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Jurassic Park: The Game: Episode 1: The Intruder review

£21.99 (buys full season; individual episodes not yet available)

Manufacturer: TellTaleGames

Our Rating: We rate this 1 out of 5

Telltale's barely-a-game adventure is Simon Says, but with dinosaurs and sore hands.

How do you go about making a decent game based on a film that's primarily about people running away? Many have tried over the years - we've had shooting games, we've had ambitious but awkward physics-based survival games, we've had games where you play as the dinosaurs and, perhaps most successfully, we've had Theme Park with dinosaurs (look it up, it's a great little management game). Yet still, it hasn't quite worked: Jurassic Park has all the right ingredients for a videogame, and yet something's wrong. It's because it's a game about being in peril rather than a game about besting your enemies. So, conceptually speaking, Telltale have done the smart thing with their miniseries of downloadable adventure games: they've made interactive short films.

Trouble is, "interactive movie" is a widely-scorned idea for a reason. We've had sadistic coin-op Dragon's Lair, we've had nonsensical perv title Night Trap on the Sega MegaCD and, more recently and far more successfully, we've had the ambitious but divisive Heavy Rain on PlayStation 3. Jurassic Park: The Game (of which The Intruder is but the first episode) has elements of them all, and very rarely in a pleasing way. A large portion of the game is simply cutscenes - watching a small but changing cast of characters move from location to location, in a new narrative that links into the original film - and the rest is hitting brazen on-screen prompts to dodge assorted disasters.

You may know these as quick-time events (or QTEs), and if you're among the sizeable number of people who don't have much truck with these Simon Says minigames of memory, timing and reflex, you need to run for your life from The Intruder. Some of the disasters that result from messing up a QTE are minor, such as banging your head on a log or tripping over something, while others are immediately - being crushed by a falling jeep or, of course, getting munched by a rampaging dinosaur.

Unfortunately, these death sequences are the game's only real joys - it's hard not to giggle at one of the invariably irritating characters getting chomped on by a T-Rex or impaled on a triceratops' horns. If you're anything like me, you'll actively pursue these fatalities - which will affect the rating you're given for the sequence, but there really isn't a reason to care about those.

Perhaps, had the game also managed some logical flow and thus more reliable drama and engagement in how and when it presents its endless QTEs, it might have managed to be the 'cinematic' experience it so clearly wants to be. But there's so little consistency - one moment you're watching someone run, the next you're hammering a button to stop them falling over. Plus the difficulty spikes all over the place - some sequences are almost impossible to fail, while even a single errant button-tap in another spells instant doom. It's frustrating and awkward.

Jurassic Park: The Game

Meanwhile, a lot of the more active and dramatic stuff, such as running over a dinosaur in a jeep or slapping an idiot around the chops is inexplicably without interaction: you just watch, and then it's onto more falling over or cursorily panning around a static scene looking for a big, obvious magnifying glass icon to click on.

On top of that is an insipid illusion of choice, such as offering multiple dialogue options that invariably lead onto the game doing whatever it was going to do anyway. Puzzles are almost entirely absent, and the few that do appear are entirely straightforward. Sure, Jurassic Park is aimed at a casual audience, but you only need to look at the truly successful crossover games, like The Sims, Wii Sports, Angry Birds, even FarmVille, to see that simply doing what exactly what the game tells you to do whenever it tells you to do it hasn't historically been the key to reaching a non-hardcore market. So, while Jurassic Park makes for a passable piece of dino-based animation, as a game - for any audience - it's almost non-existent.

Jurassic Park The Game: Episode 1: The Intruder Expert Verdict »

Available on PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and later iPad. PC system requirements: OS: XP Service Pack 3 / Vista / Windows 7 Processor: 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent Memory: 2 GB RAM Hard Disk Space: 2 GB Space Free Video Card: ATI or NVidia card w/ 256 MB RAM DirectX®: Direct X 9.0c Sound: Direct X 8.1 sound device
  • Overall: We give this item 2 of 10 overall

The total reliance on quick-time events and the total abandonment of any direct control or real decision makes for an almost insulting level of hand-holding, further worsened by crazy inconsistency in both challenge and flow. It's reasonably good-looking, at least, and it's hard not to thrill to the sight of T-Rex vs Triceratops action. Even if all you can do with watch.

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