Retro Respawn – Jurassic Park (Super Nintendo)

Jurassic Park was not only one of the biggest movies of the ’90s, but it was also one of the first major Hollywood blockbusters that I remember watching as a youngster. I was immediately enchanted and (in the case of the more deadly creatures on display) scared by the effects of the movie, both CGI and animatronic. Looking back on it now, the CGI shows its age a bit, but the film itself is still very exciting and incredibly quotable (indeed, some of my friends will still quote random scenes of it now and then).

Considering how successful Jurassic Park was both at the box office and on the merchandising front, it was only natural that it would see its way into the video game world. Numerous games were released using the Jurassic Park license, some good and some bad, but the main one I played back in the day was this version of the game for the Super Nintendo. In my younger days, I played the game a lot, but looking at it through modern eyes, it’s quite disappointing despite having some notable plus points.

Playing as Alan Grant, your goal is to escape Jurassic Park itself without getting chomped, stomped or just plain ripped to bits by its ferocious dinosaur natives. During the game you will be nibbled at by small yet deadly Compsognathus’, chased down by stampeding Triceratops’, hunted through the wilderness by unrelenting Velociraptors and possibly even end up in a terrifying face off with the gigantic and unstoppable T-Rex.

Indeed, the game has a great variety of not just dinosaurs to deal with but also other prehistoric nasties, such as gigantic dragonflies and poisonous vines. Literally no part of the Jurassic Park island is safe, meaning that you have to be on your toes at all-times. It’s great that Ocean included so many dinosaurs in the game, even some that didn’t appear in the movie itself, and not knowing what waits around every area of the map gives the game a real sense of foreboding.

The game has two different gameplay sections, the first being a top-down view whilst Grant explores outside and a first-person shooter section when he heads inside buildings. The buildings that you need to enter include the Visitor Center and even the dreaded Raptor Pen in order to find ID cards that will allow you to complete the game’s objectives and eventually call a helicopter in to rescue you.

You start out at the famous Jurassic Park gates with just a cattle prod to use as a weapon, but as the game progresses, you can find other weaponry, such as shotguns, rocket launchers and tranquilizer darts. The cattle prod will kill some of the smaller dinosaurs, such as the Comsognathus’ and Gallimimus’, but the best it will do to bigger ones like the Raptors is stun them for a bit, allowing you to escape.

Combat isn’t especially great, and it’s very easy for the dinosaurs to overwhelm you, especially when outside, so it’s often best to run away from them if you have the chance. The first-person sections aren’t especially well done either, with sluggish controls and strange enemy A.I that sees the Raptors waiting patiently across the room looking at you like a curious puppy, meaning that if have a long-range weapon like the shotgun, you can just fire bullets into them until they drop without much difficulty.

What also doesn’t help is that the game has no save or password feature, meaning that every time you play it, you have to beat it in one sitting, or all the work you do is undone. Considering a lot of the game involves you traipsing all over the map in a perilous treasure hunt, having the option to save and come back to certain sections later would have been greatly appreciated. Indeed, most of the game is spent traversing these big areas trying to find out what you’re supposed to do, and it can get quite boring quite quickly.

What also hurts Jurassic Park is that some of the parts that should be big, exciting set pieces end up being real damp squibs when they eventually happen. The “battle” with the T-Rex is a great example of this. The T-Rex owns every second she spends onscreen in the Jurassic Park film, but in the game, she wanders into shot briefly and then meekly backs away after you plug her full of some tranquiliser darts, and that’s it.

You don’t get to partake in an exciting chase scene or an epic boss fight where she keeps showing up to torment you, ala “Mr. X” in Resident Evil 2. She shows up in one place, and so long as you have enough darts, she poses absolutely no threat to you. It really is disappointing because when I played the game in my youth, I was so excited at the prospect of seeing the T-Rex, but when you finally do, it’s such an anti-climax and does her no justice whatsoever.

Despite the disappointment of the overall gameplay, Jurassic Park on the SNES does have really nice graphics for the time and a fantastic soundtrack. The dinosaurs and outside environments all look nice, with lots of rich green, red and blues on display. The music suits the mood of the different sections of the Jurassic Park island well, and the music that plays when you’re inside a building is really ominous and unnerving. Sadly though, the game is more style than substance, but what style it has is certainly very striking.

Jurassic Park for the SNES isn’t an especially great game, but it’s not too expensive to get a PAL version of the game if you live in the UK or Europe, so if you like the look of the footage I posted below, then you might decide it’s worth a punt. Otherwise, I would advise you to stay clear of the SNES version and play the generally more enjoyable Mega Drive version instead.

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