The Video Game Critic's

Video Game Retrospective

Updated June 8, 2022

Of my many "favorite" movie series I think Jurassic Park has been my most enduring. As a kid I was fascinated by dinosaurs, memorizing my collection of prehistoric creature cards and mispronouncing every name. The first Jurassic Park (1993) rekindled those childlike feelings of awe and wonder, and it's probably the most spectacular film of all time. Over the years I've managed to collect most of the Jurassic Park-related video games. They're not all winners, but each manages to capture certain elements of the films. Especially with the release of a new Jurassic World flick, it's a good time to take a look back. Hold on to your butts!

Jurassic Park

Sega (1993)
Reviewed 2018/8/8
System: Genesis
Grade: C+

screenshotMy friend Eric brought this cartridge over my house when Jurassic Park mania was in full swing. Turn it on and a T-Rex roars over the Sega logo. Wait a minute, did he just roar "Sega"?! The game begins with a spectacular cutscene of the T-Rex breaking loose and attacking a jeep on a dark, stormy night.

You can tell the bulk of the development effort was spent on the digitized dinosaurs, which look and sound amazing! You'll face raptors, spitting dilophosaurus, pterodactyls, and annoying tiny green "compys". You can make your life easier by not attacking every dinosaur. For example, if you don't attack the triceratops he won't charge at you. You never actually kill any dinosaurs but you can tranquilize them, and it's cool how their chests rise and fall as they slumber. The T-Rex is never seen full-body but he makes his presence felt by sticking his huge noggin wherever it will fit.

You begin as Dr. Grant in a dense jungle, where you shoot, squat, climb, jump, and move hand-over-hand along vines. When he comes up short on a jump he'll grab the ledge and pull himself up. Grant looks realistic but the animation is choppy and the controls are stiff. It's hard to tell where to go at times, and it seems like you're constantly sliding down a slope leading to a bed of spikes. The erratic frame rate not only degrades the controls, but even the music slows down. Falling too far spells instant death, forcing you to restart the entire level.

Running is your best course of action in the shadowy power station where you're stalked by raptors. Ducking into a vent at the last possible moment is exciting, but the music that plays during this stage is just plain weird. The river raft scene (deleted from the film) is the most visually appealing stage, but navigating waterfalls while fighting dinosaurs is hard. Who knew?

The option to play as the raptor has novelty value, mainly because you can jump a country mile. Still, chomping small dinosaurs and pouncing on helpless security guards gets old after a while. Frustrating at times, Jurassic Park's gameplay never really lives up to its rich visuals. Still, the game captures enough elements of the movie to make it a worthwhile romp for fans.

Jurassic Park

Ocean (1993)
Reviewed 2012/8/2
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: F

screenshotIt's hard to imagine a more kick-ass video game license than Jurassic Park, so what the [expletive] happened here? This doesn't feel like a Jurassic Park game at all! The theme music is missing and your pudgy character looks nothing like Dr. Grant from the movie. The game has a cartoonish appearance which tends to understate the sense of awe. Even the intro voice "Welcome to Jurassic Park" sounds like it was uttered by a disinterested programmer.

You view the action from a tilted overhead perspective as you explore an endless jungle maze with dinosaurs on the loose. Initially armed with an electricity gun, you'll pick up additional weapons like shotguns, bolas, and rocket launchers. Yes, there are raptors and T-Rexes, but you'll spend a lot of time dealing with annoying pint-sized dinosaurs and pesky dragonflies. Exploring the park is unsatisfying. There are signs all over the place, but you can't read any of them!

Your first mission is to collect raptor eggs, and it took me about a half hour to find the first one. And when I read "17 more to go", I wept openly. There's no map and it always feels like you're on a wild goose chase. When you enter an enclosed facility things go from bad to worse as an ill-advised first-person perspective kicks in.

It may have been novel for its time, but the rough animation, clunky controls, and stilted frame-rate will give you a splitting headache. The idea of exploring the visitor center sounds intriguing until you realize it's just a maze of mostly-empty rooms. Expect to see a lot of "you can't go here" messages because you don't have the proper ID card or night vision goggles. Failing miserably to capture the spirit and charm of the film, Jurassic Park is one colossal disappointment.

Jurassic Park

Ocean (1993)
Reviewed 2007/7/1
System: NES
Grade: C-

screenshotI really should have loved this game, but I couldn't quite sink my razor-sharp talons into Jurassic Park. The game is played from an isometric (tilted overhead) perspective as you guide a pudgy dude around a virtual Jurassic Park crawling with small dinosaurs. You'll escort people to safety, collect dinosaur eggs, shoot attacking carnivores, and operate computer terminals to open gates.

Jurassic Park's graphics are rendered in a cartoonish style, but some of the larger dinosaur bosses (like the T-Rex and Triceratops) look quite imposing. The outdoor environments do a fine job of recreating the high-tech fences and control centers depicted in the film. Take caution when walking near trees or bushes - you never know what's going to pop out (hint: it's a dinosaur!). The indoor areas are less interesting; usually just a maze of generic rooms.

The controls are responsive, but aiming is tricky and your ammo is limited. A catchy musical number complements the crisp graphics. I like the general concept of the game, but it's tainted by a few idiotic design decisions. First of all, many of the "mystery boxes" turn out to be traps that spell instant death, and you'll only know which ones are deadly through trial and error.

There's also too much computer terminal interaction which really slows things down. Finally, the difficulty level is so steep that even surviving the first stage is a major feat. I loved the Jurassic Park movie, but this game is a bit too frustrating for my tastes.

Jurassic Park

Sega (1993)
Reviewed 2008/6/21
System: Game Gear
Grade: A

screenshotWhoa. Jurassic Park for the Game Gear took me by surprise. This bundle of portable joy is even better than the Genesis Jurassic Park game! The title screen features a digitized roar (not bad!), followed by a sophisticated animated sequence that rivals those of many 16-bit games. You can select the order in which you play the four stages, and that alone dramatically enhances the replay value.

Each stage begins with a shooting sequence where you defend a speeding jeep by aiming crosshairs at attacking pterodactyls and velociraptors. It feels like a fun bonus stage. Next you're thrust into a traditional platform stage that places all sorts of dinosaurs and environmental hazards between you and the exit. The layered scenery is first-rate, and the stages are imaginative in design. For example, in the forest a lightning strike starts a fire which eventually burns an escape path.

Each stage has several distinct areas, delivering an exceptional degree of variety. Even the mineshaft level is engaging despite its maze-like structure. A large dinosaur awaits at the end of each stage, and you'll need to formulate a specific strategy to prevail. The rich control scheme lets your character squat, crawl, hang, and even monkey-walk over low hazards. You're well armed, and can even change weapons via the pause screen!

The game's dramatic musical score is pretty intense as well. Jurassic Park for the Game Gear impressed the hell out of me. With rich gameplay and fantastic production values, this should be a model for all 2D platform titles, portable or otherwise.

Jurassic Park

Sega (1993)
Reviewed 2022/5/14
System: Sega Master System
Grade: B+

screenshotJust when I thought I had reviewed every last Jurassic Park console title I discovered this awesome Sega Master System game. It actually bears a striking resemblance to the portable Jurassic Park (Game Gear, 1993), which I gave a rave review. This version of course features far more detailed graphics.

I can't say enough about the colorful, well-animated introduction. It's fun to watch and nicely sets the tone as your helicopter approaches the ominous island and sets down on that landing pad. And it's always a thrill for me to watch that torch-lined Jurassic Park gate slowly open. If only this game had the music of the film.

Upon selecting a stage you'll hear a laughable "roar". Each begins with a driving stage that has you protecting a little jeep bouncing down a dirt road as ptyradacyls swoop down and velopcirapers pounce. You move a reticle around the screen to shoot them, tapping the fire button like mad. Though tiresome after a while, it's basically a bonus stage, since you can't really die.

All four stages pack exciting platform jumping mayhem and dinosaur-shooting fun. Playing as a sharply-rendered Alan Grant, you're placed in a variety of predicaments. One minute you're monkey-climbing over electrified water, and the next you're running across a collapsing cliff. There are some breathtaking scenes including several Brachiosaurus lounging in a nearby lake.

The shooting is fun because your shots expand as they travel through the air, making it easier to hit targets from a distance. Small dinosaurs often peek through the tall grass before making their entrance, but many have the annoying habit of dropping from trees above. Don't allow yourself to overlap with anything or your life will instantly drain. The game saves the larger dinosaurs for boss encounters.

As much as I enjoyed this, part of me prefers the Game Gear version. The characters were pixelated but larger, and its pacing was better. This version forces you to hit the pause button on the console to access weapons and medkits, which is a pain. That said, Jurassic Park for the Sega Master System is still great, providing a completely different experience from the Genesis and SNES editions.

Jurassic Park

Sega (1993)
Reviewed 2005/10/14
System: Sega CD
Grade: D

screenshotWow, this is so much different than what I had expected. Instead of a side-scrolling shoot-em-up like the Genesis version, this is an odd point-and-click adventure. I think I know what Sega had in mind. They wanted this Sega CD version to take the gamer to the "next level", by creating an immersive virtual Jurassic Park environment to explore.

By moving a cursor over a first-person view of your surroundings, you move from area to area, checking out the scenery and collecting items to solve puzzles. There are a few "aim the cursor" shooting sequences, but in general the pace of the game is slow and involves a lot of trial and error. Just move the cursor all over the place, and when it turns into a hand or a magnifying glass, you know you've found something.

Whether you enjoy this edition of Jurassic Park or not depends on your frame of mind. The first time I played it, I was in the mood for action and it just bored me. The second time however, I had mentally prepared myself for a thought-provoking adventure, so it wasn't so bad. Still, some of the puzzles don't make any sense, and I hate when the screen simply goes black when you die - causing you to wonder what the heck just happened.

The scenery is strictly Genesis quality, and the pathways between areas all look the same after a while, making it easy to get lost. Even the educational aspect is weak. When you consult the Paleontologist about a specific dinosaur, he says one lousy sentence. As for the "sense-boggling" Q-Sound the game box raves about, well, I didn't even notice it. I'll give Sega credit for trying something different, but Jurassic Park for the Sega CD lacks the thrills and excitement of its namesake.

Jurassic Park Interactive

Universal (1994)
Reviewed 2023/5/8
System: 3DO
Grade: D+


Raptor There's a scene from the Jurassic Park movie where the girl taking the tour of the park finds a small screen in the automated vehicle. "It's an interactive CD-ROM! You just touch the right part of the screen and it talks about whatever you want!" Here she is in the midst of actual live dinosaurs extinct for a million years, and she's more excited about reading about them on a tiny screen? Maybe that was the idea behind Jurassic Park Interactive: the CD-ROM nobody wanted.

The promising video intro incorporates a few scenes from the movie, most notably the memorable clip of the helicopter approaching the lush tropical island. The sweeping orchestrated theme really got me in the mood for adventure, but I was thrown for a loop as the characters were being introduced. Wait a minute; that's not Dr. Grant! That's not Ellie Sadler! These characters look nothing like the real actors! Not even close! You can't just slap some glasses on a fat white guy and call him Nedry!

Your goal is to transport people located around the island to safety via first-person mini-games. One recreates the exciting scene where the jeep is being chased by a marauding T-Rex. This stage makes clever use of the "objects closer than they appear" mirror. The driving controls use the directional pad to accelerate and shoulder buttons to steer. It seems backwards but makes more sense when you realize you're not so much steering as swerving around debris in the road.

Another stage has you zapping Dilophosauruses dashing between trees. You may recall it was these "spitting" dinosaurs that did Nedry in. Then there's the scary raptor stage, which I never made it through. You're stuck in a dark, maze-like power station in search of keys. The heart-pounding action is pretty intense but also disorienting to the point of frustration. Finally, there's a set of cheesy computer-themed games like a Space Invader clone that substitutes aliens with digitized faces, and an Asteroids-style shooter where you blast rotating floppy disks.

I'll give Interactive points for presentation. It does make you feel as if you're in a Jurassic Park environment. There are some nice digitized graphics and things can get intense at times. But the hodge-podge game design doesn't really work. Even if you enjoy one or two of these mini-games, you have to play them over and over again, and they get old in a hurry.

Jurassic Park Part 2: The Chaos Continues

Ocean (1994)
Reviewed 2012/8/2
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: D-

screenshotAfter botching the original Jurassic Park SNES game something awful, Ocean tried a whole new approach. This sequel is more in line with the side-scrolling Genesis version - which was pretty good! "This is a side-scroller. I know this!" It's interesting to note that this game is not related to the second film. Its cheesy animated intro tells of a diabolical dictator who sends in an army to take over the island.

Jurassic Park Part 2 is better than the first game, mainly because it can't possibly be any worse. You can select from a half-dozen missions which typically involve running through jungles, jumping over electric wires, climbing hand-over-hand across vines, and shooting dinosaurs. The graphics aren't bad but the gameplay is hurting. You have a split second to react to approaching raptors (if you're lucky), and even when spraying bullets with a machine gun you're still going to take a lot of damage. These raptors can absorb more than a dozen bullets!

The controls include a "dodge" button, but in my experience it's worthless. You can toggle between several weapons but most are ineffective. It's only possible to pick up ammo for the weapon you're currently using, which makes no sense. Jurassic Park 2 is playable with the easy difficulty, but it feels unoriginal and often frustrating.

In one mission you mow down soldiers like Contra - except without the tight controls or fun. The ability to play with a friend simultaneously looks good on paper but it's not practical. Failing to redeem the original game, Jurassic Park Part 2 is just another burial plot in the graveyard of squandered movie licenses.

Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition

Universal (1994)
Reviewed 2012/9/26
System: Genesis
Grade: C+

screenshotAs if trying to make up for the shortcomings of the original Jurassic Park Genesis game, this "Rampage Edition" was a quick follow-up. The game begins with a stage select screen - always a welcome feature. You can start at the docks, the aviary, or in the savannah where you ride on back of a galloping dinosaur (who is not named Yoshi for once). For some reason the game pits you against armed soldiers - as if the dinosaurs weren't enough, right?

I'm surprised by the way they altered the graphic style for this game, giving all characters and objects black outlines. I guess it's supposed to make them stand out more, but it looks less realistic - and a little cheesy. The controls are very responsive and the animation is smooth. The only thing missing is the ability to grab onto ledges, and it's sorely missed. Your weapon arsenal includes electric zappers, grenades, machine guns, and flamethrowers. Yes, you can kill the dinosaurs this time.

Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is the kind of game that drives me crazy. It has all the necessary building blocks but doesn't put them together right. Like the first game, areas tend to "wrap around" on themselves in a confusing manner. Enemies can absorb a crazy number of shots before going down (even on the easy level).

On the aviary screen you'll be making excellent progress only to have a pterodactyl snatch you up and carry you all the way back to the beginning of the stage! That wouldn't be so bad if all your enemies hadn't regenerated! Otherwise the action is fast and fun, and there are plenty of checkpoints and hidden areas. Jurassic Park Rampage Edition is better than the original game in some respects, but worse in others. Overall I'd say it's a wash.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Sega (1997)
Reviewed 2018/6/17
System: Saturn
Grade: D-

screenshotMuch like the film, a lot of people played The Lost World but nobody liked it much. The dinosaurs in the game look quite lifelike and there is some rich scenery that takes you through dense jungle and damp caverns. An orchestrated musical score adds weight, and the dinosaur screeches, grunts, and roars are convincing enough. The rapid-fire computer graphics that introduce each new creature are pure sensory overload, and I love it.

It's a shame the gameplay couldn't match the production values. In the first nine stages you control a small, green "compy" dinosaur who takes damage constantly and isn't particularly easy to control. The grainy graphics are a step down from the PS1 version, making it hard to locate shadowy exits in the rocks. The collision detection is terrible as you regularly overlap with other creatures and take damage at random. The animation is fluid but there is frequent slowdown.

The second set of stages lets you control a human armed with a pea-shooter, and it takes a good 50 shots to kill anything! That's followed by some unsatisfying raptor stages. The true star of the Jurassic Park movies was the T-Rex, yet you'll need to wait until stage 22 (!) for some large-scale carnivore carnage. I can see how it would be tempting to save the most exciting parts of the game for the end. Unfortunately the developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Electronic Arts (1997)
Reviewed 2018/6/19
System: Playstation
Grade: D-

screenshotIf you've played this then you probably hate it. The Lost World: Jurassic Park falters badly despite its top-notch graphics and sound. The smoothly-animated 3D dinosaurs look fantastic, with hulking Brachiosauruses that consume the entire screen. The 2D platform jumping action is complemented by 3D jungle backgrounds that allow the camera to rotate around the action. The audio boasts natural background noises and nicely orchestrated background music.

So why did The Lost World have to be so [expletive] difficult and frustrating!? Didn't anybody bother to play-test this thing? Depending on the stage you'll control a small scampering dinosaur called a small "compy", a vicious raptor, a rampaging T-Rex, or a human. The early levels emphasize precision platform jumping but the control is lacking. When touched by one of your numerous adversaries control goes out the window altogether.

In addition, some of the branching paths make you feel like you're moving in circles. You'll use every bad word in your vocabulary before reaching the highly-anticipated human and T-Rex stages. You'd think controlling a T-Rex would be awesome but the novelty wears off quickly once you eat a few people. Lost World may have spared no expense in terms of presentation, but playing the game feels more like an ordeal.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park Special Edition

Electronic Arts (1998)
Reviewed 2018/6/19
System: Playstation
Grade: D

screenshotThis box of Lost World: Jurassic Park Special Edition boasts of a new T-Rex level, mid-level checkpoints, and "stronger and longer lives". Clearly this Greatest Hits re-release was trying to atone for the sins of the original. The new opening stage features a T-Rex tearing through a warehouse, chomping on soldiers and flinging their lifeless bodies. The key is to maintain your health by consuming a guy every now and then.

For the next nine stages you're a small but fleet-of-foot "compy" dinosaur, scampering through lush jungles, hopping between rocky ledges, and mauling small creatures when necessary. Lost World was an early example of 2.5D gameplay, with fluid animation and shifting camera angles that were absolutely mind-blowing in the late 90's. The compy stages begin to lose their charm once you start running into other creatures like raptors and flying insects.

The collision detection is awful! Sometimes you can leap over several raptors in a single bound and sometimes you'll get bounced between them like a pinball. The stage where you walk between the legs of a herd of Brachiosaurus was always amazing to me, but did they really need to include extra hazards like poisonous red plants and rolling rocks? In the next set of stages you play as a human hunter, but your default weapon is useless.

The fun of the raptor stages is undermined by exploding crates and beds of spikes. Biting humans is less-than-satisfying because instead of clutching them in your jaws you just sort of bite through them. Only a marginal improvement, this Special Edition proves just how fundamentally flawed the game was (and still is).

Jurassic Park: The Lost World

Sega (1997)
Reviewed 2012/9/26
System: Genesis
Grade: F

screenshotThis game was released late in the Genesis life cycle, making it a pretty rare title. Unlike the first two Jurassic Park Genesis games, this is an overhead, free-roaming adventure. It sounds a lot like the SNES Jurassic Park game, but this one looks far more realistic. If only it were more fun.

You start by wandering around a savannah surrounded by heavy brush. Hitting the start button brings up a "web site". Yes, this was an early attempt to emulate the world wide web in a game. This fake website contains email messages, a map, and the all-important "dino facts".

I like how the missions branch, but every one felt like a tedious wild goose chase. Typically you must rescue some poor schmuck by blasting obstacles and disabling electronic generators. Each time you encounter an electric field you have to scour the area to locate its power generator, and it's usually the furthest possible distance from your current location.

Every stage feels like a maze, and don't get me started about these pesky dinosaurs. They aren't particularly aggressive, but your weapons are so freakin' weak that you can't get rid of them! Even with a machine gun you'll barely chip away at the health of a small dinosaur. The action is tediously slow, and it just gets slower with more activity on the screen. I was hoping Lost World might be a hidden gem but this is one Jurassic Park game best forgotten.

Jurassic Park: The Lost World

Tiger (1997)
Reviewed 2014/7/18
System: Tiger
Grade: F

screenshotThis ill-advised movie adaptation is visually impressive but languishes in the control department. The Lost World begins with a high-speed driving stage that lets you weave around a stampede of dinosaurs. You view the action from behind your vehicle and the illusion of movement isn't bad. There's a decent sense of speed and the marauding creatures look great. Unfortunately it's hard to tell where you're supposed to go with so many dinosaurs, bushes, and other hazards cropping up all over the place. When my car blinks, does that mean I'm taking damage?

The second stage is a typical platform stage boasting lush jungle foliage and lumbering dinosaurs in the background. That's great, but I wish the developers had paid a little more attention to what happens in the foreground! Your scientist is extremely stiff and the animation is comparable to flipping the pages of a book.

Dinosaurs blend into the scenery, and when you finally spot one unresponsive controls make it hard to react in time. Even if you manage to shoot a dinosaur with your tranquilizer gun, the effect wears off in about ten seconds. Leaping between branches is an exercise in futility, especially when your character tends to change direction in mid-air.

The audio effects may be the best part of the game, as the dinosaurs unleash digitized screeches, grunts, and roars. The background music on the other hand sounds like a toddler banging away on a Casio keyboard. It's pretty obvious that the Jurassic Park developers focused their attention on the graphics, leaving us with a showcase title that's a constant struggle to play.

Jurassic Park: Warpath

Electronic Arts (1999)
Reviewed 2007/12/10
System: Playstation
Grade: D-

screenshotI enjoyed this one-on-one dinosaur fighter more the first time I played it - when it was called Primal Rage (thank you, David Spade). Granted, Primal Rage (1995) had its issues, but at least that game had some sense of style and originality. Warpath feels like a cheap knock-off solely designed to cash in on the movie franchise. Its 3D dinosaur models look okay with their scaly skin textures, but the stages are incredibly boring. The only interesting location is the tanker ship in the San Diego harbor, which offers a gorgeous nighttime view of the San Diego skyline.

Warpath's packaging boasts about "destructible environments", but all I could find were huge TNT boxes that blow up when you rub against them. In general, Warpath offers little in the way of fun. Like Primal Rage, the animation is rough and the collision detection is poor. There are no interesting attacks to speak of. How many ways can a dinosaur really attack anyway?

Besides chomping with its jaws or swinging its tail, there's little room for technique. Sensing this limitation, the developers incorporated some ill-advised jumping attacks which just look silly. The blows are weak, with only small splashes of blood used to differentiate hits from misses. The slow-motion instant replays magnify the game's graphical woes, making you wonder why they were included. Even watching a "finishing blow" will leave you feeling hopelessly bewildered. Warpath is one of the rarer titles for the Playstation console, and now you know why.

Jurassic Park III: Island Attack

Konami (2001)
Reviewed 2012/8/18
System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: B-

screenshotAs one of three Jurassic Park III games made for the Gameboy Advance, Island Attack is an action-packed adventure. There's not much of a story (thank goodness for that) but the style and visuals stay true to the film. At the start of the game you find yourself next to some plane wreckage while talking to the coast guard with a transmitter. The guy offers some pretty dubious advice, like "if you run into any dinosaur, just make a run for it." Actually he's right - running is usually your safest bet, considering there are no weapons.

The action is viewed from a tilted overhead angle as you explore jungles with wide clearings, a partly-operational control center, and a dilapidated museum. The graphics are so detailed that they sometimes border on digitized. The massive Spinosaurus looks particularly ominous as it rocks back and forth, ready to charge.

Some of the smaller dinosaurs however, like the spitting Dilophosaurus, can be a little hard to make out. Your main adversaries are raptors, and the most effective way to subdue them is to lure them near explosives and ignite them with a flare gun.

This cat-and-mouse style of play gets a little old after a while. In one area you need to lure five Dilophosaurus into an electrified pool of water, and it's a tedious, time-consuming process. The running controls are awkward, forcing you to double-tap the directional pad. Frankly I wish my guy was running all of the time.

A crosshair symbol appears on items of interest (like a breakable crate), but sometimes only intermittently. Aiming the flare gun is frustrating, especially when a dinosaur stands between you and a crate. When it comes to smashing a box or opening a rusty door, the game prompts you to button mash.

Most stages are relatively short, and you can save your progress after completing each one. The transmitter comes in handy later in the game when you're in need of a hint. A high-speed motorcycle chase offers a nice change of pace, but it's about twice as long (and hard) as it should be. Jurassic Park III: Island Attack has its highs and lows, but it should appeal to fans of the film.

Jurassic Park III: Park Builder

Konami (2001)
Reviewed 2012/8/18
System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: B-

screenshotThe intro to this game features digitized (and pixelated) dinosaurs running wild, and it really got me psyched up to play. Jurassic Park III: Park Builder is a simulator along the lines of SimCity and Theme Park. The icon interface makes it pretty easy to construct a park with roads, hotels, restaurants, shops, and fenced areas for the dinosaurs.

The process for making a dinosaur is consistent with the films. First you deploy teams of excavators to various continents to mine for amber. Upon their return you analyze the amber in a research lab, with each piece containing portions of DNA for a particular dinosaur. Once you acquire a full strand you can produce an egg. There are 140 (!) types of dinosaurs in all, and it's fun to "collect" them.

As the park comes to life you'll see people milling about with bubbles over their heads indicating if they are sad, happy, or excited. The game lets you customize your park to a surprising degree, incorporating things like landscaping, statues, and fountains. You can upgrade facilities, read what the people are saying, and view a graph of the attendance. There's plenty to do, but your hands are often tied by available funds.

Your money is shown on top of the screen, and it fluctuates wildly. When in the red you really can't do much of anything except wait, and the park freezes in time when you peruse the menus. I also dislike how the game is constantly prompting you to "name" things, including every single dinosaur. Not only do I have no desire to "name" the dinosaurs, but the keyboard interface royally sucks.

One crucial tip for a novice is to install "rotaries" to connect roads with walkways. Otherwise you get all kinds of nonsensical error messages. Once you get the hang of it Park Builder is a pretty intriguing title that packs a surprising amount of content.

Jurassic Park III: The DNA Factor

Konami (2001)
Reviewed 2012/8/18
System: Game Boy Advance
Grade: B-

screenshotOf the three Jurassic Park III games for the Game Boy Advance, DNA Factor is probably the most playable. It feels like a traditional side-scroller as you guide a lanky Indiana Jones-looking dude through jungles and laboratories while jumping, dodging, shooting, and collecting DNA samples. Good times!

Your character actually moves between two planes, but since they aren't clearly delineated, it takes a while to figure out where you can or can't go. There are a lot of bottomless pits, but your guy usually grabs the ledge instead of falling. The DNA samples (colored dots) burst into stars as you collect them in a magically delicious kind of way. You don't need to collect all of the DNA, but grab what you can because if you don't collect enough you'll need to replay the stage.

I really enjoyed the arcade style of DNA Factor, but the game finds some imaginative ways to annoy. When trying to get past the Brontosaurus boss, even touching his leg can spell instant death. Worst yet, the "earthquakes" caused by his stomps deal significant damage unless you jump in the air. It's actually possible for him to kill you after he's completely left the screen!

I could also do without that "DNA shooting" mini-game between stages. It has an old-school flair (I guess), but it's confusing and unnecessary. Worst of all, if you fail it, you need to restart the previous platform stage, and that just sucks. The DNA Factor had the right idea, but a few bonehead design choices prevent it from being exceptional.

Jurassic Park Operation Genesis

Universal (2003)
Reviewed 2003/6/6
System: Xbox
Grade: B-

screenshotBilled as a 3D "action-sim", Operation Genesis is an ideal way to bring Jurassic Park to the video game world. One aspect of the original movie that fascinated people was the elaborate theme park, equipped with safari tours and other attractions. Now you can create your very own dinosaur park, and like other sim-style games, it's incredibly addicting. Once you get into this game, the hours just seem to fly by.

There are tutorial exercises to get you up to speed, but I think it's more fun to learn as you go. The menus can be intimidating at first because there are so many options available to you. First you'll need to deploy fossil diggers around the world and extract DNA at your genetics lab before you can even start breeding dinosaurs. Initially you'll have to settle for the small ones, but you'll gradually uncover fossils of larger beasts.

Creating the park layout is a joy. You'll run fences and paths, and place trash cans, benches, and fountains. You'll set up concession stands, souvenir shops, and hire cleaning and security personnel. You have a research staff that you can assign to one project at a time, which gradually increases your building options.

Once you officially open your park, it comes alive with thrill-seeking visitors. You can actually zoom in on the people to see their reactions! Naturally the character models look rougher up close, but they still look good. Eventually you'll construct balloon rides and safaris to keep the people entertained. Best of all, you can actually participate in the rides yourself, and even take pictures! To keep you abreast of your progress and latest developments, you are almost constantly notified by incoming emails. It sounds annoying, but they tend to be informative, short, and to the point. I don't think I ever got bored playing this game, because the bigger your park gets, the more there is to do.

For gamers who prefer instant gratification, there's also an exciting mission mode that challenges you to take pictures, shoot down rampaging carnivores, herd herbivores, or perform rescue missions. I played Operation Genesis for hours on end, but there were a few flaws that eventually tempered my enthusiasm. You'll often need to shoot dinosaurs from a helicopter in order to sedate them, and the targeting absolutely sucks. The cursor is far too sensitive to get a bead on the really small dinosaurs.

Next, transporting new dinosaurs from a breeding pen to their permanent homes is a time consuming and tedious process. You need to tranquilize them from a helicopter, move them to the proper area, and finally revive them. It isn't so bad for one dinosaur, but when you're breeding four or five at a time, it's downright aggravating! Also, I hate how some of the dinosaurs have such short lifespans. Few last more than a few years, and some only live for six months! Once your dinosaurs start dying off, you can't breed them fast enough.

I should also mention that the occasional hiccups in the framerate, while not offensive, are certainly noticeable. But overall, Operation Genesis is still one of the most engrossing games I've played on my XBox. If you have any interest in dinosaurs or the Jurassic Park movies, don't miss out on this.

Jurassic Park: The Game

Telltale (2011)
Reviewed 2012/7/14
System: Xbox 360
Grade: C+

screenshotI haven't seen any magazines or web sites review this game, presumably because it's not a military shooter and hence irrelevant to the mainstream media. It's a shame because titles like this provide a welcome change of pace. Describing Jurassic Park as an interactive movie isn't unfair, but it's not as derogatory as it sounds.

This game owes a lot to the critically acclaimed Heavy Rain (PS3, 2010), and it isn't just another adventure with a license slapped on it. No, the story picks up where the first movie left off, reusing locations, vehicles, and facilities. The layout of the visitor center looks about right, and I love those colorful green tour jeeps. The dialogue is a little predictable but the game has an appealing cinematic quality.

In some areas you just pan around and explore your surroundings, like a point-and-click adventure. You're often presented with dialogue options, but trying them all can be tedious. There are bits of humor sprinkled throughout, like when I tried to tell a lady "you need rest" in Spanish, and it came out as "you eat pencil".

The action scenes are where the game gets some serious traction. These intense sequences prompt you to press keys quickly - not unlike the "quick time" segments in games like Shenmue (Dreamcast, 2000). It's exciting as you frantically try to fight off or escape from a dinosaur. In one memorable scene I found myself caught up in a battle between a T-Rex and a Triceratops. Each failed prompt reduces your score, and too many miscues are fatal.

The worst aspect of the game is scouring a scene for clues, which can be time-consuming and boring. Still, Jurassic Park fans will like the idea of being able to revisit the original island and play a part in their own movie. Even if it's never clear how much impact you're having on events, it's a fun ride all the same.

Lego Jurassic World

Warner Bros. (2015)
Reviewed 2016/7/20
System: Playstation 4
Grade: D+

screenshotI thought I had had my fill of Lego games, which are all pretty much the same, but my unbridled love for anything Jurassic Park forced me to buy this. Lego Jurassic World covers all four movies for crying out loud! Its simplistic graphics are to be expected, but the loose collision detection and awkward camerawork beg the question: are they still reusing the original PS2 Lego engine?

Each stage allows you to toggle between multiple characters, and sometimes it feels like there's too many cooks in the kitchen. Each character brings a different ability to the table like using a gun, climbing, fixing stuff, or performing acrobatics. In some cases these abilities make sense, but too often the who-can-do-what seems terribly arbitrary (only this kid can build this, only this guy can turn this lever, etc). Sometimes an action can only be undertaken by a character you haven't even unlocked yet (and never will). Sometimes you get to control the dinosaurs.

Bashing scenery releases tons of cogs to collect, but I'm about ten years past the point of caring about those. Parts lying around can be assembled into bridges, ladders, and giant catapults by holding the O button. The O button is used for so many things it's ridiculous: digging, building, interacting, picking up stuff, employing special abilities, and more.

The controls seem poorly thought out. Why would a raptor need an aiming reticule? As you might imagine, the confusion is magnified with two players. The unskippable cut-scenes are mildly-entertaining at best, and even the save system is suspect. If there's an autosave, what's the point of manual save points?

I encountered one spectacular glitch that literally launched my raptor into the stratosphere! I watched in surreal amazement as he floated back down to his virtual world. I would complain about that if it wasn't so awesome. Despite its glaring flaws I don't hate Lego Jurassic World. I like how it recreates the movie storylines and there's always something new to do and see. Little kids will probably spend countless hours collecting all the cogs and hidden items. Best of all, that snooty brunette assistant gets eaten in this game too.

Jurassic World: Evolution

Frontier (2018)
Reviewed 2022/6/5
System: Playstation 4
Grade: F

screenshotI enjoyed Jurassic Park Operation Genesis (Xbox, 2003) just fine, so what the hell?! Jurassic World: Evolution has the most intriguing premise and all this cutting-edge technology, so why does it feel like homework? Right from the start I had issues simply providing power to my buildings. This feels like one of those PC games ported to consoles. PC gamers are willing to put up with a lot of crap, like bad user interfaces, microscopic icons, hazy objectives, and steep learning curves.

Evolution attempts to hold your hand at first by severely limiting your options. The problem is, if you get stuck it's all the more frustrating because you can't do something as simple as selecting a building or perusing a menu. When a game pisses me off within the first five minutes, I don't forgive and forget.

Once you gain a little traction you'll be sending out excavating teams around the world to dig for fossils. Using these findings you can perform various research and incubate dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are born as adults, and it's fun to watch them released into their enclosures for the first time. They look so lifelike and it's interesting to see how they interact with their surroundings.

Jeff Goldblum is the highlight of the entire game, lending his voice as Ian Malcolm, throwing out occasional words of wisdom. In terms of graphics, I love the manner in which the buildings are constructed in a time-lapse manner, with layers of scaffolding rapidly going up before being torn down a few seconds later.

It's very easy to deplete all your cash in this game. I don't even know how much money I have at a given time. Maybe it's buried in that spreadsheet screen? While trying to carry out basic objectives I'd suddenly find myself stuck because "unlock conditions not met" or "need to research". Are you telling me I need to research how to sell apparel at the freaking gift shop? In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm "that is one big pile of sh*t".

One time I created a new power station and couldn't figure out why it wasn't functional. A few minutes later I discovered it because I forgot to pave a sidewalk to its front door. Apparently no one can enter a building unless it has a walkway. Another time I created a fast food restaurant which had no power despite being literally surrounded by power stations and criss-crossing power-lines. WTF?!

It's never a good sign when you need to rely on YouTube videos to make progress in a game. Jurassic World Evolution makes it easy to do hard stuff and hard to do easy stuff. I'm sure there are persistent gamers out there who managed to create a thriving park from this game. But they were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.

The End.