Reading about my pal Travis‘s love of the Jurassic Park T-Rex got me reminiscing about the franchise. With Jurassic World still in theaters it would only be fitting that we touch upon all things prehistoric to capitalize on the movie’s momentum. Although I cannot say I was a fan of Jurassic Park at its genesis, which was the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton; I certainly was a fan of Jurassic Park ON Genesis. The Sega Genesis that is.
When Jurassic Park was released in theaters in 1993 I was a man without a country. At some point in late 1992 it was no longer “cool” to like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although I had continued to watch the show and was a fan through the summer of 1992, my enthusiasm for the franchise was killed off by peer pressure that fall. Batman was still a viable alternative and I even donned the cape and cowl for Halloween in the autumn of 1992. Unfortunately Batman Returns did not capture my imagination like the 1989 film did and as the year turned over I found myself beginning to tire of the Adam West TV series which I had been watching every day for the past three years. With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the rear view mirror and Batman’s star beginning to fade something was needed to fill the void.
Jurassic Park hit theaters in the summer of 1993 and was an immediate sensation. This was the first movie I had ever seen in THX and the entire experience blew my figurative socks off. The movie was so popular I remember it still being played in the dollar shows in the spring of 1994 nearly a year after it’s release. Like nearly all of Steven Spielberg’s action movies, a monumental marketing blitz accompanied the film. Children left the theater and went straight to Kay Bee Toys to stock up on dinosaurs and Dennis Nedry action figures so they could say “Dodgson…. Dodgson…. WE’VE GOT DODGSON HERE!”
Of course no major motion picture release would be complete without an assortment of electronic games for various platforms. A potential customer could purchase Jurassic Park the NES game, Jurassic Park the SNES game, Jurassic Park the Game Boy game, Jurassic Park the Tiger Electronics handheld game, Jurassic Park the PC game, Jurassic Park the Sega CD game…. But today we are going to delve into the first one that I played; Jurassic Park the Sega Genesis game.
It’s interesting to note that the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis Jurassic Park games are completely different. In an age where game releases are mostly identical across platforms it’s wonderful to harken back to a time when a gamer could own both of the mainstream gaming consoles and have two completely different experiences with games that shared the same title. The reason for the difference is that Jurassic Park on the SNES was developed by Ocean whereas the Genesis title was developed by BlueSky Software. The Super Nintendo game utilized a top down perspective while outside and a first person perspective while inside buildings and followed the plot of the novel. The Genesis version was a side scrolling platformer which followed the plot of the movie.
Side scrolling platform games were typical of the era but what set the Genesis version of Jurassic Park apart from other games was the fact that you could play as either the film’s “hero” Alan Grant, or as his dinosaur antagonist the dreaded Velociraptor. Although it would be difficult to characterize a dinosaur’s motives as “evil” it was unique at the time to play as a villain in a video game. Essentially you were getting two separate games in a single cartridge.
When the cartridge is put into the slot the gamer is greeted with a T-Rex underneath the Sega logo. Rather than the screaming “SEGA!” shout prominent in other games of the time, the T-Rex would roar the Sega name. After that the player would choose to start a new game or continue using a password system. Starting a new game as Alan Grant would treat the gamer to a cutscene of a jeep moving about the park near the Tyrannosaur paddock just as the power goes out. As the behemoth escapes from confinement a look of sheer terror flashes in Dr. Grant’s eyes as seen in the vehicle’s rear view mirror. After attacking the jeep the game begins with Alan lying outside of his overturned vehicle in the middle of a jungle.
It should be noted that all of Alan’s movements were motion captured which was a relatively new process at the time. As Alan Grant the objective of the game is to traverse through various attractions and settings throughout the island in an attempt to reach the Visitor’s Center and eventually escape the park. Dr. Grant dispatches of any dinosaurs he encounters by shooting them with tranquilizer darts, stunning them with tasers, hitting them with various grenades, or by blasting them with rockets. The featured levels are the jungle, the power station, the river, the pump house, the canyon, the volcano, and lastly the visitor’s center. Obviously a lot of creative liberties were taken with the plot as I don’t recall Alan ever traversing platforms inside of an active volcano in the movie. That said I don’t have the DVD and thus haven’t viewed any deleted scenes. For all I know there was a segment removed from the film where Samuel L. Jackson’s character gets his arm cut off by one of the park’s security guards for literally trying to “hold onto his butt”. Anything is possible.
Grant’s movement is a bit stiff due to the motion capture and his jumping just plain sucks. Factor in that sometimes you have to make blind jumps to area’s beneath you and that any death forces you to restart at the absolute beginning of the level and you have a game marred by frustration. It’s certainly not a bad game. It’s just unnecessarily difficult and could have been tweaked to be better. Maybe they didn’t include any checkpoints on purpose since there are only 7 levels. The game ends with Grant defeating two raptors in the Visitor’s Center and escaping via helicopter.
Despite the seeming brevity of the game, there is still more to offer as the gamer can also choose to control the Raptor as his character. All of the dinosaur movements were created using stop motion animation and the developer did an excellent job here. The game feels less clunky as the Raptor and it’s flat out more fun. Unfortunately it’s also shorter as the raptor only has five playable levels: the jungle, the power station, the pump house, the canyon, and the visitor’s center. As the raptor you must kill other dinosaurs as well as security guards by either jumping on top of them, biting them, or kicking them with your claws. The goal is to chase Alan Grant throughout the park and defeat him in the visitor’s center. The ending has the raptor climbing into a crate and escaping to the mainland. I’m not sure of the raptor’s motives. Maybe he simply wants to be a part of a real life Flintstones society and have a gay old time.
Overall this game wasn’t a classic but there were several worse movie based games produced. Fans of the film received a solid, playable game here. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the purchase. A year later a second Jurassic Park game was released called the Rampage Edition. I’ve never played that one so I’m not sure how it stacks up compared to the original. But I can say that this one is certainly worth a few bucks if you see a reasonably priced copy floating around at the next yard sale.