Traveller’s Tales have successfully managed to capture the imaginations of both LEGO and iconic entertainment franchise fans over the past ten years by combining them together in a wonderful blend of childhood fantasy and imagination. Can Michael Crichton’s tale of a plasticised dino theme park hit the mark again in LEGO Jurassic World or should its ancient bones be left in the dirt?
Let me take you back to the mid 1980’s, when a small child grew up on a diet of plastic bricks and a slight obsession with dinosaurs. More than once, that boy dreamed of the day when he could invade his carefully built streets, full of police stations, garages and hospitals with a huge, marauding T-Rex and smash it to smithereens.
That day never came, at least not in the form I’d hoped for. Instead it was down to the evil machinations of Zoidzilla to take on that job. Fun, but not entirely fitting into the colourful world of my LEGO land of happy faces and brightly painted restaurants. It was akin to borrowing my sister’s Cindy dolls to represent Teela and Evil-Lyn in my re-enactments of He-Man stories. Ahem… I mean, that boy borrowed them.
Traveller’s Tales have now delivered that dream in the form of LEGO Jurassic World, a recounting of the three original adventures of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm all the way up to this year’s blockbuster starring Chris Pratt.
Unfortunately, much like the movies, the game seems to suffer from the same issues and only Jurassic Park and Jurassic World offer any amount of real entertainment. Both The Lost World and JP III were so unforgettable, that the developers seem to have felt the need to skip through the middle section of the game fast enough to get to what the new generation are more interested in…
Without a doubt, everything is amazingly recreated in LEGO. Recognisable characters, the sets of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna and of course, the main attraction, the huge dinosaurs cloned by InGen. It’s as eye-pleasing as you would expect from a LEGO game and drew me in as much as the first movie did back in 1993.
As mentioned, Jurassic Park gets a small share of the action in telling it’s tale, although being the flagship movie and the best in the series, it’s a rather short journey for us old timers who were enthralled at the cinema watching our favourite creatures come to life. It really is a minor part of the game that could have been expanded at least a couple of levels more.
Both the second and third installments suffer the same fate albeit with less gusto. They still manage to fit the sub-par plots into the shiny brick world, but there’s no real feeling behind it despite some clever puzzles and fantastic minifig expressions on a little, plastic Jeff Goldblum.
I guess it all comes down to the focus on the recently released Jurassic World, the game coming into its own with the Tyrannosaurus’ share of screen time. Everything from the puzzles and characterisation to the upgraded theme park and jaunts around Isla Nublar in a Gyrosphere. While I was pretty miffed at the toning down of previous parts, the final portion of LEGO Jurassic World managed to pull me back into the game and felt like an entirely new beast in the process.
There are some great highlights in the gameplay, including chase scenes in the style of old Crash Bandicoot games. There’s a couple of stealth sections too with the awards going to the kitchen scene from Jurassic Park, trying to navigate the tight corridors of work surfaces without been caught out by a couple of intelligent raptors.
While I complain that the earlier parts are too short, there’s a decent amount of fun to be had nonetheless and doing the usual Free Play mode to collect all the gold and red bricks, extra characters, vehicles and minikits is, as always, fantastic.
The other problem with LEGO Jurassic World is that usually, while playing a TT game, you’re quite happy to run around after finishing the story and collecting tons of extra characters to play with. Outside of the main cast of the JP movies, however, there’s no one quite as interesting to play with. With LEGO Batman, there are dozens of recognisable heroes and villains to collect, the same with the worlds of Harry Potter, Star Wars and Marvel. In this game though, there’s only a handful of characters worth bothering about unless you really, really had an obsession with the films.
Speaking of characters, the ones who are of interest are pretty much the counterpart of their movie representations. Ian Malcolm mumbles and bumbles in true Goldblum style, Ellie Sattler goes dino-dump-diving in a sickening fashion and Owen holds off plastic raptors with the best of them in the most meme’d scene on t’internet this year. Traveller’s tales have perfected the art of bringing real actors expressions and idiosyncrasies to life in virtual plastic than Keanu Reeves has managed in his whole acting career.
Finally, I have one, huge qualm with LEGO Jurassic World… The sound direction. The first instance of annoyance is that it feels like the developers may think that people playing the game don’t know that they’re playing a Jurassic title. This is rectified by fitting the first few bars of the theme tune into every quiet space available.
It’s played in the background most of the way through the game. It’s played when you complete a level. It’s played when you honk a horn in an Explorer jeep. It’s the ringtone for mobile phones and even some of the alarms blast out the melody… Every few minutes it seems.
A theme that once game me goosebumps, now gives me nausea thanks to it’s ridiculous overuse in the game. A slightly amusing pun turns into the most annoying thing Traveller’s Tales have done since recognising that Jar Jar Binks HAD to be in LEGO Star Wars for authenticity.
There is also the use of the movies’ dialogue. Something that added to the atmosphere and enjoyment of LEGO Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, but in this case, it seems as though the only bytes of the sound they could grab, were from a dodgy cam copy of the first few movies.
Every line is muffled or has too much of an echo. To be honest, the only lines I could make out were Jeff Goldblum’s and that’s because all he does is mumble under his breath in every movie he’s been in. It takes away a huge feeling of immersion from the game and in this case, I do miss the squeaks and grunts of older LEGO titles when the quality of sound is so bad, that there’s no point including it in the first place.
The star moment of the game is undoubtedly the dinosaurs. Instead of riding them or being a part of the background or AI controlled only, you can unlock a whole host of them (more interesting than the human cast) and stomp, smash, bite and roar to your heart’s content. They each have their own use and moves too.
Raptors can solve puzzles due to their intelligence. Need to smash trees blocking the path to some goodies? Grab a Triceratops and make match sticks of it with a headlong charge. You can even control the major dinosaurs of the movies and it’s a power trip to pound along as the Tyrannosaurus Rex, bellowing like a boss while meat breath and saliva spray from your massive maw.
Despite what looks like a bad review, LEGO Jurassic World is anything but a bad game. It just fails to capture the usual interest that most of the other franchises that have been LEGOised have. It’s still full of great puzzles, funny moments and recognisable scenes. It still has a ton of things to collect and unlock, offering hours and hours of actual fun.
If you’ve already played the rest of the extensive catalogue of brilliant games in the series, you will not go wrong with picking up a copy, especially if you’re a fan of Jurassic Park or dinosaurs. Again, there’s no competition when sat next to a partner, child or friend while playing a LEGO game and there’s so much to do that you find yourself exploring more than you thought you would, even if it is only to unlock InGen guard Jerry or the other faceless cast.
Now, I’m off for a lobotomy in order to get rid of that damned theme song…