Aaahh, Jurassic Park. It’ll always cement for me in my mind how dinosaurs really look(ed), no matter what lies science spreads about them being feathered weirdos or whatever. I was pretty young when the movie, and subsequently this game were released and I wouldn’t experience either until quite a few years after that point. I never actually owned Jurassic Park for the SNES as a kid. It was strictly rent-only for me and getting hold of it over all the other neighborhood kids was a mission in itself. I remembered it being incredibly difficult but also kind of unusual for an SNES game, having weird FPS sections that I’d never seen in any other SNES title at the time. The nostalgia factor was so strong that I picked up a cart I found a year or so ago that I never got around to playing. Ladies and gentlemen, I will tell you now that I was not disappointed and for all the wrong reasons – the new movie has some big boots to fill.
I came prepared (more on the mouse later.)
Movie Dr. Grant may have been a sage, father-like dinosaur expert but Jurassic Park Dr. Grant is all about that carnage. Strangely, he’s the only character that departs so drastically from their movie counterpart. Tim will consistently vomit up “tips” onto the screen, which take up the entire screen at the most inconvenient moments. The little bastard got me hurt or killed more often than he helped and generally stayed true to the film. The game is sadly lacking in Ray Arnold yelling at an animated Wayne Knight at all, and there isn’t so much as a single “clever girl.” No, the star of this game (whose title I’ll be appending with appropriate subtitles from here out) is Paleontologist-turned-Paleintolerant Dr. Alan “Dinosplosion” Grant.
Jurassic Park: Crunkin’ in Bunkers is a game that refused to take the source material seriously and, as such, I will respond in kind. Casting you as the uncharacteristically bloodthirsty Dr. Grant, the game just assumes that you’ve seen the movie since it never takes the time to explain why you’re doing anything. Sometimes it barely even explains what you’re doing, with all your vague quest instructions being delivered via sparsely placed PA-towers/totem poles built in Dr. Grants honor. The game just bases its own narrative loosely around the plot of the movie, hoping you’ll figure out its demented logic. I say “loosely,” since the game’s events are only rough facsimiles of things that happen in the movie, and I don’t remember Dr. Grant being involved in most of them. Hell, I don’t even remember most of this happening in the movie at all. That was my first tip off that the game was starting down the courageous path of a gritty alternate timeline.
One written and directed by Michael Bay while he was cracked out on cocaine.
In the movie, Dr. Grant was invited to Isla Nublar by Dr. Hammond to assess the island and give it his personal seal of approval but was instead rocked by dinos and the good doctor’s hubris. Videogame Dr. Grant, however, doesn’t wait for an invitation. He kicked down the doors of Dr. Hammond’s stupid park, laser gun in hand, ready to correct Hammond’s mistakes – one bullet-riddled dinosaur at a time! I’m inferring my own back story because the game didn’t see fit to give one. You’re quite literally dropped at the gates of the park at the beginning, with a laser gun and no clues. You just wander around the park, pick up Dino eggs, collect access cards and, oh yeah, kill dinosaurs en masse with explosives that have just been left lying around.
I assume Dennis Nedry is the antagonist since he’s, of course, a treacherous dickhead who straight up lies to you and otherwise mocks you throughout gameplay. He tells you right from the beginning that raptors will only attack you if they’re attacked first (they attack on sight) and flat out calls you an idiot for dying after you respawn. Since he openly acknowledges your brief, violent departure from the world of the living, I can only reasonably believe that Grant is an Immortal. This is also why Nedry never faces you in person, and why everyone else communicates exclusively via remote com systems, lest they incur your rocket-launchery wrath. There’s also something about stopping a boat and escaping the island but screw all that, there’s dinosaurs to kill and their tiny dino-baby eggs to steal.
Also, Malcolm’s back and he isn’t shirtless? What is this?
Gameplay is split between a top-down shooter while running around outside and a clunky, hideous FPS when inside buildings. I can’t for the life of me work out why they didn’t just make the entire game a top-down shooter. The controls are a little clunky, but the top-down sections have the makings of a great platformer-shooter if they extended it to the building interiors. As it exists, there are only a handful of dinosaur types that you’ll encounter, with little variance in their behavior, and the explorable areas are claustrophobic to say the least. Even by SNES standards, this game just has no idea what it wants to be, and it shows.
The FPS segments are a painful mess that were my favorite part of the game as a child and remain as such to this day though the reasons for that have changed significantly. Dinosaurs won’t attack you, no matter how close you are, unless you’re in the same room as they are. Until then, and if you’re otherwise out of range, they will stand creepily motionless and stare at you while you move about the room. That’s assuming you can move about at all; strafing doesn’t exist, only forwards, backward, and unresponsive turning with a D-Pad. You can use the mouse to move, pushing it forward to walk forwards etc., though this makes Grant walk at steroid-induced speeds. Ultimately, it turns out that this is the best way to control the game:
But only for the FPS parts. A twenty year early prototype for the Wiimote, perhaps?
Distinguishing features for building interiors were a major expense spared by Ocean, rarely appearing in the seemingly endless, repeating mazes that you run through. Even after mastering the ability to simply move, navigating the Park’s facilities was an enigma that reduced me to drawing physical maps to keep track of where I was. This whole process is made harder when Dr. Grant moves like he has Raptors hanging off his ankles. Speaking of Raptors, remember how the movie only had three of them? It used them to sparingly and in critical situations to make the moment almost unbearably tense. Ocean clearly didn’t remember because in Jurassic Park: Electric Raptorama-Boogaloo Hammond is just nutty for the things.
When reeling from stuff like an island full of raptors and swapping between gameplay genres, it’s easy to get caught off guard by the occasional bizarre attention to detail. The elevators have actual elevator music that plays whenever you get into them. The music, in general, is actually pretty great for a SNES game of the time. It changes on the fly with the action, appropriately I might add, and sounds great at the same time (a stark contrast to the rest of the game.) There are these computers spread around the map, which you’ll briefly access a handful of times, and are among the most frustrating interfaces in the whole game. There are eight different background animations that you can choose from, which will only appear while you’re using the computers, buried in a sub-menu that you don’t even need to open. Eight.
The Game Over screen also shows the results of your failure: An island hell, dominated by Raptors.
I tried to finish this game, I really did, but it’s just too goddamn boring for the amount of effort it asks – nay, demands of you. At about six hours in, several guides have informed me that I was only a short ways away from the ending, but I just couldn’t care enough to see it through to the end. I ran out of drinks about the same time it stopped being funny, which was about two hours in, and my determination ran out about an hour after that. I’m not sure why I kept going for as long as I did; it certainly wasn’t fun. I feel like I could have persevered a little longer just to see the ending though I have it on good authority (YouTube) that I’m not exactly missing out on much. Back to the shelf and obscured, nostalgic memories you go, Dr. Grant’s Bloody Adventure in Jurassic Park.