The prolific TT Games have a new Lego game just in time for the new Jurassic World movie. Covering all four Jurassic Park movies and featuring an awful lot of stompy dinos, how does Lego Jurassic World one fare in their ever-growing catalogue? Here's wot I think:
Before we begin, a quick tangential issue. Warner with their Lego series just don’t appear to care very much about PC. Still, in mid-2015, they’re putting out games that can’t cope with Windows 7’s colour scheme, causing it to flicker and switch down to Basic. The sheer utter lack of care that makes that a persistent problem across every Lego game they release, let alone the lack of a windowed mode, or the refusal to adapt menu screens to work with a mouse, shows a level of contempt that’s ever-more tiresome. This is mirrored in the peculiar amount of effort dedicated to refusing to send us review code, then telling us it was in the post before later admitting it never was. And this is pretty much the case with every game in the franchise.
And yet again, they’re doing this with a game we’ve enjoyed! While Lego Jurassic World is not one of the strongest entries in the franchise, it’s an entertaining, family friendly celebration of the dinosaur romps, and about five hundred million times more entertaining than the appalling Jurassic World movie.
So, everyone knows the score by now, right? This time it’s all four Jurassic Park movies, recreated in Lego and gently spoofed, each famous scene reimagined as an exploratory platform game. And, as with every game in the series, you play as either one or two player, controlling as many as five or six characters in any level, each with different skills and tools.
What’s perhaps most striking about LJW is that it’s the most vanilla the series has been for a long while. There’s no big twist here, other than the four hub worlds (islands) being much more like a large sprawling level of their own. To move from level to level, you must complete a section of each movie’s hub. Once a movie’s story is complete, the hub (as well as all the levels, as usual) becomes accessible in “Free Play”, meaning you can re-explore it with any of the hundred or so characters you’ve unlocked.
And this time out, those characters include dinosaurs! Hurrah! There is much fun to be hand stomping about levels as a raptor, or baby T-Rex, etc, completing tasks only big lizards can do. You’ll also occasionally play as dinos in the levels themselves, usually in rather boring quick-time-event-laden fight scenes.
It’s a rather shorter game than we’re used to from TT Games. Although bearing in mind that they’re usually dauntingly enormous, this may be an attractive element to some. You’ll plough through most of the movies’ stories within two or three hours each, before Free Play. The Lost World feels especially spare, and obviously Jurassic Park III gave them a lot less to work with. Rather than imagine elaborate levels themed on scenes, this game feels far more like chugging through the scene chronologically, before being spat out the other end with little sense of narrative flow.
That’s less the case for the Jurassic World section, which has a more complex hub, and slightly more imaginative levels. I suspect that’s partly because of an emphasis due to the tie-in release with the film, and partly because the film is quite so bloody awful that they had to work harder to make anything kid-friendly out of it. (I can only imagine the chewed knuckles at TT when they were shown the early screening of the movie they needed to convert.)
The story is essentially ignored, adding in pet baby dinosaurs, and making it much more fun for kids than the dreary gore-fest that hit the screens.
It is, however, the buggiest Lego game I’ve seen. Usually flawless, or perhaps with just a couple of issues with characters getting stuck on scenery, this time I’ve frequently found the character I’m controlling falling through the floor and eternally plunging below the world, or leaping up into the stratosphere of the skybox. On occasions this has meant having to start levels over again, which is a mighty pain. I’ve also had it crash to desktop.
It's also very peculiar how they've chosen to use recorded dialogue lifted straight from the films for their cutscenes. Sometimes this makes the audio quality pretty poor, and it always feels just plain odd. Especially when different actors are then used for other incidental dialogue for the same plastic characters. But they still play on those scenes nicely, with daft background details, dinosaurs looting shops with shopping trolleys, and incessant mockery of Jeff Goldblum for what one might argue was a touch of over-acting.
Lego Jurassic World ends up being a middling entry for TT’s enormous franchise, but a middling entry by them is still enormously better than most other family games. If your kid has a hankering for dinosaurs, then you get to stomp about as all sorts of them, especially in Free Play (running around Jurassic World as a velociraptor is a good deal of fun.) It’s a lot shorter in story content than we’re used to, and I’m surprised by some of the scenes that are skipped or thrown away as cutscenes. But importantly, it does feature an incredible amount of Lego poo. Characters sift through it, and even dive head-first into giant piles of it. And that’s my kind of game. Still, you're sadly better off picking it up for console than the dismissive PC build.