Well, it's certainly a mixed month for Ocean. On the one hand there's the decidedly average Burning Rubber, while on the other there's this. An enormous and impressive computer game version of Stephen Spielberg's latest box-office smashtastic masterpiece
Of course Ocean have always been associated with producing games based on films, but frankly quite a few of these have been pretty poor efforts, only succeeding on the strength of their license, Jurassic Park however, is looking set to become the most successful movie of all time, and so Ocean may have realised that their future reputation could well depend on the sort of job they make of the computer version. It's bound to sell by the lorry load on the strength of the film's name alone. So all the stops have been pulled out to try and produce something that really lives up to the hype - the programmers reckon that between them they've put a total of about 16 years into developing the project. And in all fairness, it shows.
Perhaps the most startling thing about the game is its size. Roughly speaking, it is broken into two distinct sections: an open-air, isometric perspective part (slightly reminiscent of The Chaos Engine), and an indoor 3-D see lion seen directly through the eyes of one of the characters (slightly reminiscent of Legends of Valour).
The outdoor levels take place over eight different maps, each of which is really quite huge. Every map corresponds to different dinosaur paddocks containing all the creatures seen in the movie plus a few more - for instance, the game includes a Pterodactyl dome only found in Michael Crichton's novel and not in the film.
In these levels you take charge of palaeontologist Dr Alan Grant, leading him through a series of different tasks which he has to complete (the Motion Sensor computers found on each level will generally tell you what particular mission you must accomplish next). On the Triceratops level. Grant must search the paddock for fruit as he has to heal a sick Triceratops that happens to be blocking the only exit. Whilst on the Tyrannosaurus Rex level he must suss out how to evade the bellowing dinosaur king as it chases him relentlessly along the paddock's narrow paths. As he goes about trying to solve these bigger problems, he continually stumbles across little sub-plots or lesser problems which have to be dealt with first.
The scrolling in these large sections is good, and some of the problems are quite fiendishly designed (they are all original, so reading the book or watching the film won't give you an advantage!). But unfortunately the enormity of the playing area actually spoils the action. Trekking round whole maps is very time consuming and there isn't always enough going on to keep you interested. The desire to crack the mission and get a sight of your next batch of prehistoric adversaries is admittedly a strong one, but the lack of decent stuff to shoot en route makes some of Jurassic Parks' maps feel just a little too big for their own good. Also the background graphics lend to be rather bland - and a bit more variation in the way different levels look wouldn't have gone amiss either.
Most of the effort seems to have gone into producing the actual dinosaur graphics. These arc sometimes frighteningly excellent. The T-Rex is especially good (just like in the film, really!), being both enormous and well-animated. It's worth getting eaten a few times just to see how impressive meeting a grisly death between two sets of sizeable jurassic incisors can be. Nice, squelchy, chewy bone-munching noises mixed with a truly deafening T-Rex roar make getting eaten even more fun.
The 3D indoor parts crop up at various stages of the game, and generally require you to explore a complex of rooms and buildings until you find a necessary object, switch or exit. Life is made considerably harder by the fact that all the game's 11 separate complexes are overrun by that most vicious of prehistoric beasties, the
Velociraptor. For those of you who haven't seen the fillm yet, these man-sized critters move at exceptional speeds and come fully equipped with razor-sharp teeth and a long slashing claw, making them nothing less than devastating killing machines.
The indoor sections of the game are definitely my favourite. The programmers have done a superb job in making the 3D environment move smoothly around you - no moving along a square at a time, or only turning round in 90 degree stages like in
Dungeon Master and the Eye of the Beholder kind of games. When you move or turn in Jurassic Park, you move or turn in one continuous motion, which makes the game much more realistic. (Imagine Legend of Valour speeded up and with more textured graphics and you start to get the picture).
The game's speed in these sections -particularly on the A1200, from which the screenshots are taken - is a revelation, especially when you run into a velociraptor or two. Rounding a corner and charging headlong into a waiting 'raptor is a severely unnerving experience. The 'raptors also charge and retreat at break-neck speed making them difficult targets for your rifle fire, and even more difficult to run away from. Seeing a 'raptor tail dart fleetingly through the shadows ahead of you really sets the nerves on edge as you inch forward, gun poised, eyes sweeping left and right, trying to predict where the inevitable attack will come from next.
Even in this extremely impressive and tense section of the game things can again get a bit monotonous. Although Ocean have obviously tried to make this section an action-fest, I still think the inclusion of a few more objects to discover or puzzles to solve might have increased the player's involvement. It's very refreshing to see they've included an on-screen mapping device, though.
So have Ocean managed to make Jurassic Park live up to the truly incredible hype? Well, the answer has to be yes - just. Certainly nobody who buys the Jurassic Park game will be able to say they were ripped off, as it has to be one of the largest games ever. There are really two games rolled into one, either of which would be able to hold it's head up high if it released by itself. Also nobody could accuse Ocean of not making an effort to produce something special - some parts of the game push the Amiga both sonically and graphically to its limits (you should see the intro and end-of-game sequences on the CD32 version. Like wow, man). The gameplay is not quite intensive or compulsive enough to make Jurassic Park an absolute corker, but it sure as hell makes a fine change from the turgid and unimaginative stuff we are used to getting from big licenses. Even Spielberg has said he likes it, and Ihere's a man who knows a success when he sees one!
The rumour mongers con stop spreading the word. Jurassic Park is a massive and challenging game that is actually just about good enough to live up to the hype. It's a bit long-winded and average-looking in places, but basically this is one ot the most impressive licenses yet to hit the Amiga. Ocean have done themselves proud with this: indeed they have set a new standard for film tie-ins that the rest should follow. I like it, in case you were wondering.
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