Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues

Scientists have since hypothesised that dinosaurs were in fact canines.
Scientists have since hypothesised that dinosaurs were in fact canine.

Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues – not to be confused with The Lost World: Jurassic Park – is eerily prophetic with regards to the second movie’s plot.  In fact, the plot of Jurassic Park 2 actually makes more sense.

First of all, the main character is Dr. Alan Grant NOT Ian Malcolm.  We all know (or at least strongly suspect) that Ian Malcolm’s role in The Lost World was a plot contrivance based on Sam Neill’s reluctance to reprise the role of Dr. Grant (making his decision to appear in III all the more baffling).  Sure, Malcolm was the only one who was right about everything, but to us kids, he was the spoilsport trampling all over our hopes and dreams.  (We don’t want your science, Mr. Voodoo Man, we want magic!) Dr. Grant was the hero; the Everykid staring up in awe at a living, breathing Brachiosaurus for the very first time.  He didn’t cling stubbornly to the vestiges of his adulthood; he didn’t even care that his very livelihood as a paleontologist had become obsolete; he simply released himself to the magic of a dinosaur he could see and touch.

(It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention that while Alan Grant remains the central figure of this game’s story, he is not in fact a playable character.  The player controls Tactical Sergeant Michael Wolfskin, a mercenary dispatched by John Hammond to accompany Dr. Grant on this dangerous mission.  Regardless, in the context of an island overrun with wild, prehistoric lizards, an armed mercenary makes far more sense as a protagonist than a chaos theorist and mathematician.  He also looks a bit like Paul Reiser of Mad About You (and Aliens) fame, which doesn’t hurt.)

Dinosaurs were the cultural zeitgeist back then – we knew all of their names from Parasaurolophus to Pachycephalosaurus, we argued about them in the schoolyard (the ‘smart kid’ at school tried to tell me that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not the quintessential King of the Dinosaurs.  If only I could journey back in time to inform him that its name literally translates as ‘tyrant lizard king’ in Latin.  PWND!), and we went to the museum, for fun.  I’ll repeat that for effect: we WENT TO THE MUSEUM, for FUN.  Such was the power of the terrible lizard.

JP2 also accurately predicted the rise of the DS to gaming prominence.
JP2 also accurately predicted the rise of the DS to gaming prominence.

Second of all, Jurassic Park 2 takes place on the same island as the first film, Isla Nublar.  As the title suggests, it has been released into chaos since the events of the first film.  The Lost World contrives a second, neighbouring island known as Isla Sorna.  The idea behind this second island was that it was the ‘control group’, so that they could observe dinosaur behaviour outside of captivity.  How on earth they planned to do this is beyond me – did they get out there with a helicopter and a clipboard?  So essentially, InGen, Hammond and company decided to make the same stupid mistake a second time; albeit a stupid mistake that had a far greater potential for abject failure and complete disaster.  The plot of JP2, on the other hand, sees the original, abandoned park discovered by a rival company (the appropriately named BioSyn) which attempts a very literal corporate takeover of Jurassic Park and its reptilian denizens.  How did a group of game developers manage to come up with a better, more plausible plotline than Hollywood?!  I fear that I am destined to take this mystery with me unto death.

Jurassic Park 2, though repetitive, and tougher than granny’s gingernut biscuits, is positively dripping with atmosphere.  Tensions are always high, be they in the jungle or inside an abandoned complex.  Raptors stalk and surprise as well as they do in the films – perhaps a little *too* well…

jp2_biohazard
Biohazard's the right word for it!

“Clever girl!”

In many ways JP2 is reminiscent of Alien 3 for the Sega Megadrive (another game superior to its film counterpart – by no means an astounding feat).  Activity time!  Substitute the word ‘raptors’ into the following sentence every time you read the word ‘xenomorphs’:

The xenomorphs are so fast you have to shoot off-screen constantly while running to avoid death.  This places unreasonable demands on one’s ammunition supply.

(May I suggest a raptor-killing tactic?  Set phasers to stun, charge your weapon while running, jump as soon as you see the raptor, turn and release.  Rinse and repeat.  The strongest breed of raptor (grey) takes no more than three fully charged energy bolts to put down.)

This game is so atmospheric it uses graphical filters in the foreground – clouds of dense fog in the swamps, a spotlighting effect in a dark facility – I know because I fiddled with the emulator–I mean, my legitimately purchased Super Nintendo Entertainment System – settings to switch them off and on again.  I don’t know how many other 16-bit games did this, but I’m impressed by the graphical spit and polish on this thing.  The moody synths and tribal beats only amplify the game’s tangible sense of dread, on level with the raptors-in-the-kitchen scene of the first film.

Fog and fluid animation: a match made in heaven.
Fog filters and fluid animation: a match made in heaven.

If you’ve read Jared’s review of Jurassic Park, you’ll be coloured the same shade of surprised I was to find that not only was Jurassic Park 2 developed by the same company that developed the original (Ocean Software) – it’s also not crap.  In fact, it’s really quite good.  There is only one satisfying explanation for this singularity: a lack of info from Hollywood and a stricter deadline leading up to the first game’s movie tie-in release; versus the creative freedom afforded by not having to stick to a highly classified film script for the second game.

It doesn’t take a chaos mathematician to work it out:

Tie-in = Tied Down.

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Jurassic Park

A big ole tee-rex.
A big ole tee-rex.

When I told Travis that Jurassic Park was a poo-conflagration of a game, his reply was, “???.” So surprised was he to hear that such an illustrious franchise had flushed its videogaming marbles down the proverbial hole-in-the-ground that he couldn’t even produce a coherent question. Instead, he used his extensive knowledge of symbol to convey his train of thought.

His first “?” is for me. He uses it to indicate both his astonishment and his disgust that something like that could have occurred in such a wonderful world as this.

His second “?” questions the very questioning of my statement that this game is, in fact, a poo-conflagration. After all, a great many games that are based on blockbusters are made of evil; why should this game be an exception?

His third “?” questions the very questioning of the question. Here, he admits that, though he has travelled far in the land of videogames, and though his colours have run and his flag hangs tattered, he still demands a good game every now and then. And he bloody well loved the film Jurassic Park.

Such an internal divide is common when approaching a videogame based on a beloved film. You say to yourself, “Well, all those other games based on movies are right shit, but this one will be different.” And so you play. Of course, the game is shit. But you do not stop playing.

The first stage of the process is denial. Actually, every stage is denial.

Only after a significant amount of time has passed is it possible to look at games like this with some objectivity. Only then is it possible to say, “Goram game got bun buzzit… conflagration.”

Friends, that time is now. Welcome.

Jurassic Park wants you to be sad. It gives you a zappy-gun and says, “Go. Shoot dinosaurs. Have fun,” all while mechanically waving its hand and smiling a smile that is just a shade whiter than it should be. Turns out, all this little zappy-gun is good for is killing the little turnip-eaters that run away if you look at them. What. The. Fuck.

Push it. Push it good. Push it. Push it real good.
Push it. Push it good. Push it. Push it real good.

This is when you realize that what you had originally thought was a Pick Up Shit button is actually a Fuck Me In The Asscrack, Mister Dinosaur button. You get jumped by about seven velocity-raptors (that’s a speed-pun) as soon as you muster the courage to piddle down the garden path. Oh, now you’re back at the start.

Turns out there’s some sort of ball spinny thing place BEHIND you in the map. Lucky you, it makes the dinosaurs blow up. Literally. Blow up. It’s the best part of the game.

So ends a legend.
So ends a legend.

So you try to use that, but you die after you blow up a few dinos, cause you’re kinda bad at it. Back to the start. Guess what, Junior! It’s gone now! You can’t pick it up again, even if you have to continue! You’re actually totally fucked!

Back to the blowing up dinosaurs for a minute. Everything blows up dinosaurs in this game. Found a shotgun? Yeah, that blows ’em up. This becomes amusing when the game inexplicably changes to a sluggish first-person mode. The dinosaurs don’t appear to notice you until you’re standing inches from them, so you can just blow them up from across the room before they know what’s up.

The only way to kill dinosaurs, it seems, is to blow them up. When you throw gas at them they just pass out for about five seconds and then stand up to bite you in the bum.

This game, upon reflection, is awful.

Thank you for your time.