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Jurassic Park preview: Triceratops in the headlights


Jurassic Park represents an obvious departure from the games regularly associated with Telltale. It's not humorous, the graphical style exchanges whimsy for something more realistic, and it's even driven by some action sequences. Having played a brief demo of the game (the first episode is due in April), I think Telltale can successfully break out of its pattern.

It's not hard to see the aforementioned influences from Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain in Jurassic Park's reliance on quick-time events and context-based interactions. However, unlike Heavy Rain, you don't march your character through the environment -- instead, you move the camera and highlight points of interaction within your field of view. Select one, and a small cutscene shows the result of your action.

Gallery: Jurassic Park (2/18/2011) | 11 Photos

My return to John Hammond's failed dinosaur park was in the guise of Dr. Gerry Harding, the park's veterinarian. He's accompanying his teenage daughter, Jess, when he comes across a young Triceratops that escaped from its pen and started snacking on a branch in the middle of a road. In a sequence that was perhaps the most reminiscent of a traditional adventure game, I had to coax the Triceratops back into its pen before advancing down the road. That was the easy part: the Triceratops was apparently deathly afraid of the car horns and high-beam headlights of a nearby jeep, and was compelled to move away. But as I was closing the door to the pen, its mother emerged and rushed toward the gate.

Bursting out of its cage, Momma T slammed into the jeep, damaging the horn. As the horn blared, the Triceratops' anger grew, and a quick-time event guided me as I ripped out wires beneath the vehicle dashboard in hopes of silencing the malfunctioning car and calming the attacking beast. The noise and Triceratops threat made the sequence tense and involving, and those feelings only escalated when a Tyrannosaurus Rex emerged on the scene, ready for a fight.

I couldn't simply watch as the two dinosaurs engaged each other -- I had to grit my teeth and guide Gerry and Jess past them. "Can these people die?," I wondered. I ignored the button prompts on screen and found that, yes, you can meet your demise in Jurassic Park. Jess was gobbled up by the T-Rex, and dad got trampled by the T-Rex. It wasn't pretty.

The demo didn't give an indication of the overall plot of the five-episode series, though it does run in parallel with the first Jurassic Park movie. After Dennis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight) sabotaged the park's security systems, he received a face full of dino spit and died, dropping his Barbasol can full of embryos. "We saw this loose thread in the first movie, which looked like a great opportunity for a story that is really tied into Jurassic Park, but in a way that your outcome isn't pre-determined as it would be if you were replaying the events of the movie," executive producer Kevin Boyle told me. "So we take this loose end from the first movie, this can of embryos that Nedry loses, and there's no real final resolution to it -- it's presumed lost -- and Nedry had people he was delivering that to, keenly interested in receiving it."

Though it seems quite reliant on quick-time events, Telltale's Jurassic Park feels like a unique and tense experience, and completely different from the company's more traditional output. The game's biggest challenge, I think, will be in sustaining and properly pacing that tension for a few hours, across several episodes.

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