Thanks to Sega's (mostly enjoyable, honestly) attempt to mangle Alien 3 into an arcade rail-shooter experience, the title of this game is forever etched into my mind as Jurassic Park: The Gun. It's not called that, it's just called Jurassic Park. There are guns, though, and dinosaurs. You shoot the dinosaurs with the guns, you see. It's Sega's 1993 dino-blaster - although sadly not related to the Dino-Blasters range of dinosaur shaper water pistols - Jurassic Park!
Another day, another poorly-timed article here at VGJunk. I could have done this months ago and surfed high atop the wave of hype for Jurassic World. Okay, so not a wave of hype, most people's reaction didn't seem to go much beyond "oh hey, a new Jurassic Park film," but a fairly strong eddy of hype at the very least. I haven't seen Jurassic World yet, although I'm sure it's about people once again not learning their lesson when it comes to getting a bunch of dinosaurs into one place and having handy human-sized snacks wandering around them. Personally, my refusal to watch Jurassic World comes from being informed that there is not, in fact, a scene where Chris Pratt dresses as a sexy lady velociraptor, Bugs Bunny style, in order to get the other raptors on his side.
Why? Why would you go back to the island. Are you hoping John Hammond is going to offer you a refund on your last trip? I mean, I presume we're playing as some characters from the original film as it says they're going "back" to the island. Maybe it's a revenge thing. Or, more likely, it's about money. Those dinosaurs represent a huge financial investment. There has to be some way to recoup that lost cash, maybe even a way that doesn't involve the grisly death of innocent people! And so, our two "heroes" - two if you're playing two-player anyway, which is a bloody good idea in this game - set out to Isla Nublar in order to shoot those dinos.
"CAUTION -Spitter," it says, and it's nice to know that I only have one type of dinosaur to worry about. I mean, if there was a chance I was going to be attacked by a tyrannosaurus then surely they'd prioritise telling me about that, right?
See, this kind of surprise could have so easily been avoided. Nothing like a nice, gentle start to ease new player into the game, huh, Sega? I can't say I blame them. Reel the punters in with the T. Rex, and then chuck in a few boring areas spent shooting boulders and icicles later, once you've got their money.
Yes, I think I could have figured that one out on my own, thank you very much. Even if I wanted to shoot somewhere else, the T. Rex's head is so big that not shooting it would require a level of marksmanship I simply do not possess.
Immediately being chased by a tyrannosaurus might seem like a needlessly brutal way to introduce the player to the game, but it does a good job of explaining the mechanics, i.e. shoot the dinosaurs in the head. Jurassic Park is a rail shooter, based around the conceit that the player character is driving around the island in one of the film's famous jeeps, and Sega's mastery of the sprite-scaling "3D" graphical effects seen in games like OutRun and Space Harrier is pushed to some of its most impressive heights in Jurassic Park, which shunts some fairly enormous multi-part spriteosauruses around the screen in a very smooth manner. An integral part of the Jurassic Park experience, and one I sadly cannot experience unless someone wants to buy me both the arcade cabinet and a bigger house to put it in, is that the original cabinet was modelled to look like the jeep's seats, and it moved around in response to the on screen-action for that extra touch of "I've been head-butted by a T. Rex" realism. The fancy cabinet makes the game much more of an experience, but can the gameplay hold up without these fancy gimmicks? I guess I'll find out.
After a while - assuming you don't lose all your health and give up, which is definitely a possibility - the tyrannosaurus manages to get his head stuck in this cave entrance while you merrily speed ahead, praising the wonders of evolution that gave you a brain bigger than your teeth.
Any celebrations are short-lived, as a deadly yet strikingly cheerful velociraptor pops up and claws your face off. I can understand his enthusiasm, I get the same expression when food is delivered to my house, too.
The cave is dark, spooky and unfortunately home to some graphical errors, because obviously I'm emulating this. It's actually supposed to be darker, with a circle of torchlight surrounding your gun's crosshair, but missing out on this admittedly quite nice effect doesn't ruin the game or anything.
Hey, raptor, get out of my way, I have to shoot all these rocks in the background before I crash into them, and because Jurassic Park uses positional guns (that is, basically a joystick that moves a cursor) rather than true lightguns, I don't have time to be dragging my reticule back and forth between lizards and stalagmites. This all raises a question about exactly what kind of firearm I'm using here: the arcade flyer says they're tranquillizer guns, but the fact they fire about ten shots a second if you hold the trigger down, shots that can bore through solid rock, makes that seem unlikely. Although, I suppose all guns are tranquillizer guns, in a sense. That raptor is going to look pretty tranquil when it's mounted above my fireplace.
Right outside the cave is a giant herd of stampeding herbivores. I know nature finds a way and all, but nature must have been finding a way every thirty seconds or so if the dinosaurs have managed to multiply to these kinds of numbers this quickly.
Of course, the only thing you can do is to mow down all these peaceful, plant-eating dinosaurs with your gun. Certainly stopping the jeep and waiting for them to pass or just driving around them isn't going to work. The only action you can take here is to drive ever onwards, pressing deep into the heart of the island as fast as your vehicle and your trigger finger will allow, blazing a trail into this prehistoric world...
...and parking your car right up a triceratops' backside. Good work, driver. What, did it just jump out in front of you or something? You've got to watch out of those lightning-fast triceratops, man.
The triceratops is understandably upset by his sudden jeep enema, and he gathers all his triceratops buddies in an attempt to smash you into paste beneath their thundering feet. Luckily their head-frill does not protect them against bullets, so score another one for the modern age.
Now, I'm not one hundred percent sure this is true, but you see how some of the triceratops are a reddish colour while others are blue? I think this is because the red ones only hurt player one, while the blue ones hurt player two. I hope that's true, because it would help to eliminate the tendency for both players to be shooting at the same target when spreading their firepower would be more useful - no matter how many times you say "okay, I'll cover the left of the screen and you cover the right" when playing a lightgun game cooperatively, you always end up drifting into each other's designated area and then some, I dunno, terrorist or what have you, sneaks through the gaps and shoots you both. In Jurassic Park, you're colour-coded! Possibly. It's a difficult theory to test, because the game is relentless. From starting the game to escaping the triceratops herd represents about five minutes of gameplay. Unrelenting, frenzied, finger-clamped-to-the-trigger gameplay without a moment's respite, as though Sega's developers made the game only for their bosses to say "this forty-minute long game is nice and all, but see if you can cram it into fifteen minutes of playtime." As a result, Jurassic Park goes at two hundred miles an hour all the time, which sounds exciting in theory but ends up just being wearying.
I'd love to keep out, but my driver is an insane person with no greater desire than to be killed by a dinosaur. The gate's already busted open, so maybe I'll get lucky and all the dinosaurs will have left?
I guess not. This enclosure is home to the dilophosaurus, the natural show-offs of the prehistoric age, and Sega must have been thanking their lucky stars that Michael Crichton took some pretty wild creative freedoms with the dilophosaurs, giving them the ability to spit poisonous goop, because what kind of arcade shooting game doesn't include enemy projectiles that you can shoot out of the air? Well, here you go, you can shoot their poison goop. You can shoot the dilophosaurs, too. What you can't do is shoot both of these things. Certainly not if you're playing alone, anyway, because there's just too much going on for you to eliminate everything that wants to harm you. I know there are some of you out there who strongly dislike lightgun games with unavoidable damage. I can understand that, you want the game to feel fair. Jurassic Park does not feel fair. It feels like having your head flushed down the toilet, except instead of water it's full of plastic dinosaur toys, so if you like to know that with enough skill you can beat a game unscathed then don't play this one.
A pictorial example: see the graceful flock of pterodactyls, these ancient rulers of the sky once more given license to soar majestically through the air, and because they're all the way over there in the distance I should have plenty of time to pick most of them off.
"Excuse me sir, but have you heard the good news about dinosaur Jesus?"
The final part of the first area - man alive, is this really only the first area? - is a swamp packed with dilophosauruses and wrecked jeeps. So many dilophosauruses. Each female dilophosaurus must lay a clutch of around forty thousand eggs at at time, which might explain why they're all so grumpy. Maybe we should have launched this mission in a couple of year's time, when the huge dinosaur population has collapsed under the weight of its unsustainability, huh?
There's no let-up in the action as you move into stage two, and even the most peaceful leaf-munchers are determined to see our heroes dead. Brachiosauruses leave their giant necks laying right across the the road, forcing your to shoot them in the face as a means of "gently encouraging" them to get out of the way. I really like these brachiosaurs, mind you. They are the stupidest, densest looking animals, real or fictional, that I have ever seen, and I used to have a pet border collie. Oh, to travel back to the Cretaceous era and hear their mighty cries of "duuuuuuuhhhh whaaaat?" echoing through the forests, what a thrill that would be!
Then you drive your jeep up a brachiosaur's tail. Somewhere at Sega HQ, a lightbulb appears over a developer's head and they quickly scrawl "The Flintstones: The GUN???" on a piece of scrap paper.
It was nice of the dinosaurs to put on an aquatic display for us, at least, and this section is the closest Jurassic Park comes to giving the player anything resembling a rest before diving straight back into the antics of the world's worst driver. Having driven through swamps, off cliffs and over dinosaurs, I'm beginning to suspect this entire game is nothing more than a covert advertisement for the power and performance of the 1992 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, the only four-wheel-drive rugged enough to survive the rigours of Dinosaur Hell Island while still providing a ride so smooth you can use it as a mobile gun platform. If you want to learn more, visit your local Jeep dealership.
Oh look, the T. Rex is back. Hello, T. Rex. Still chasing my jeep and ramming it from behind if I don't manage to shoot you in the head fast enough? Good, good, you've got to stick with what you know, don't you? You're sixty-five million years old, there's not much chance of you changing now. Okay, I'm going now. I'm sure I'll see you again soon.
More raptors now. A quartet of raptors. The Beatles of the Dinosaur world. Their hits include Lizard in the Sky with Diamonds and I Want to Eat Your Hand. I'm beginning to regret this series of jokes now that I've noticed one of the Fab Dinofour has been shot, so I'll back out if it by pointing out two things: one is that the raptors make noises that sound a lot like the noises of xenomorphs from Aliens and two, is that lava down there?
You bet your ass it is, because not content with bringing some of history's deadliest predators back to life and charging people to see them, Jurassic Park is also built on an island that is volcanically active, cementing John Hammond's place as one of the biggest psychopaths in the vast span of fiction. Were all the non-volcano islands taken, John, or is this forward planning because one day you're going to genetically engineer a colossal ape monster and hey, it's going to need a suitably dramatic stage for its fight to the death with the T. Rex?
Sega clearly shot their creative bolt early on, and the rest of the third stage consisted of such thrilling high-points as being chased, Indiana Jones-style, by a rolling boulder which was surprisingly difficult to hit despite it filling the entire bloody screen, a fall into a chasm packed with pterodactyls that played out the same as last time I fought them and the raw, unflinching excitement of shooting some more stalagmites out of the way, even though I'm sure the durable frame and and powerful engine of the new Jeep Wrangler Sahara would have made it easier to drive straight through them. I've skipped those, instead bringing you directly to the fourth and final stage. Our heroes have reached the Jurassic Park Visitor's Center. I did not think for even a moment that they would get out of their car to enter the building and, naturally, they do not. It's straight up the stairs and through the front door for a real off-road experience.
It was nice of the dinosaurs to re-hang the "When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth" banner. They probably get a kick out of the irony of it.
Directly below the Visitor's Center is the this basement, where the Jurassic Park staff store all the spare jeeps and cages full of dinosaurs. Of course they do. At this point, it is not in the least bit surprising. They probably have a raptor running the till at the gift shop. Forget more sequels, I want a remake of Jurassic Park where none of the dinosaurs escape but the lawyer gets a good look around the facilities, realises what a complete fucking deathtrap the place is and shuts John Hammond down, his "genial old uncle" act wiped away as he breaks down at the failure of his life's work to meet basic safety standards.
You know I said the raptors sound like xenomorphs? Well, they can also hang from the ceiling like xenomorphs. Jurassic Park was probably being worked on at the same time as Alien 3: The Gun (they both have a 1993 copyright date) so I have to assume some developer got confused about which game he was working on. I know there were some liberties taken with the dinosaur physiology in Jurassic Park (and really I suppose they should all be covered in feathers) but I don't think even the most out-there palaeontologist would stretch to the possibility of anti-gravity dinosaurs.
Escaping out of the back of the Visitor's Center, we once again run into the tyrannosaurus. I'm getting kinda fed up of seeing the bloody thing by this point, but at least I only have to defeat it once more before the game is over.
Ah. Two T. Rexes, huh Sega? Very imaginative. I'm thrilled to be doing the same fight I've already been through twice, only in stereo.
Eventually - and rather anticlimactically - the T. Rexes slump to the ground, as though even they are bored with the whole affair. Either that or they're just very tired. They've used way more energy chasing me around than they'd regain in calories by eating me, so the whole day has been a bit of a bust for them.
Thus begins the long and arduous job of clearing up the thousands of dinosaur corpse I have left scattered across the island, a clean-up operation that will no doubt be made more challenging by the volcano erupting nearby, not that Doctors Grant and Sattler here seem to care. I don't think I was playing as the heroes of the original movie, by the way. I'm pretty sure I was one of those two faceless InGen grunts on either side, grunts who, if they had faces to make facial expressions with, would probably look at little peeved that Grant and Sattler are horning in on their photo opportunity with the T. Rex they just brought down.
As we all fly off into the sunset, I am left to reflect on a game that was impressive and disappointing in equal measure. Certainly the graphics are something worth celebrating, being as they are one of the most accomplished uses of sprite-scaling I've ever seen, and while the gameplay has its moments - you're still blasting dinosaurs at rocket speed, y'know? - there's something of a feeling of, I dunno, laziness blanketing the whole thing. Sega's utter refusal to include anything remotely resembling pacing into the game doesn't help and by the end of each playthrough I was staring to develop a headache because it's always go, go, go, and some points of the game do seem egregiously designed just to gobble up credits. There aren't really any new ideas introduced once you've driven up the brachiosaur in stage two, although that is more forgiveable when you consider the game's running time is only about fifteen minutes in total. Part of the problem is that playing Jurassic Park via emulation cannot recreate the authentic arcade experience, and with the full cabinet and the moving seats that's what this is - an experience, rather than a finely-honed game. I suspect there are those out there who would feel that this is maybe a harsh assessment, and that's fine - it's not like I had no fun at all playing it, it just wasn't 100% doing it for me. Still, to date this is the only videogame I've ever played where my vision was obscured by dinosaur snot, so it has earned its place in the history books for that alone.