When it comes to video games, the Jurassic Park franchise has had something of a chequered history.
As you can probably guess, tie-in games started releasing around the time of the original film’s debut in 1993. These earliest of experiences presented a very skewed version of the film’s events, with Nintendo releases choosing instead to follow — albeit somewhat loosely — the plot of Michael Crichton’s novel. Despite being just two-years-old at the time, I have some experience of one of these early games: the Amiga version.
As far as I can remember, the Amiga was my very first games system. It was with it that my infatuation with games began. That infatuation wouldn’t really be solidified until the original PlayStation came along a few years later, but I have very clear memories of enjoying myself with the Amiga.
Of all the things I played on it, though — including some odd, colouring-based Scooby-Doo game, and a weird McDonald’s-inspired title that, for some reason, I remember playing to death despite the fact that looking it up now reveals it to be one of the most demented things I’ve ever come across — one game really stands out in my memory: Jurassic Park.
That Jurassic Park stands out to me isn’t because I was particularly successful with it. I don’t, in fact, think I ever made it more than about five minutes in. I got hopelessly lost in what is, in my memory, a huge, very brown paddock, my young mind marvelling over the fact that I was actually exploring Jurassic Park, but with no clue whatsoever as to how to proceed. No, it stands out because Jurassic Park was — and still is — my favourite film of all time.
I don’t say that lightly. It’s head-and-shoulders above everything else. Jurassic Park has been one of the biggest influences of my life. I grew up wanting to follow in the footsteps of Alan Grant and go into palaeontology, and spent my early years imagining that everywhere I went was part of the Park. I even opened my very own, toy-populated Jurassic Park in my back — sometimes front — garden.
It had everything — a Danger Zone with all my toys laid out, magazines about dinosaurs, a particularly formidable girl from my street as Head of Security, and even its own version of Jurassic Park: The Ride (a Go-Kart that, for the bargain price of 5P, would slide down an angled, leaf-strewn ladder replete with artificial, hose-fed waterfall).
Getting back on track — I didn’t make it too far into my first Jurassic game. My second, however, was a different story.
I played The Lost World: Jurassic Park to death — or extinction, I suppose… — on my original PlayStation. I adored it, and spent countless hours doing little more than making the Velociraptor snarl and the T. rex roar. It was bliss.
The Raptor-hijacked DreamWorks Interactive logo was the icing on the cake — and I only recently came across the hidden, Ian Malcom-telling-players-to-get-a-life video whilst prowling the wilds of YouTube of an evening. If you haven’t yet experienced that one for yourself, do. Your life will be significantly improved.
The next Jurassic game I remember playing was Warpath.
Warpath: Jurassic Park was basically Mortal Kombat with dinosaurs, the battlegrounds being various locations from the Jurassic universe, and — even if it seems, now, a little shallow — my younger self thought it was awesome.
Post-Warpath, my Jurassic game-playing career entered something of a period of stagnation. I remember dabbling in the PC-based Chaos Island a little, but PC gaming has never been my forte, and I just didn’t get into it. I also distinctly remember trying to buy Trespasser at one point, but it turned out that the shop didn’t have the discs in stock, despite the packaging being on the shelves.
It wasn’t until the Jurassic Park III era that I got back into it all. I dabbled very, very briefly in a profoundly strange PC offering which, I think, was called Dino Battles, and dipped my toe into the GameBoy Advance title Jurassic Park III: The DNA Factor, which I have exceptionally little memory of.
And then came the crème de la crème — the single best Jurassic Park game I’ve played to date.
Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis.
I dreamt it. I built it. And, given that I’m still here to tell the tale, I certainly survived it.
Operation Genesis puts the ultimate power in the hands of Jurassic fans — the ability to build your own Park. And while it is a little limited in some of its features — not to mention the fact that it seriously strains credulity with some of the Park’s staff — it is, nevertheless, a fantastic game.
I first encountered it on PS2, but eventually bought it for PC when I finally managed to procure a laptop that could handle it. The sheer variety of fan-made modifications for that game is breathtaking, and sends its already strong replay value through the roof. It gave me a ridiculous amount of pleasure to declare an emergency on my island and hear the original Jurassic Park fence-warning sound effect.
But, despite its greatness, Operation Genesis, like all those that came before, failed to give me what I really want — a massive, deep, immersive Jurassic game, and nothing that’s come along since has managed it, either. So, with Jurassic World just over the horizon, let's engage in some speculation.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the huge potential in the pre-construction phase of Jurassic World’s development. The Masrani website mentions there having been a clean-up of Isla Nublar. What about an adventure focusing on the initial expedition to the island? Imagine it. Open world — or, I suppose, open island — the ability to explore the ruins of Jurassic Park at will, not knowing what lurks around every corner, or just beyond the next cluster of trees.
The idea of a meaty — thank you, thank you — Jurassic game is never far from my mind, but its latest resurfacing was inspired by playing Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4.
At one point, I was stalking an enemy through a forest when I was attacked by a bear, a tiger and a honey badger. At once. The race to escape both them and my well-and-truly alerted enemy was frantic, pulse-pounding — and I couldn’t help but wonder…
What if that enemy had been a dinosaur — the Rex, maybe — and I’d been meticulously following it in order to tag it, perhaps? And what if that trio of attacking animals had been Velociraptors? Even typing that paragraph makes my desire for such a game increase tenfold.
The thing is, though: Far Cry 4 is predominantly a shooter. I wouldn’t want a new Jurassic game to be a shooter. Guns, in fact, would ideally be the very last resort. You want to shoot dinosaurs? Dig out one of the Turok games. No, I’d want the game to be more of an adventure, deeper than just taking aim and blowing away the obstacles in your path. I’d want the game to task you with finding ways around the dinosaurs, distracting them somehow — and to be one that paid just as much attention to the science of Jurassic Park as the action.
One of the reasons I love the original novel so much is because of the attention to detail in the scientific and technical aspects of the Park. It’s fascinating, very convincing, and its inclusion would, I think, make for an infinitely more satisfying story.
We can only hope that the future holds some interactive Jurassic goodness in store. It’d be crazy not to think that there’ll be some sort of game born from the hype surrounding Jurassic World. I just hope to the powers-that-be that it’s not a standard, third-rate movie tie-in. God knows there have been more than enough of those…
And so we come to the end of this post. I can’t think of a better way to end it than with the obligatory photo of that time my nine-year-old self met a T. rex.
Welcome to Jurassic Park, indeed.
2011. Yes, you read that right: 2011. That’s the last time there was a Jurassic game of any real significance. Whilst an enjoyable treat, LEGO Jurassic World wasn’t at all what the majority of fans have been waiting for, and with the commercial success of Jurassic World, it should have been but an appetiser for bigger, better things to come. Well… fire the waiter, and send some raptors into the kitchen to see what’s up, because we’re still waiting for the main course.
Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there's certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. Yes, there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let's be honest: it's going to happen.
Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?