first SNES game in which I completely disagree with the “Big 3.” Usually, I find one of EGM, GameFan or Super Play “gets it right,” so to speak. But in this case, they all endorsed the game by and large, and I gotta say that I disagree.
Jurassic Park is one of the most epic, memorable and badass summer blockbuster hits of all time. The idea of a game that mixes elements from Zelda and Wolfenstein is an enticing combination indeed, especially when you add dinosaurs to that equation. But unfortunately, it’s really not Zelda meets Wolfenstein. What you’re left with then is an uneven experience. The overhead sections are above average while the indoor first person parts are below par. But if you play Jurassic Park using a guide, you just might get a bit of enjoyment out of it. The visuals are decent enough. The sounds and music are well done; raptor roars and the like are convincing and even a bit frightening. The music switches from one zone to the next with each theme suitably befitting to that part of the island. It’s just too bad then that the game as a whole fails to capture the awe, wonder and magic of the blockbuster 1993 film.
Speaking of negatives, Jurassic Park would have hugely benefited from having a save feature. It’s just lengthy enough that finishing it in one sitting isn’t ideal. Not to mention, the insane amount of backtracking and finding ID cards put a real damper on a game lacking a save system (hell, even a password system would have sufficed). Although, this issue is slightly mitigated to a small degree if you play with a guide. And that’s really the only way I recommend playing this game. Sadly, pictures like the one you see above may suggest lots of action but the real game lacks these white-knuckle situations. Dinosaurs are sadly few and far between, and remain stranded to their fixed positions. They don’t chase or stalk you like they did in the movie. They only jump out at you if you happen to pass by and they don’t give chase if you make a run for it. Instead, they just saunter back to their hiding spots like college kids working at the local Halloween haunted house. It takes away considerably from the intensity of the game. Jurassic Park actually isn’t hard — the game provides plenty of ammo for survival. The real challenge comes in the form of endurance. Can you put up with all the slow clunky first person levels, gathering all the ID cards and powering through in one long sitting? If so, you just might enjoy Jurassic Park. But for the rest of us, it ends up being more frustrating than it is fun.
On a hot lazy summer afternoon back in 2015, I spent 4½ hours beating Jurassic Park in one long sitting. Probably never doing that again! While I did find some odd sense of enjoyment out of it, it really isn’t a “good” game by any stretch of the imagination. But is it playable and enjoyable? It can be BUT I highly recommend using a guide.
But why not just rewatch the film?
Or listen to the main theme?