Tag Archives: Telltale Games

Jurassic Park: The Game (Review)

So much for going through my Steam backlog alphabetically.

Jurassic Park: The Game was developed by Telltale and released in 2011. I’ve been slowly playing my way through it over a number of months. It’s not a long game but it’s well-suited to being played in small doses.

Jurassic Park: The Game intro screen

Dinosaurs.

First, I have to say, I love the movie Jurassic Park. I saw it in theaters 3 times when I was 10, I saw it when it was re-done in 3D (despite avoiding going out to movie theaters otherwise), I re-watch it at home at least once a year. It’s one of the rare things from childhood that isn’t solely enjoyed through a lens of nostalgia-tinted glasses. It’s still an exceptional experience for me now. So I might have a better opinion of the game than others who aren’t so taken with it.

Jurassic Park: The Game takes place within the timeline of the first movie, but with completely new characters. When Nedry doesn’t make it to the boat with the dino embryos, a mercenary is sent to retrieve them. Other major characters include the park veterinarian and his daughter and some more mercenaries, sent in by InGen to rescue the people remaining in the park. You play all of these characters – a total of 6 of them – at some point during the game, and the transitions between characters are seamless. Perhaps a little too seamless, as it was sometimes hard to tell when a switch had happened.

Jurassic Park: The Game Harding, Jessie, and Nima

Though the story isn’t anything exceptional, it’s true to the spirit of the movie. People being awestruck by dinosaurs and surviving attacks is pretty much the point. The writers are able to create a good amount of tension as each of the main characters have their own, often conflicting motivations. The dialogue sounds natural and the voice acting is competent. The environments are also well done, using replicas of the scenes from the movie, along with some new areas.

While this game adheres to Telltale’s general oeuvre, it’s also quite different from the more recent releases. The story isn’t as strong, so I didn’t grow attached to any of the characters as I did in The Walking Dead. As a result, JP isn’t soul-crushing like many of the later Telltale Games. It doesn’t make you love characters over the course of a game only to kill them in front of you and make you think it’s your fault for bad decision making. There are decisions to be made, but they aren’t difficult and rarely have the same weight or consequences as a decision in TWD.

Jurassic Park: The Game - Harding being eaten by a T-Rex

You might see death scenes like this a lot.

In terms of gameplay, I found JP to be a lot more fun than TWD or A Wolf Among Us. Now, I am someone who likes quick time events, so if you don’t you can take this with a grain of salt. JP felt more game-y than the recent Telltale games. There were many more places where you could fail, and more puzzles too. The QTEs could often be quite unforgiving, requiring some very fast twitch reactions, though not every failure resulted in death. There’s a medal system for each scenario. No mistakes gave you gold, while if you made many mistakes you could end up with a bronze or no medal at all. These medals didn’t seem to impact anything other than my pride though.  If you fail a critical event, your character dies, but not permanently, you just have to redo it until you succeed.

Though the story and characters aren’t particularly memorable, I enjoyed my time in Jurassic Park. The 4 chapters in the game took a total of about 7-8 hours to complete. I do recommend using a gamepad if you’re playing this on PC, it made the QTEs (with one notable exception) much easier.

Rating: 7/10 – A fun game that captures the spirit of Jurassic Park with a lot of dinosaurs and fast-paced action sequences. Unless you don’t like quick-time events, then you should skip this one.

The Walking Dead: Season Two (Review)

The Walking Dead is an episodic, narrative adventure game from Telltale Games. After the success of the first season, they made a second season, this time allowing us to play as Clementine. The first episode was released at the end of 2013 and the last, No Going Back, just came out last week.

TDW:S1 was one of my best gaming experiences from last year, so how does season 2 stack up?

The first episode of the season started off great. Playing as 11-year old Clementine, there was a definite sense of vulnerability and the game wastes no time putting her on her own. At the same time, it’s really emphasized how strong Clem has gotten, despite her young age and small stature. She kicks zombie ass and holds her own with the living as well. When a new group she meets refuses to give her the help she needs, she takes matters into her own hands and helps herself. The first episode has some great, if hard to watch moments, like when Clementine has to stitch up a cut on her own arm. It’s stomach-turning, and amazing. Really well done.

The Walking Dead season 2 game

As opposed to season 1, where the zombie threat was just beginning, at the time of s2, zombies seem to be old news. They’re still a threat (though sometimes merely an annoyance), but the real problem is the living. This game does feature a ‘big bad’ in the form of Carver, the leader of a settlement, who provides the biggest threat in episodes 2 and 3. The game did a good job of making me hate the bad guy and root for the good guys, but once this storyline ended, it seemed to go off the rails.

The writing got very sloppy, especially when it came to the other characters. I like Clem’s development (I should, I did get to shape it), but a number of the other characters were all over the place. Character deaths, which I felt were impactful and well-done in S1 became questionable and often meaningless. A couple of deaths in episodes 4 & 5 left me wondering “really? that’s what killed them?” and seemed to happen to try to provide a reason for future character actions rather than feeling organic in any way.

Warning, incoming rant. I really don’t like hating on all the female characters, but the ones left at the end were just terribly written. Jane started off understandable – she knew that other people could be liabilities and was afraid of losing someone she loved again, so she liked to stay on her own and tried to give Clem advice to keep her alive. But then, when she decides that Kenny is a loose cannon, she turns into one herself in order to prove it? What? Her and Kenny’s entire ending conflict felt so contrived, and her behaviour made my decision at the end easy when I assume it was supposed to be hard. But the worst character was Bonnie. I use the term ‘character’ very loosely, as she doesn’t really have any. She spends most of the game agreeing with anything anyone says. Or telling you what to do. “Clem, grab this”, “Clem, squeeze into that small hole full of zombies”, “Clem, go rescue that person from certain death.” Then, after a being nice to her, and compliant all game, she starts accusing Clementine of being useless when she can’t save another character. At this point I just wanted her to get eaten. The worst part of this was that the dialogue options didn’t even give me a choice akin to telling her to go fuck herself.

By the end of the game, I felt like I was watching an episode from The Walking Dead tv show – namely, watching characters yell at each other and make completely nonsensical decisions.  The fact that the supporting characters couldn’t get anything done without the action or direction of an 11-year old also did nothing to endear me to anyone other than Clem.

When I was finally past all the unexplainable nonsense at the climax of the last episode, the ending I got was actually pretty well done and got me a little emotional. However, the rest of the final chapter had already left a bad taste in my mouth.

Rating: 6/10 – Playing as Clementine was enjoyable, and the game started off well enough, but soon went off the rails. A game so focused on story over gameplay really needs to have exceptional writing, but this game doesn’t. Poor character development and meaningless deaths take away from the formula that made the first season so great.

Two Telltale Tales

I’ve been playing through Telltale’s A Wolf Among Us, since the first episode was released last fall. After my great experience with The Walking Dead, I was ready to continue my ride on the Telltale train.

A Wolf Among Us is a gorgeous game with the same, heavily-outlined, cell-shaded art as TWD. But it also has some of its own style, with an atmosphere that looks like a cross between Heavy Rain and Vice City. The story (based on the graphic novels Fables), what I’ve seen of it so far, is good. It’s filled with interesting characters and situations. I love the premise of having fairy tale characters living, in secret, in the real world.

The game is usually referred to as an adventure game but in reality it’s more of an interactive story, with quick time events. Ninety percent of the game requires no interaction at all; it’s mostly watching characters interact with each other. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, as the characters are very watchable and the writing is well done. When you do actually get to play the game, it mostly involves walking through a room and examining things, or making dialogue choices (plus the quick time events whenever you end up fighting someone). Really, the formula is identical to TWD. Heavy on narrative, light on game play.

So I’m left wondering… why did I love The Walking Dead, while my experience so far with A Wolf Among Us is only mediocre?

I think part of the problem is the episodic nature of the games. TWD fit into episodes very well. Though they were all part of the larger story about Lee and Clementine, each episode had a logical endpoint which wrapped up the smaller narrative. Episode 1 was about the characters dealing with the initial zombie outbreak and finding a safe (for now) place to stay. Episode 2 dealt with finding another group of survivors on a farm, etc. Episode 4 was the only one that ended with a real cliff-hanger, something that wasn’t wrapped up within the episode. Wolf, on the other hand, is not so neatly broken up. There are no smaller stories; it’s all about Bigby searching for a serial killer within Fabletown. So when an episode ends, I don’t feel as if I’ve really completed anything, I just feel frustrated that I’ll have to wait another 3 months to get the next part of the story.

Time between episodes is also a big problem. Whereas I didn’t start playing TWD until 4 episodes were already out, I’ve been playing Wolf as it’s released. With TWD I felt like a got a solid 8 hour game, followed by a short wait for the finale, while with Wolf the ratio of game time (episodes take about 90 minutes to finish) to waiting time seems insane. My interest level has gone down with each episode.

There’s also a problem with the characters. The Wolf story and characters aren’t gripping me like they should. This is odd, as the atmosphere and story of Wolf are way more appealing to me than TWD on a surface level. But for some reason it’s not grabbing me. With Lee in TWD I felt very close to his character – decisions he (I) made had an effect on me, and how the rest of the characters saw him was important. With Bigby, I’m just an observer. Whether the other characters respect the tactics he uses to get what he needs doesn’t really matter to me, I just want him to solve the mystery. TWD’s decisions felt like moral decisions. Wolf’s feel somewhat less than – is it really immoral for a wolf to rip out someone’s throat? TWD, for me, was a role-playing game. Wolf is a story, and one I could get through much faster if I just read the graphic novels.

Another aspect that makes Wolf feel more like a story than a game to me is that I’m not finding any of the decisions I make or conversations paths I choose make much of a difference. I know that in TWD the ending was set – your decisions didn’t change what ultimately happened; only who was with you in the end, but regardless of that, the choices felt important. I wanted to make decisions that would make Clem strong, so she would survive (side-note: having a child character so prominently featured in the game who I wanted to save rather than knock off was quite a writing feat). I wanted the other characters in my party to trust me. I wanted to save as many people as possible. In Wolf, I don’t feel any of these things. When the text pops up “Toad will remember that,” I think “so?” he’s going to give me the information I need whether or not I backed him up in the previous chapter. Choosing to visit one location over another makes me think I’m going to miss a small scene, but I don’t think it’s impacting the outcome in any meaningful way.

Even the quick time events aren’t as exciting to me. In TWD I was afraid that being slow meant that I (or someone else) would get eaten by a zombie. Wolf’s combat is much more prolonged and there’s a lot of spamming of the A button, which often doesn’t even feel like it’s doing anything. You also need to fail a number of actions before you face any consequence (i.e. death).

To make a long story short (too late), I’m disappointed. TWD was one of my best gaming experiences last year, I got totally immersed in it, and the end left me choking back sobs for a good 10 minutes. Wolf just isn’t doing it for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I’ll finish the game – hopefully the final chapter will elevate my experience a bit since there will be some closure and no more waiting. Chapter 4 is out next week, so I’ll let you know if it changes my opinion at all.

Have you played both of these games? What do you think?

Footnote: As a life-long inverter of y-axes, I’d really appreciate the ability to do this in future Telltale games. My quick-time responses could be much quicker.