Have you noticed how the surface of your coffee is rippling? How every goat you passed this morning was furtively looking over its shoulder? And, how all the chaos theory academics are wearing their finest leathers this week? It can mean only one thing: Jurassic World, the first Jurassic Park film in 14 years, is due out this Friday.
To say we’re excited is an understatement, Gerald’s been playing with a (hopefully) replica dinosaur claw all week, Julian from Kotaku is doing his best T-Rex impression to everyone who’s passed his desk, and Kotaku editor Keza? Well, Keza’s not too fussed about dinosaurs.
One discussion that has ranged back and forth is why Universal’s not licensed a proper tie-in game. There’s the LEGO Jurassic World collection that retells the plots of all the films with colourful figurines but nothing like Warner’s open world Mad Max game due out in September.
Tired of waiting on Universal we decided to design our own. Here are the Jurassic Park games we’d like to see.
Gerald (Gizmodo UK Editor)
Here’s the thing. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that there has been a good Jurassic Park game. Well, ‘good’ may be a bit of an overstatement by today’s standards, but definitely a ‘very okay’ one, and certainly one of the ‘it blew my naive little 10 year old mind’ variety.
Hear me out.
Whereas many of the other Jurassic Park games ended up being side-scrolling platformers with dinosaurs and branding being the only notable link to the films (honourable mention goes out to the Amiga game, which was actually a very competent top-down adventure / first person hybrid), the Super Nintendo version took a different direction. It was basically Zelda (with dinosaurs) fused with Doom (with dinosaurs). In just the one game you had exterior top-down exploring which saw you traipsing around winding jungle paths, fearful of surprise attacks from raptors at any moment, dodging stampeding Triceratops or trying to outrun a T-Rex, AND interior first person sections, with complex, labyrinthine networks of bunkers and labs to explore.
While it wasn’t a perfect game, requiring miles of back-tracking and the completion of repetitive indoors sections, I was taken by what at the time felt like a surprisingly large open world and the lore-appropriate missions you (as Dr Alan Grant) were sent on. It even had some corporate espionage going on, with the dastardly turncoat Dennis Nedry sending you deadly advice via computer terminals dotted around the map. The fact it had missions and an open world of any kind was something that, to me, felt very advanced.
To this day, one of my greatest regrets is having never completed it. (Side note: I once came very, very close to finishing it. Jurassic Park for the Super Nintendo had neither a password system nor a save game option, so it was one of those “one sitting” jobs. I think I must have left my Super Nintendo on for two days to pause sessions, making a hand drawn map and finishing all the missions. I had to find the final egg, then boom, off to the helipad and cue the John Williams theme. After hours of pre-internet FAQ searching I never found that bloody egg, my brother accidentally kicked the Super Nintendo, the game crashed, I cried, and have never had the heart to go back and see it through to the credits. One day my beauty. One day.)
For me then, the perfect Jurassic Park game would have to live up to the blanks I imaginatively filled in on the SNES game. I see two approaches that could work, or possibly a marriage of the two.
The first one would be fairly straightforward. Get Ubisoft in a room with Universal, get the drinks flowing, and get them both to sign off on Far Cry: Jurassic Park. Or should that be Jurassic Park: Far Cry? I’ll let their legal teams hammer that detail out. With the most recent Far Cry games (with particular reference to Far Cry 3 and Blood Dragon) Ubisoft has made grand, beautiful locations, filled with vicious monsters to do horrible things to you. Sounds familiar right? I mean, swap Far Cry 3’s cassowary with raptors (we all know they evolved into birds anyway) and throw in a few electrified fences and you’ve got a Jurassic Park game ready and waiting. You’d need to shift the emphasis away from offensive weaponry and onto survival, but as Alien: Isolation proved, relying on your wits against an intelligent, irrepressible foe can be far more interesting than just blasting everything in sight. Jurassic Park Trespasser, done right.
The other direction would be something closer to the Tomb Raider reboot… with dinosaurs. Think we’ve established that they’re needed by now. Tomb Raider had a wonderful sense of place, lush woodland and, again, an interesting ecological food chain system. The third person view would make for more fluid and enjoyable traversal of the jungle and, as Tomb Raider showed, could support both reasonably wide areas for exploration and the Hollywood set pieces that make the Jurassic Park films such great popcorn fodder. It’d be the Dino Crisis game that never was (admit it; everyone who played Dino Crisis or Dino Crisis 2 just wished the JP theme tune would kick in at some point, or to find the iconic logo to be on just one door, or for one of the characters to sigh and say “they do move in herds”). Konami very nearly made a game fitting this description back in the PS2 era called Jurassic Park: Survival, to tie in with Jurassic Park III. I was so hyped about this back as a teenager, and was truly gutted when conflicts over payments with publisher Vivendi meant the plug was pulled.
But my ultimate Jurassic Park gaming dream? A bit of both together, or just both games existing. It’s not as if we’re owed them, right? A Tomb Raider-y, Zelda-y third person adventure for those outdoor spectacular, action-packed Uncharted moments, and / or / plus that first person survival game, Crysis that justifies the insane £12,000 PC you’d need because it truly brings dinosaurs back to life. And...fuck it; throw in some Oculus Rift support for good measure.
Welcome, to (Gerald’s) Jurassic Park.
Julian (Kotaku UK News Editor)
I love the sound of Far Cry with dinosaurs but my perfect Jurassic Park game would play with a different part of the films. I was always fascinated by how the park was populated.
There’s an educational video in the first film that shows off how paleontologists tracked down mosquitoes preserved in amber, harvested the residual dinosaur blood in their stomachs, and then decoded the DNA. Any parts of the DNA sequence that had degraded were replaced with DNA chunks from animals in the lab. These patched DNA strands were then grown in eggs and hey-presto dinosaurs.
It serves the needs of the film but skips over the messy mistakes that would make for a great game.
I picture a Jurassic Park game which is a healthy blend of Spore and Surgeon Simulator. You play a scientist in the Park’s lab trying to recreate a dinosaur. First you’d have to extract the DNA from the mosquito–carefully drilling into the amber until you reached the insect–extracting the blood and sending it off to be decoded. The next stage would see you filling any gaps in the decoded strand with animal DNA from around the lab, using your best judgement to guess what would fit the gaps. Finally, you’d plant the patchwork DNA into an egg, let it simmer for a few weeks, and watch your marvellous creation hatch before your eyes.
Thing is, along the way there would be tonnes of opportunities for it to go wrong. If you drilled too hard into the amber you’d burst the mosquito or, at the least, damage the DNA sample. Then, when it came to patching the DNA strand, if you’d damaged the sample there would be more segments missing, meaning you’d have more pieces to replace. And, considering you don’t know what species of dinosaur you’re working on till it hatches, you’ve got to guess which animal in your database is the closest like for like example of that missing link.
(Plus, some contemporary animals would simply be wrong–using DNA for a dog’s tail to fill the missing segment for a velociraptor’s nose would have terrible (and messy) results when the creature hatched.)
You would only see the results of your work when the creature hatched. Sometimes you’ll be faced with an adorable, perfectly formed brontosaurus. Other times, a T-Rex-like creature with all its organs on the outside.
That’s the Jurassic Park game I’d like to see.
Keza (Kotaku UK Editor)
My ideal dinosaur game would be a puzzle-platformer where you get to play as hundreds of different dinosaurs, all with different colourful patterns. Oh, and ideally everything should be made out of wool, and you would throw balled-up yarn at things to uncover secrets. And it should be co-op.
Wait a minute...
James O'Malley (Gizmodo UK Contributor)
When asked about how I’d make a Jurassic Park game, like Gerald my mind immediately jumped to Far Cry 3, and the tropical island environment that seems almost ready made to house dinosaurs. But then I realised there’s another element that it needs: Pokemon Snap style photography. A Jurassic safari game for the Instagram generation.
Though weapons and combat have always existed on the fringes of the Jurassic Park cinematic universe, I think the major component is the sense of wonder at seeing dinosaurs come to life. I mean hey, if we could resurrect dinosaurs, why on earth would we want to hurt them? (Did I mention that I’m a vegetarian?). So I’m proposing instead we take the Far Cry engine and make a free-roaming photography game.
You play a daring photo journalist, travelling to Isla Nublar. The park has been long closed following "The Incident" (as dramatised by Spielberg), but in amongst the decaying remains of the theme park is an eco-system still dominated by prehistoric creatures.
Rather than raise a gun, the left trigger would lift the camera viewfinder to your eye - and the right trigger would take the photo. Extra-complexity could be added by enabling the player to adjust the aperture, ISO and other camera features - which would be rewarded with better photos.
The game would be structured around assignments from your editor back in New York (think J Jonah Jameson) demanding pictures and video of different dinos. The better photos you capture, the more money you get paid, and the more you can upgrade your camera gear with different lenses and so on (imagine a weapon-wheel but with different attachments).
Like Far Cry, different animals would be native to different parts of the island, and you would have stake out your targets as stealthily as possible - to avoid spooking them, and to avoid getting eaten. Perhaps for some shots you might have to deliberately provoke the raptors to get them to come out of the cave they’re in? Can you take a photo of a T-Rex as it thunders towards you?
To give the game more of a challenge, you can only edit and upload your photos back to base at certain spots around the map where there are transmitters, and perhaps your camera memory card can only hold a limited number of shots at any one time too (this could also be upgradeable). You could also throw in some real-world social media functionality at this point and much like GTA5, enable players to share their in-game photos for real.
To give your character some humans to interact with, there could be small groups of scientists on the island doing research (a bit like how the Antarctic has a number of small expeditions) - and they could also task you with capturing photos.
To add an element of danger, dinosaur poachers could also be operating on the island - but using your camera you can capture evidence and expose their illicit trade.
The more I think about it, the more I want to play it. Come on Far Cry modding community, get on it!