Pratting it Up in LEGO Jurassic World

LEGO games typically take a somewhat child friendly IP somewhat child friendly and turn it into LEGO. Traveller’s Tales has experience in adapting PG-13 properties (LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO The Hobbit, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) into entertaining LEGO games, but never has it tackled anything quite like the Jurassic Park franchise. Unlike the previous examples, Jurassic Park and its three sequels are not action films, but thrillers. While there is potential, I’m not convinced that LEGO Jurassic World is going to work.

I was able to go hands-on with the game at GDC 2015 and played through four different levels. LEGO Jurassic World has five levels across the four movies; Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, and the upcoming Jurassic World. Players will get to explore the open worlds of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna, effortlessly switching between the two islands depending on film being played through (Jurassic Park and Jurassic World on Nublar, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III on Sorna). In traditional LEGO fashion, there are dozens of characters to unlock (including dinosaurs), LEGO kits to find, and saps of amber, which replace the red bricks from previous games.

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Unfortunately, Warner Bros. and Universal are being very secretive about the upcoming Jurassic World and did not having anything to show in-game. In fact, there isn’t even any Jurassic World footage in the trailer. Speaking with Traveller’s Tales, I learned that the only reason the game is being called LEGO Jurassic World is so that it can tie-in with the upcoming film. Jurassic Park III was also relatively snubbed during my time with the game; while it had a brief appearance in the trailer, there was no demo based on the film.

Levels in LEGO Jurassic World appear to come in three flavors; exploration, event and chase. Exploration levels involve simple puzzle-solving and take place during low-key moments in the films. The example I was shown took place during the Triceratops scene from Jurassic Park. Dr. Ellie Sattler and Dr. Harding have to work together to heal the sick dinosaur and then team up with it to get it back to its paddock. Familiar LEGO gameplay tropes popped up during the demo. To heal the Triceratops, Ellie and Dr. Harding had to collect three different items by platforming, digging, and even rummaging through dino droppings. Afterwards, players got to control the triceratops and knock down some trees. Finally, Dr. Harding had to use his In-gen credentials to open the paddock.

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While playing as a dinosaur should be fun, LEGO Jurassic World manages to make it boring. The triceratops is slow and cumbersome to control with some questionable hit detection. I kept rushing a tree to knock it down, and somehow the hit would never register. Eventually the tree came down and I had my bridge, but it shouldn’t have taken so long.

Event levels focus on key moments in the film’s plot. Two event levels were presented: the famous T-Rex reveal from Jurassic Park and the In-gen facility escape from The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The T-Rex scene featured Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm during their attempt to save Lex and Tim from the hungry T-Rex. To do this, you must chop down vines, drain a flooded section of the road and create a giant doggy bone to distract the T-Rex. After being rescued, Lex can use her high-pitch scream to destroy glass, which serves as a second distraction for the T-Rex. It was more exciting than the previous level, but a lot of the tension from the film was missing.

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The Lost World: Jurassic World section was different, requiring Ian, Kelly Malcom and Sarah Harding to leap across rooftops. Meanwhile, velociraptors chase them because they look delicious to the dinosaurs. The velociraptor scenes in Lost World are considered some of the best scenes of a ho-hum film, and much like the T-Rex scene, was disappointed in its handling. The velociraptors did not present a threat, and the one time they did, which was when Sara had to pull apart the roof, it was merely presented as a quick-time-event.

The final type of level is the Chase level. Here, the player is either running or driving in a vehicle in an attempt to escape a pursuing dinosaur. The level I got to play was from Jurassic Park, right after Muldoon and Ellie rescue Ian from the T-Rex. At first, the chase was pretty exciting as the T-Rex continuously charged at me. Ellie could throw flares at its open mouth as Muldoon drove. It quickly became clear, however, and a developer later confirmed, it’s nearly impossible to lose during these sequences. The tension and excitement quickly evaporated.

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After experiencing the title, I sat down with a developer and discuss the game, asking how toned down the carnage will be. It turns out, a lot. In order to make LEGO Jurassic World rated “E 10+,” many events that made Jurassic Park such a classic franchise had to be toned down. First off, there’s no death. Iconic scenes like Gennaro’s toilet death are still there, but he doesn’t actually die. Secondly, dinosaurs are no longer the threatening presence the films made them out to be. The developer compared them to dogs and cats; playful animals that aren’t really a threat.

We also discussed in length about what this toning down means for gameplay. The developer admitted hat the chase sequences were the most popular among kids in focus testing. The tried and tested formula still appeals to kids, but I’m concerned how well older kids, teens and adults will quickly become bored with the formula. LEGO games have been around since 2005 and the last great innovation came in 2012 (open-worlds and voice-acting). LEGO Jurassic World just doesn’t do much new.

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Coming out of the demo, I remain unconvinced by LEGO Jurassic World. I’ve been a fan of the LEGO games for years thanks to the humor and enjoyment of seeing beloved characters like Gandalf and Batman turned into LEGOs. Unfortunately, Jurassic Park doesn’t work as a LEGO game. It’s possible to re-create the epicness of the Battle of Hoth, Pelennor Fields and the whole DC Universe for an “E 10+” rated game, because the material could easily be adapted to fit a lower rating. Jurassic Park, which built its fame on awe-inspiring shots, suspense and thrills doesn’t translate well. It loses that which made it special.

That being said, the demos were relatively short only represent a short fraction of a single level. I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong. I’ve been a fan of Jurassic Park for years and I’m holding onto my butt until LEGO Jurassic Park launches 2015 on PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, and PS Vita.