Video Game Review: Jurassic Park III, The DNA Factor

Let’s get this out of the way.
Arguments for: There are none.

Arguments against: They are legion. Examine the hard stats with me, if you will: 21 games for various platforms were spun-off from the dinosaur-sized franchise that is Jurassic Park. None of them are any good. The best of the worst is the Sega Genesis game, spawned from the first movie, way back in the day. And here, with JP3: The DNA Factor for GBA, we are witness to the nadir, the bottom of the barrel, the most shamelessly uninspired relic of the once-mighty Jurassic empire.

The movie Jurassic Park III was released on 16 July 2001; in that fateful year, we were also given three JP3-based GBA games. I am writing this review on the eve of 2005, and although the movie is still watchable (mostly thanks to the “Oh, my God! Dinosaurs! Again!” look that is permanently plastered onto Sam Neill’s face), the games SUCK. SO BADLY. All of them are so lamentably lame that I was forced to use a sentence fragment just then to drive the point home.

Some concrete criticisms include: crappy avatar, unclear game goals, poor mapping, limited interactivity, stiff player motion, insufficient save points, lack of special items/weapons/tools, mind-numbing repetition in levels and absurdly low-grade graphics.

The tagline for the movie was: “This Time It’s Not Just A Walk In The Park!” After playing ‘JP3: DNA’, I couldn’t agree more. I would have been ecstatic with a walk in Jurassic Park! Instead, I got a slow, linear toggle along a brown path strewn with badly-drawn chasms that your character can plunge into without even having realized they were approaching an anomaly in the landscape. Fallen logs block you from manoeuvring smoothly forwards, up or down, which are really your only options. Diagonal motion to evade predators is a near-fictional concept in the Jurassic-verse.

Oh, and the “predators”! If there was ever anything less awe-inspiring, less voracious, less earth-trembling than the tiny, 2-D velociraptors that scurry across your path in level one, exhibiting all the grace and fearsome speed of paper cut-outs taped to a popsicle stick, I have yet to witness it.

I’m sad to report that I didn’t have the heart to get all the way to the advertised “intense puzzle action”, so it’s conceivable that that is what redeems JP3: DNA. But frankly, to reach any level of involvement with a game that requires me to slog through scenery, battles and characters that look like they were designed as part of the grade 6 “Turtle BASIC” project I did on my trusty old Commodore VIC-20 requires a level of commitment I simply do not have.

I think it speaks volumes that, before GameRankings.com became shitty and removed user-created reviews, 27 people took time out of their busy lives to warn you away from this game. I’m a busy lady, and I’m taking a LOT of time to write this scathing review. The average user-vote for ‘JP3: DNA’ was 4.2, and the pro ranking sites average out at about 47%. This is a score of unreasonable generosity. The milk of human kindness is being sucked dry from the teats that issued that score. There’s almost enough evidence in that score to support a conspiracy theory on the part of the game designers. People who gave this game higher than a 3 must be voting out of a passionate love of the subject matter, nostalgic affection for side-scrolling games, or brain damage from excessive TV viewing.

Most likely, the player who rated this game 8 out of 10 accidentally rated the wrong game. Other viable possibilities are that it was actually a monkey who misunderstood the subtleties of rank denoted by Arabic numbers, or a vicious sadist, cackling maniacally at the prospect of subjecting you to the agonizing punishment you will receive if you insert this cartridge into your GBA and power up. The two of us who gave this game a 1 star are confronting you with brutal honesty. We want to save you from our tragic fate.

I still have a lot of dino-games to try, but this was not the game I’m looking for. I will move along. May I humbly suggest you do the same.

Personal bias: There is no reasonable cause for me to loathe this game as much as I do. Seriously, I’m fascinated and awed by dinosaurs, I like video games, I grew up with side-scrollers, and I don’t have any strong aversion to Michael Crichton. Which leads me to the irrefutable conclusion that this game just plain stinks.

Like This Game? Try‚Ķ You cannot like this game. In fact, there’s nothing I can do for you but pity you if you DO like this game. But if you like dinosaurs, I’m sorry to report that the time has not yet arrived where you can get satisfaction from your Xbox, PS2 or GameCube. Turok for the N64 has gotten some decent reviews, but I’m still holding out for something awesome. Put down the controller, walk to the video store, and rent all three of BBC’s documentaries, ‘Walking With Dinosaurs‘, ‘Chased By Dinosaurs‘ (starring Nigel Marven), and ‘Walking with Prehistoric Beasts‘ (narrated by Kenneth Branagh). You won’t regret it.

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