Retro Game Review: Jurassic Park (1993) Is Still The One To Play
Jurassic Park is a 1993 2d platforming, side-scrolling action video game and one of the first tie-in games for the popular franchise, taking you on a memorable journey through the park either as Dr. Grant or one of the Velociraptor’s.
Recently while hosting a commentary track recording for Jurassic Park over at The LAMB podcast, it not only dawned on me the lasting legacy of what could easily have been another throw away summer blockbuster, but also the amount of games which the series has spawned over the years starting with developers seemingly aiming to maximise the appeal of the film by ensuring that every system had its own tie-in game.
The best of these games for myself though was the 1993 film tie in for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis for those of you in the states) which was unique for the gameplay it offered which saw you playing as either Dr. Alan Grant or a Velociraptor with both having their own unique levels as well as styles of game play. Playing as Grant, you have to make your way through the park to reach the visitor centre using a variety of weapons including tranquilizer gun, gas grenades and a stun gun to protect yourself against the various escaped dinosaurs you encounter. As the Velociraptor your focus is to hunt down Dr. Grant using your teeth and claws to defend yourself against other dinosaurs as well as Jurassic Park workers. You can move quicker and jump higher than Grant, while heath recharges can be gained either by eating meat scattered throughout the levels or the small green dinos known as “compy’s”
Headed up by Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel with Sega winning the rights from both Acclaim Entertainment and Activision who had both bid for the rights to produce the tie-in game. The production team used stop motion to create the dinosaurs in the game while Grant’s movements where created by using a digitized team member to act out his actions. The team also had the advantage of having access to the dinosaur models used in the actual film, including a $75,000 Velociraptor puppet which really pays off as the dinosaurs all look great and the levels despite the graphical limitations. They all feel like they have a lot of life to them, especially when many of them are placed to simulate grazing behaviour rather than patrolling a set area.
The levels are all pretty varied and can be linked to the film or book with the exception of the volcano level, which was created specifically for the game. Because of the variety of levels it means that the game keeps things interesting over its brief 7 levels as Dr. Grant or 5 if your playing as the Velociraptor. Starting in the jungle, you venture through locations like the power station, canyon and finally the visitor centre which climax’s on the iconic fossil statues, only here the game chooses to go with the original script ending of having Dr. Grant drop the structure on the raptors than the T-rex saving your hide, though its unclear if this was due to graphical limitations or the team working from the original script. What we do get here though is a chance to play out the river experience featured in the book, as you guide an inflatable raft down a series of rivers and rapids all while fending off the dinosaur attacks.
The dinosaurs all provide their own challenges with the spitters bombarding you, the triceratops tosses you through the air while the most daunting is when the T-Rex bashes his head through the wall of the level to try and chomp at you which is only made the worse when the level design seems determined to constantly put you as close as possible to this monster who in a single bite can reduce Dr. Grant to just his hat slowly floating to the ground. Playing as the Velociraptor though is great fun especially when all your human prey are just so stupid for the most part, bringing a great sense in satisfaction of surprising them or knocking them off ledges as you cause chaos throughout the park.
While the game might be limited slightly as a 2D side scroller there is still a real charm and playability to this game still, while the character and dinosaur designs still hold up providing a fun challenge still for those able to hunt down a copy.