LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review

Over the past decade, UK based-developer Traveller’s Tales (a.k.a. Tt Games a.k.a. “The LEGO Game” company) has been well known for and wildly successful at translating several iconic intellectual properties into smash-hit LEGO Universe franchises, with Star Wars, The Hobbit, Marvel Universe and DC Universe among them. But TT Game’s most recent game, LEGO Jurassic World may be one of the most bold and ambitious projects the developer has attempted yet, as not only was it timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Jurassic World (often the development kiss of death for any movie-based game) but it also dares to encompass all four existing Jurassic Park films: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Jurassic Park 3 and of course, Jurassic World. No easy feat for any developer, but then again, if there’s any studio that has a chance of pulling it off, it’s TT Games. So how did they fare?
legojurassicinsert2LEGO Jurassic World follows the same proven formula of many previous LEGO games. General progression through each of the game’s four campaigns involves solving one environmental puzzle after another, many of which can be only resolved by uncovering hidden LEGO pieces in the world in order to build outlandish contraptions that in turn surmount obstacles in the player’s way. The game features a cast of over 100 characters (the majority of which are unlocked through campaign play), including all the main protagonists, antagonists and dinosaurs (!) of each Jurassic Park film, and each main character or creature has two or three special abilities specific to them alone. In order to unravel the puzzles that lay before them, players need to utilize each character’s distinct abilities in concert by switching between them as the need arises, which can be accomplished in either solo or co-operative play. Once a chapter is completed, players can then revisit those levels in Free Play mode and uncover even more secret items, game modes and extras by using newly unlocked characters to solve puzzles that were inaccessible to them previously.  As one would expect, there are also nearly limitless objects in each level to pulverize into LEGO 1×1 studs, which can be used as currency to unlock even more goodies, such as vehicles for getting around the park in to smash even more stuff.

TT Games’ many years of experience translating movie properties to the LEGO game universe are very easy to appreciate in LEGO Jurassic World. Despite the simplified LEGO look, the visuals and colour palette are stunning and truly faithful to the look of the films. When coupled with the game’s equally faithful film audio and soundtrack, they are bound to hit long-time Jurassic Park fans in the heart with a huge shot of nostalgia. That said, interested gamers who have not seen one or more of the films beware; LEGO Jurassic World contains numerous huge spoilers, even though it takes several liberties with the plot for the sake of comedy.

Surprisingly, for a movie-based game, there is very little that LEGO Jurassic World does wrong. In typical LEGO game fashion, it’s simple to play, requires very few buttons, and at most times, the game is great at teaching the player how to play without getting in the way. It even uses the animated character Mr. DNA from the first Jurassic Park to provide friendly guidance during load screens as well as in the field (another nice touch of fan-service players will experience throughout the game).  Enjoying the game with a friend is a breeze thanks to local 2-player drop-in, drop-out co-op, and while there’s no online play it’s likely that PS4 players can get around this unfortunate flaw by using the console’s built-in Share Play feature. Coincidentally, co-op play is highly encouraged to get the most out of LEGO stud collecting as well as the game’s various film-based chase sequences (which can be unlocked and replayed on their own).

LEGO Jurassic World (PS4) Review

There are just a few “mosquitoes in the amber” that mar the experience. Due to their age, the dialogue clips of the earlier films are not as clear as those of Jurassic World, coming across as muddy and at times easily drowned out by the far superior sound effects and soundtrack. Sadly, Ian Malcom’s hilariously bizarre mumbles and rants are among the most tragic victims. More troubling however is the game’s tendency to not honour its checkpoint save system when playing through a campaign, often ignoring the most recent manual save and loading a player’s game from the previous checkpoint, often making it necessary to replay an entire section of a level. It’s recommended that players play an entire campaign straight through to completion, or if they are playing on a PS4, to use the console’s “quick resume from standby” feature in order to continue the game from exactly where they left off in order to save time.

To conclude, LEGO Jurassic World is a fun, wild romp through the Jurassic Park films that not only lives up to their legacy and the expectations of fans but also those of TT Games’ LEGO franchise as a whole. It’s the perfect game for both the young and young-at-heart to re-experience the magic of those movies while making the darker sides of those films non-threatening for children, and if you don’t mind spoilers, it might also be the best way to introduce a young child to the aforementioned films.

So after careful consideration, I’ve decided to endorse this park.

Look for Khari’s extended review of LEGO Jurassic World in the June 2015 issue of CGM.

Jurassic World (Movie) Review

Jurassic World (Movie) Review

Not many movies get to have a sequel a full 22 years after the release of the original, but such is the appeal of Jurassic Park. Times may change, but children will always love watching dinosaurs rip humans and theme parks into smithereens. This 4quel has been in the works for what feels like forever. Jurassic Park III might not be fondly remembered, but it made enough money for Universal to crave another trip back to the park for quite some time. After endless debate and development, unexpected action star Chris Pratt was brought on to make this puppy a reality and the results are…well, not that bad actually. Make no mistake, it’s not that good either. Certainly all of the wonderment and enchantment that Steven Spielberg infused into the original is long gone. However, those who crave big stupid CGI monster movie entertainment with a hint of humor at least suggesting that the filmmakers are aware how deeply dumb it all is, then it’s worth the price of a ticket.

jurassicworldinsert3As with all oft-delayed sequels Jurassic World has a variety of plot threads competing for attention left over from the many previous drafts of the script. First there are the kids (this won’t take long), a teen (Nick Robinson) and a tyke (Ty Simpkins) who are sent off to the park by the parents and whom the movie seems to be about initially until they get their big dino attack sequence and they are essentially shoved into the background of the rest of the movie whenever the filmmakers remember themselves, “Oh right! Those kids!” Their aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard) runs the park and in a cheeky bit of in-jokery (there’s lots of that here) she laments the fact that people just aren’t as impressed by the concept of seeing dinosaurs as they were 20 years ago, so she’s got to seek bigger and better ways of pulling interest out of the masses. Her latest project is a genetically spliced up dino called the Indominus Rex, a self-camouflaging mixture of a T-rex and anything else the screenwriters need to get the monster out of jams. The new creature is particularly dangerous, so hopefully it doesn’t escape. That would be awful! (Spoiler: it does).

Howard also has to contend with Vincent D’Onofrio, a jerky secretive dink from corporate office who is working on all sorts of nefarious projects involving weaponizing dinosaurs for the government or something (truthfully, it’s hard to even tell what he’s up to and the filmmakers have some fun mocking that). D’Onofrio has Chris Pratt on the ground helping with the project and Pratt has managed to train velociraptors, which is only mildly less stupid than when Sam Neil learned how to talk to them last time. Pratt also once took Howard out on a disastrous date, so oh boy do they ever hate each other! You know, the kind of hate that could turn to love if they were required to depend on each other to survive in some sort of horrible dinosaur outbreak. Wouldn’t ya know it? That’s exactly what happens! It’s trouble time in dino town again, with dinosaurs causing havoc all over the place. Tons of tourists, scientists, and security officers die in the carnage, but thankfully we’re only required to care about the central semi-family, so it doesn’t matter. Plus to make it even harder to take all of the death seriously, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus pop up as a pair of geeks monitoring park security between rounds of ratatat banter. As part of the film’s massive nostalgic streak for the original JP, Johnson even wears a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt from ebay and laments how the original park didn’t need genetically modified dinosaurs to sell their thrills (you know, just like the geeky audiences members in his age range feel about this movie!).

jurassicworldinsert4It definitely seemed odd when Jurassic World ended up assigned to director Colin Trevorrow, a man with only the gentle sci-fi indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed to his name. But once that parade of in-jokes starts, it’s clear he was the man for the job. It’s easy to imagine a po-faced version of this movie that’s infinitely worse, but Trevorrow wisely has characters make mocking comments about all of this sequel’s idiocies and excesses before the audience has a chance. It might not fix those problems, but it certainly makes them easier to swallow. He’s also got a knack for crafting dino-set pieces. Sadly all of it is CGI and some of CGI that looks worse that the animation in the original flick. However, Trevorrow makes up for that lack of quality with heaping loads of quantity. The last hour of the film essentially rockets from one dinosaur action scene to the next, culminating in a massive multi-species battle royale that feels ripped straight from a Godzilla movie. It might get a little tiresome after a while through sheer dino-overload, but there’s no denying that when this movie is cooking, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

jurassicworldinsert1However, like most ginormous summer blockbusters, it’s also as empty and disposable as fast food. Sure, the original Jurassic Park might have made it’s bones off of serving up astounding dino images that audiences didn’t even dream were possible at the time. However, it also served up compelling characters worth following along that journey, a few nuggets of ideas worth thinking about, and a narrative that actually featured pace and rhythm rather than endless sensory assault. Jurassic World offers none of these things, so while it’s fun in the moment, it’s as instantly forgettable after as that The Rock Vs. An Earthquake movie from a couple weeks ago called…um…you know. Even Pratt and Howard (who are genuinely compelling actors) do little beyond sell the scares, stuck in characters with no personality beyond what’s necessary to get to the next action sequence. For all the expensive CG dino action and wink-nudge humor, the flick is ultimately a completely disposable summer time waster with nothing to offer beyond dino-bang-bang. Thankfully, that’s all most people should want from a fourth Jurassic Park movie arriving 22 years after the start of the franchise. So it’ll do just fine.

The Best Fictional T-Rexes Of All Time

The Best Fictional T-Rexes Of All Time

The trailer for Jurassic World debuted during the Superbowl this weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the filmmakers have decided to forgo certain paleontological evidence suggesting the following:

As far as we can tell, the majestic and terrible king of badass dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, actually resembled some kind of giant turkey because of stupid paleontologists and their stupid research discovering that many, if not all dinosaurs, had some form of feathers.

We’ve known for years that most modern species in the bird family, including the delicious turkey and chicken, are descended from dinosaurs. Unfortunately, over the last several years evidence has come to light suggesting that bone structure may not be the only similarity modern fowl share with their super gnarly ancestors. So big deal, hawks and eagles have feathers and they’re cool as hell right? Why should it matter that, for many people in mine and previous generations, the words “Thunder Lizard” meant that these near-mythical beasts of a bygone era were just that: giant scaly lizards with teeth and claws and horns and all manner of natural tools for evisceration.

For example, we have this, which is the iconic image most of us grew up with when we heard the words T-Rex.

trexinsert2However, now scientists are trying to tell us the actual T-Rex are more likely to have been feathered.

In honour of this absolute travesty caused by modern science, and in hopes that the new Jurassic Park will show the king of dinosaurs how it was meant to be (in our minds maybe) I decided to compile a list of the best fictional T-Rexes pre-feathergate. Hopefully children can look back one day and remember the better times, the days when Tyrannosaurus Rex meant “Giant lizard that will eat your face off” and not “Thanksgiving dinner for the friendly giant and his extended family”

  1. The T-Rex from Jurassic Park (the first movie)

trexinsert1Ahh yes, the movie that gave us everything. Super intelligent velociraptors outwitting South African hunters, a brachiosaurus sneezing on children, and this bad boy. Everyone remembers that scene… pouring rain, the power has died and the electric fences are down, and Jeff Goldblum holds a cup of water that suddenly ripples. Boom…Boom…Boom. Then out of nowhere, this (appropriately scaled) walking death machine rips through the fence and starts wreaking havoc. Ignoring those stupid raptors attempting to steal the show with their wily ways, this gargantuan nightmare was the most threatening villain a Spielberg movie had seen since those dickhead astronauts tried to steal E.T.

  1. Sharp Tooth (The Land Before Time)

trexinsert3Before the producers decided to whore out the franchise and make 39 shitty sequels, this little gem could be found stashed under the TV on a worn-out VHS in every household that had children in the late 80s and early 90s. Once I was done sobbing over the death of Littlefoot’s mom, and before I had the wherewithal to realize what an annoying bitch Sarah was, there was nothing cooler to my four year old self than seeing this dutifully animated ultra villain. No dialogue was needed to convey the threat, no speech discussing his plans for world domination, no moustache to twirl. All that was needed to emphasize the enormous threat he posed to our protagonists was that he was a giant, evil looking carnivore intent on devouring our heroes. Ahhh childhood.

  1. Grimlock of the Dinobots

trexinsert4As you can gather from the posts above, I was always that kid that wanted the villain to win. From Darth Vader to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the heroes were never as interesting or just plain cool as the bad guys were. Of course, there are always exceptions, and occasionally a character that treads a fine line between good guy and villain -otherwise known as the “Anti-hero”- can make me cheer for the good guys.

Enter Grimlock, fearless (and brainless) leader of the Dinobots. The dinobots were technically Autobots, the good guys of the Transformers series, but they basically ran their own show and were a separate team. They helped out when needed, and hated the Decepticons, but they were more or less an independent operation and did their own thing. And when crafting a team of giant alien robots that can transform into dinosaurs, it seems pretty damn obvious that you’re going to make the leader a T-Rex. No special-ops team was ever led by an herbivore after all.

  1. The T-Rex from Dino Riders

trexinsert5In the glory days of the mid to late 80s, no cartoon existed for any reason other than to sell toys. Transformers started the trend, with shows like My Little Pony, Thundercats, and G.I. Joe, following suit. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; at the time there was nothing I liked more than cartoons and the related toy sets. Dino Riders was this obscure and probably terrible cartoon about a group of humans from the future fighting a group of mutant bad guys also from the future on pre-historic earth. In order to successfully battle each other, it was obviously necessary to attach lasers and missile launchers to dinosaurs and ride them into battle. The iconic T-Rex was the head battle steed of Krulos, the evil leader of the mutant bad guys known as Rulons.

  1. The fighter jet piloting T-Rex from Calvin and Hobbes

trexinsert6Calvin and Hobbes was the most important work of literature to come out of the 80s, there I said it. This heartfelt, brilliant, and incredibly imaginative comic strip by Bill Watterson crafted the person sitting here looking at dinosaur pictures on the internet instead of working. I would not be the day-dreaming, creative individual I am today without Calvin to empathize with while I grew up and learned how to read. Calvin, like myself, had a vivid fantasy life and absolutely hated going to school. He was also obsessed with dinosaurs. It stands to reason then, at some point, Calvin would fantasize about a T-Rex using a fighter jet to blow his school to smithereens. Watterson’s incredible flair for capturing wildlife breathes life and style into what some considered a limited medium, as demonstrated by this kick ass panel from the strip.