Lego Jurassic World – 3DS, PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One, PC

Clever meme...

Clever meme…

We here at RetroCookie pride ourselves in our preservation of vintage games, which compels us to give credit to game makers who do the same (although don’t ask us what compels us to speak in the Royal We, as we still have much evidence to support the idea that we only have one body and very little control over household pets, let alone entire nations). To that end, I’ve covered modern 3DS games such as the Majora’s Mask remake, the Ulitmate NES remix, and even newer games based around the charm of the classics, such as the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. With that spirit at heart, I’d like to introduce a new 3DS game to the notches on my belt, Lego Jurassic World, which falls under the retro gaming category for reasons I will expound upon now.

A needlessly huge cast of characters in which more than one person will routinely dive up to their ankles in shit deeper than Spielberg's first plan for Jurassic Park 4!

A needlessly huge cast of characters in which more than one person will routinely dive up to their ankles in shit deeper than Spielberg’s first plan for Jurassic Park 4!

(Don’t rush me! I’m still thinking!)

Okay, you caught me. I just don’t have a PS4 or a WiiU. But with games like Bravely Default and Link Between Worlds on the horizon, and all my other NDSs worn almost to the breaking point, I figured a 3DS would be a wise purchase. Plus it doesn’t have creepy, voyeuristic tendencies like the XBox One. So to tell the truth, I own that one modern game system, and I do occasionally play it, and I struggle to get through games quickly enough to write a weekly entry with enough time left over that I don’t have to give my students lessons on metaphor and character development in Bubble Bobble. So this week, I give you Lego Jurassic Park, a coincidentally perfect game for playing in the ten minute breaks between classes.

...whassaaaa!!

…whassaaaa!!

If you read my review on the Lego Star Wars games, you’ll know the series has one or two issues with originality in game play. Inevitably, the games degrade into a process of collecting studs to purchase unlockable characters which help you collect more studs, and I strain to think of anything that such a cyclical experience might augment other than a walk down a moebius strip or a finely tuned, professional relationship with a prostitute. However, like the prostitute, Lego games may need to offer something other than a sense of humor and playing fast and easy if they want to keep my interest and coax me out of 20 bucks for cab fare. (Ah, comparing Legos to professional sex workers. It’s times like this that I wish anyone actually read this blog.)

I want a good clean fight. No bites below the...uh...belt?

I want a good clean fight. No bites below the…uh…belt?

Don’t get me wrong, though, there is something very zen about the act of romping through tropical environments, smashing everything into a zillion tiny lego bricks at the slightest touch, especially considering that realistically your characters would spend five minutes prying each piece loose with a butter knife that won’t fit into the crack and walking away with sore hands. Lego Jurassic World takes this stud collection (and as I say that I resist the urge to continue making sex worker jokes) very seriously. Traveller’s Tales games has always treated combat in their Lego series as more of an irritating formality, like renewing your driver’s license, waiting for a waiter before eating at Old Country Buffet, or telling your friends that their newborn babies don’t look at all like someone dipped George W. Bush in a bathtub full of Nair. In Lego Jurassic World, though, they have almost eliminated combat entirely, save for a few levels in Jurassic Park II and III where you punch a few compies and trample a few InGen workers with a stegosaurus.

Goin' down to Nublar, gonna eat a lot of people.

Goin’ down to Nublar, gonna eat a lot of people.

That last bit, though, adds a much needed touch of originality to the series. In addition to wandering around as your choice of any of a million worthless characters (When the novelty of playing as Dino Handler Bob loses its lustre, spice it up by having an affair with Dino Handler Vic!) , the game also lets you control most of the movies’ animals. Furthermore, you can unlock access to the Hammond Creation Lab, where you can play with genetic coding to mix and match different features into custom dinosaurs, thus proving that Traveller’s Tales missed the point of all four movies about as much as those people who think Harry Potter promotes devil worship. Certain secrets actually require this genetic Frankensteinery, as do two bonus areas that allow players to take full control of hungry dinosaurs as they eat, trample, gore, or hawk poisonous loogies at unsuspecting park staff.

Must drive faster...must escape terrible addition to poorly adapted Michael Crichton novel...

Must drive faster…must escape terrible addition to poorly adapted Michael Crichton novel…

Lego Jurassic World has more of a puzzle-oriented design than other Lego games. Normally, puzzles would earn the game a black mark by its name, followed by a swift hammer blow to the cartridge and, if I feel especially generous that day, a steady stream of urine. However, puzzles in this game simply means picking the right character to activate whatever interactive element might block your path at any moment, more of a formality than a puzzle: “Hello, there, Jake. Do you have a character willing to dive head first into this steaming pile of triceratops shit? Oh, I’m sorry. Here, fill out these forms and pay a small fee to unlock a character with a severe hygiene deficiency, then come back on a later playthrough.” Now, my regular readers (almost typed that with a straight face) might remember my Twilight Princess review where I described such mechanics as needlessly enforcing a developer mandated sequence of events without actually giving the player anything fun to do. Well…okay, so I have a point, and that point still stands here.

LEGO-JURASSIC-WORLDHowever, I played this game through to completion, so it must have some strong points. Earlier, though, I mentioned that Traveller’s Tales previously treated (and other companies still do) combat as a requirement for games, as though making a game without some type of fighting would create a vacuum that would implode, sucking the console, player, and northern hemisphere into oblivion. And since there’s no combat in oblivion, they’d like to avoid that. But as it turns out, games don’t need violence (I know…crushing news to all those bloodthirsty Tetris fans.), and Lego Jurassic World seems to have figured out how to replace that. Stud collecting, for one–simple, yet fun, and for whatever reason human beings have brain signals that light up on hearing a pleasing sound and watching dozens of small objects transmogrify into a score total ratcheting ever upwards. The humor, of course, makes us wait for the next cheeky thing the game will do–I’d recommend the game entirely based on the talking raptor scene from JP3. Also, did I mention you get to rampage as dinosaurs? Those segments might feel short and underdeveloped, but it does include a minigame that lets you target-spit at Newman from Seinfeld.

Hello, Newman!

Hello, Newman!

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Jurassic Park – SNES

All right. This will show up that smug bastard from Duck Hunt. Look at my retriever!

All right. This will show up that smug bastard from Duck Hunt. Look at my retriever!

So I had originally planned to post about Skyward Sword today, but something came up: Jurassic World. Not only has Hollywood finally realized that they don’t have to write sequels by running the original screenplay through a shredder and then taking a dump on what comes out, but they chose Jurassic Park to learn this lesson! Back in 2007, they had announced plans for a movie about genetically engineering raptor-human hybrids for use in Iraq; then Michael Crichton died (*sad*) and Spielberg said, “Why not make a good movie instead?” And Jurassic Park! The movie that gave 10-year-old me more thrills than Michael Jackson at a boy scout convention. Every night, lying in bed, I’d watch my door knob, waiting for it to jiggle, and for the raptors to come in and find me.

Uh, sorry to wake you Miss Raptor, but, uh...I need to kill you.

Uh, sorry to wake you Miss Raptor, but, uh…I need to kill you.

Naturally, Jurassic World brought me back to my ten-year-old self, and since I doubt Spielberg will hire me to write JP5 (I have some ideas, Steven, and I’ll work for free, if you want to talk!), I decided to go back to some old Jurassic Park video games, in no way intending to capitalize off the recent surge of people searching for the movie, mosasaurus, velociraptor, indominus rex, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Owen, Claire…have I missed any? Uh…cool Indian helicopter guy…meh. I’ll get them in there somehow. Anyway, since I didn’t plan this at all, and since I’d like to do occasional videos (watch out, JonTron!), I went to the game I had played most often and, of course, actually own.

In 1994, Ocean Software released Jurassic Park for the SNES to…well, to stores willing to sell the game. It didn’t make huge news. It didn’t develop much of a fan following. Developed at the tail end of the NES life span, versions for the NES, Game Boy, and several Sega systems all came out together. For all practical purposes, this game appeared as nothing more than another licensed video game cash grab. Gameplay involves…(what? Did you expect me to disagree with that? Say that critics vastly underappreciated it? Honestly, I think it earned the reception it deserved.)

Gameplay involves wandering around the park, blowing up the absurdly high population of predators, accomplishing missions to restore the park to order so you can evacuate and let nature reclaim it. Yeah, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, either, but I guess you need something to do. These missions include harvesting raptor eggs, fumigating the raptor nest, blocking raptors from entering the visitor center, and clearing raptors off a ship bound for the mainland (and also giving it orders not to sail, just in case). The game derives most of its disproportional hatred of raptors from the book, rather than the film, and even contains some animals, like the compies, that only appeared in the novel.

This mission assigned by Dr. Flintstone.

This mission assigned by Dr. Flintstone.

The film’s characters all issue hints and commands to you (as Dr. Grant) from a safe distance, presumably already off the island. Of course, none of them bothered to give you their ID cards before they left, and instead scattered them around the island, often in dark, claustrophobic rooms filled with dinosaurs and behind locked doors. Thanks guys. Furthermore, Dennis Nedry appears with deliberately malicious advice; obviously because an underappreciated, disgruntled computer nerd engaged in industrial espionage clearly cast his lot with the dinosaurs and wants all good humans dead.

Yeah. That stuff can make you go blind. Wouldn't it suck if I couldn't see the dinosaurs jumping out of the trees at me?

Yeah. That stuff can make you go blind. Wouldn’t it suck if I couldn’t see the dinosaurs jumping out of the trees at me?

For all the messages you get from people, they never clarify any details, making them less helpful than Miss Cleo and an army of psychic friends. Block raptors from entering the visitor center? Maybe you could have told me that, in a game where you don’t interact with the environment, you gave me one piece of furniture that moves! A lot of times, their unsolicited advice pops up right over a dinosaur ambush. Tim pops up to say, “Don’t shoot the gallimimus! They might stampede,” and ten seconds later when the message vanishes from the screen, I find a raptor flossing with my intestines. (Almost as though she waited for just the right moment…clever girl!)

Giant beakers full of bubbling liquids. Because science.

Giant beakers full of bubbling liquids. Because science.

While most of the game gives you an overhead view of Dr. Grant, it switches to first-person when entering buildings. Grant doesn’t have a lot to fear here, as the only damage comes from looking left/right when entering a room, only to find the dinosaur on his right/left. Raptors walk back and forth or charge straight at you, and dilophosaurs stand there and spit. Unlike their outdoor counterparts, they take significantly higher damage, and usually explode if you so much as look at them disapprovingly. Any challenge in the first-person segments comes from the labyrinth of identical rooms with no reasonable floor plan, map, or distinguishing features to help you figure out where to go. Most buildings have multiple floors linked with elevators, the largest of which–the ship–has five stories to explore and get lost in. Apparently they decided that skyscrapers have excellent buoyancy.

The computer interface makes up for its obnoxiousness by offering user settings, like desktop backgrounds. Because what can model chaos better than a Bush? (I think Jeb may have discarded that slogan...)

The computer interface makes up for its obnoxiousness by offering user settings, like desktop backgrounds. Because what can model chaos better than a Bush? (I think Jeb may have discarded that slogan…)

With no saves or passwords, the game can take upwards of four or five hours to finish, so make sure you don’t have anything going on that day. I first beat this game in 8th grade, staying up late, tag-teaming the game with friends. Jason had just got a dial-up internet connection and I guess game walkthroughs seemed like the best thing for people to upload at the time. Six hours after starting, Jason had control of the characters, I relayed information from ol’ dial-up Bessie, and Chadd sprawled out on the floor with a migraine from focusing on the screen. But we made it. At roughly 2:00 am, we finally got to the helipad and evacuated the island…only to find out that the game’s ending just played the introductory booting animation in reverse.

Uh...so...can I assume this means game over?

Uh…so…can I assume this means game over?

Meh. Whatever. I love Jurassic Park. I read the novel at least sixteen or seventeen times, and recently started reading it to Anne, who as a former researcher, occasionally stops me to explain that she used to do what Crichton wrote about, and how he accurately described science a quarter century ahead of his time. She has a thing for the compies, so one of these days I expect to come home to a herd of chicken dinosaurs. But while not all of the franchise’s installments live up to the novel or the original movie, I still get excited about dinosaurs in my thirties. Chris Pratt made an excellent Alpha raptor, indominus rex proved surprisingly effective as a villain, and while I like that the T-Rex came back for a cameo at the end, we all know that the mosasaur really saved the day. So I hope you enjoyed today’s entry; if not as funny as some of my others, hopefully you’ll appreciate the gushing over Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park 3, Jurassic World or, if the Mario trend in naming continues, the upcoming Jurassic Park 64 and Jurassic Galaxy.

I’ll let you know if Spielberg asks for my script ideas.

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis – PS2, XBox, PC

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If you follow my blog regularly, rather than flip through in disappointment after your search for “sex” and “video game” turns up nothing but a wall of text with a few irreverently captioned images, you’ve probably found more than one review complaining about game series that sold out by porting a downgraded version of their original to a same-generation console just to make a few bucks (or a few thousand yen). While I do love to put on my big, black sanctimonious robes and pound my gavel in condemnation for these cash-grab attempts, I would disgrace the dignity and sex appeal of my big, curly powdered wig if I didn’t admit I can’t really make a general rule out of that practice. Fortunately, another sell-out genre of video game lets me keep up the pretence of blanket hatred on a much more regular basis: movie-based games.

Because Spielberg thought people would prefer an obscure species of predator to the historical favorite for the third film. Yeah. Smart move there.

Because Spielberg thought people would prefer an obscure species of predator to the historical favorite for the third film. Yeah. Smart move there.

I loved Jurassic Park. It came out the summer before fifth grade, and I never remember a movie scaring me more than that.  Give me a chair moving very slightly in a ghost story and I’ll pucker my naval in boredom. On the other hand, give the shark from Jaws a pair of lungs, legs, the intelligence to open doors, and a plausible-sounding explanation of how scientists might make them a reality, and I’ll lie awake at night, terrified, unable to sleep until eighth grade. Granted, some of that stemmed from the fear that the sun would go supernova and incinerate me in my sleep, but still…raptors! So you can imagine that after years of games like the weird top-down/first-person SNES adaptation or the Sega version where you play as a raptor, when I found a copy of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis for $3 at my local Savers, I reacted with an emphatic WTF (and not just because I found out later that the game sells for upwards of $80 on ebay).

As the game simulates an alternative reality where John Hammond succedes, capitalism seeps into every aspect of the game, including visitor deaths.

As the game simulates an alternative reality where John Hammond succedes, capitalism seeps into every aspect of the game, including visitor deaths.

Operation Genesis shows an odd sense of self-awareness, showing the main characters from the film selling out their principles to make piles of cash.  John Hammond apparently has made a full recovery from his lesson in human endangerment for the sake of capitalism (or if we follow the book’s plot, his death by compies) and puts himself to the task of opening another park and profiting off tourists, despite the occasional fatality. Rather than advising about ethical ramifications of cloning a long-extinct ecosystem, Dr. Grant now digs fossils for the explicit purpose of extracting DNA for use by the park (however, the fact that they manage to obtain DNA from solid rock, which has completely replaced any organic material, causes me to question the validity of the cloned animals).  Dr. Sattler has apparently renounced her paleobotanist ways and now works as a nurse for sick dinosaurs.  And John Arnold, no longer holding a grudge against the dinosaurs that dismembered and devoured him, returns as the park’s operations manager.

Gameplay resembles sim games, with construction mechanics similar to Sim City, but with tourists walking through the park, apparently completely incapable of finding things like restrooms, restaurants, and the dinosaurs standing right on the other side of viewing enclosures. Oh yeah, and the game also includes dinosaur cloning.  Although the game drops you right onto the island with no instructions after a paltry five-minute loading time, if you’ve ever played a sim game in your life, it doesn’t take too much effort to pick up the tasks. The park needs an entrance, fences, and at least one dinosaur before you can open, at which point park admissions becomes your primary source of revenue, along with charges for viewing, eating, and for the serious dick players, using the bathrooms. Restaurants, cleaning stations, ranger stations, and other buildings help tourists leave to spread the word about how satisfied they felt after wandering, eating, peeing, and not getting gored to death in your park, raising your rating and by extension, your potential to profit.

Most of the amenities and attractions require research before you can build them because apparently your staff simply can’t grasp how a gift shop might work without someone writing a dissertation on the subject first. I know why they include this mechanic in the game–it lets the player prioritize, adding variety to each play through, and insuring that the park could, theoretically, fail. It also adds some credibility to the scientific aspects of the game.  I just fail to see how developing a vaccine for previously unknown diseases that will work on species whose biology we’ve only ever known through rocks shaped like their bones takes the same amount of time to figure out as how to drive a jeep through a field of duck-billed hadrosaurs.

They call this building the hatchery. I think it looks suspiciously like a raptor pen.

They call this building the hatchery. I think it looks suspiciously like a raptor pen.

The process of cloning dinosaurs from DNA adds a layer of complexity to the game, requiring just about every step actually involved in real-life cloning except for the applications and approval from ethics boards. You start by digging fossils from a randomly selected dig site which, props for authenticity, coincides with real-life locations where each dinosaur species lived. You can purchase extra dig teams to make the excavation faster, but each team costs twice as much as the one before it and the process still feels like it takes sixty-five million years to get anything you can use. Also, sometimes they’ll dig up gold, silver, or opals, which have no use, but you can sell them. I usually use the money on store-bought fossils. You know why? Because I’d rather have fossils than gold, silver, or opals.  Once you have fossils, you have to extract DNA from them. Each sample gives you a small portion of DNA for a single species. You need 55% or more to clone a dinosaur. Yeah. It takes a while. And at 55%, they die off rather quickly. I like to imagine mixed characteristics of dinosaurs and frogs. Slimy, amphibious raptors hopping around their pens, or T-rexes trying to catch flies with their tongues. Anyway, once you have enough, and pay a hefty fee, your dinosaur hatchery (which you need to build) will start incubating and raising your park’s attractions: one animal at a time.

Allosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosaur family, struts for the camera. See, even T-Rex has relatives that embarass him at Thanksgiving.

Allosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosaur family, struts for the camera. See, even T-Rex has relatives that embarass him at Thanksgiving.

While at thirty years old, I still love the idea of dinosaur cloning and hope for the possibility to visit a real Jurassic Park one day, I don’t really know if the main focus of the game should force players to watch the research in real-time. While you start with enough material to produce at least one dinosaur species, it can take years of in-game time to get a second. Each dig site has only three species, and the fossils put up for sale only match the species of fossils you’ve found. Furthermore, out of the nine sites available, you can only access three per save file, so you can’t actually get all the dinosaurs in the game for your park. The game moves at the speed of fish climbing out of the ocean, but it only takes four or five hours of gameplay before you realize that, even though the game itself has other options, it won’t let you do anything to make your establishment more awesome.

Theoretically, disasters can add some panic into the game. Apparently tropical storms and disgruntled employees shutting off the power don’t quite match up with the excitement of the occasional twister (what, did you just copy and paste the coding from Sim City?), which can either add mild amusement in the need to follow along behind it immediately repairing fences, or it can game over you if it happens too early on.  Dinosaur rampages–supposedly–cause more trouble, but I’ve never had an animal break out of its fence, even when I had the T-rex in minimum security pens.

Nausea mode: where the camera jiggles, and the vomiting player simulates shooting dinosaurs on the ground below.

Nausea mode: where the camera jiggles, and the vomiting player simulates shooting dinosaurs on the ground below.

The game also offers a mission mode, with some alternative gameplay. The first mission asked me to drive a jeep around an island, photographing various species to prove to investors that the park really did clone dinosaurs–or knows how to use Photoshop. The second mission put me in a helicopter, gunning down rampaging carnivores.  The game lost me on that one–for a vehicle designed with the ability to hover, it handled like a gift shop balloon in a strong breeze.  Again, if they intended to nauseate their players, mission accomplished, but I just couldn’t live up to the task of operating a helicopter, machine gun, and vomit bucket at the same time. The reward for completing ten missions  lets you release all your dinosaurs onto an island without disease or people and just watch. No thank you.

You know what I’d rather do? Go read the damn book.