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Telltale's Jurassic Park Blends Heavy Rain with Dinosaurs

| 18 Feb 2011 20:01
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Most of us have seen or at least heard of the 1993 film Jurassic Park by now. Baron Richard Attenborough plays the misguided theme-park developer John Hammond whose dream it is to replicate dinosaurs using the DNA trapped in fossilized amber. He's successful in bringing many species of the giant prehistoric lizards to life, and building his park, but everything, of course, goes horribly wrong. Director Steven Spielberg used CGI to expertly adapt the novel written by Michael Crichton. Now, nearly seventeen years later, Telltale Games, the outfit behind Sam & Max, signed the license for the film and announced that the first episode of the Jurassic Park videogame will be released on PCs this April, with more episodes on more platforms to follow.

The first question that springs to mind, considering that Telltale shipped a Back to the Future game in December, is why Telltale is working with 20 or 30 year old properties. CEO and co-founder Dan Connors doesn't think that's a problem at all. "You might be able to only name a handful of franchises today that have the same cachet. Go out on the street and say 'Jurassic Park, have you heard of it?' Everybody knows it," Connors told me last night at the press event announcing the game."There's a ton of value in those franchises."

The gameplay of Jurassic Park is a huge departure for Telltale, who is most known for delivering comedic point and click adventure games. "What we're most known for is comedy, but we consider ourselves a story-telling company," said Design Director at Telltale Dave Grossman, of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle fame. "Jurassic Park is our step out into the world saying that we can do something that's meaty and serious."

Because of the change in tone, Grossman said that the designers had to change up the gameplay to match it. "The creative problem-solving that you do in the game is more based on whatever is at hand right there because that's how it would be in the movie. 'I'm in a car! Okay, I can honk the horn, I can flick the lights.' It's more immediate," Grossman said. "Then obviously you have to be chased by dinosaurs every once in a while -- that's very important -- and we want that to be tense and exciting. There's lots of tightly-based play with that and yes, you can die, be eaten, trampled, and that makes it a lot of fun creating the various death sequences for you," he continued with a laugh.

The story of the game follows a minor character from the film, Dr. Gerry Harding, who is seen as the veterinarian helping a triceratops. The events of the game roughly parallel the first movie, with Harding and his daughter trying to escape the island. The team made the decision to not show any of the major characters from the film because we already know what happened to those characters, but that doesn't mean some loose ends don't get tied up. "The whole thing with the Barbasol can is central to what's going on in the game. They mention in the movie, 'We're going to hand this off to people on a boat,' but we never see what happens to them. Well, now we do."

I got to play a sequence from the game (check out my full hands on preview here) with the Xbox game controller and the prompts to press certain buttons before the aforementioned death animations felt very much like a certain French game. "Everybody who was involved in the design of Jurassic Park played Heavy Rain and we definitely took some lessons from it," Grossman said, but cautioned against a direct comparison. "Jurassic Park is maybe one part Heavy Rain, one part survival horror and one part cinematic adventure game."

I couldn't sum it up any more succinctly than that.

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