We all love John Williams, but do we really need to hear the refrain from Jurassic Park every 30 seconds? It plays whenever you do anything of significance in a level: it plays whenever you fill your stud meter; it plays in cutscenes. Oddly, it plays even when there is nothing of interest happening on-screen. Yes, yes, we get it – we’re playing a Jurassic Park game.
Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO Jurassic World is the latest in a long line of movies and fan-favorite IP transformed through a LEGO lens into a kid-friendly videogame. TT’s formula is proven, and it’s been applied across over a dozen games since LEGO Star Wars back in 2005, to varying degrees of success.
Much of the enjoyment of the studio’s output depends on how invested you are in the franchise it’s adapting – the gameplay rarely evolves from title to title, after all – but there’s always been a sense that the studio holds an almost reverential love of the source material, a devotion which has always helped to paper over the cracks in its formulaic gameplay design and the usual bugs which have persisted across every LEGO game created by the developer in the last decade.
Unfortunately, LEGO Jurassic World lacks that sense of devotion. Whether the studio wasn’t emotionally invested enough, there being little you can really do with a concept which boils down to “dinosaurs run amok in the modern day”, or whether the game was pushed out to meet the release date of the latest film, LEGO Jurassic World lacks the almost fanboy-ish love of the source material that defined previous games.
Gameplay Preserved In Amber
LEGO games have always been rather predictable and formulaic in their execution: smash up scenery, collect studs, use a character’s abilities to solve simple puzzles, watch cutscene, rinse and repeat.
A sizeable contingent of the gaming community holds the series in contempt because of that, claiming that the developer steadfastly refuses to evolve their design template. It’s an unfair accusation: compare LEGO Star Wars to LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, or LEGO Harry Potter, and there are clear differences between them. The series has evolved; perhaps not as much as the naysayers would like, but it’s impossible to look at the primitive hub worlds and discreet levels of Star Wars and the bustling metropolis of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and claim that nothing has changed over the intervening years.
Despite that progress, LEGO Jurassic World feels as stuck in the past as the resurrected fossils who make up its subject matter. Gone is the busy open world of the more recent LEGO games. In LEGO Jurassic Park, you’re plonked in a hub that attempts to hide its lack of things to do through sheer size and pulled from stage to stage with little to no opportunity to explore. The experience is as much on rails as the Jeeps that wind their way through Isla Nublar.
In what feels like a wholly regressive step, you need to experience TT’s adaptations of the films in order. At the start of the game you find yourself on a Helipad in between two different signs. One points to levels based on the original film, first released in 1993; the other points to the most recent film, Jurassic World. But there’s no way of accessing the Jurassic World levels until you’ve played through the rest of the game, and you can’t access levels based on the second or third films until you’ve played through the preceding stages. It feels like something of a tease, luring people in on the back of the new film, but making players sit through adaptations of one decent and two God-awful films before reaching it.
Therein lies the rub. Jurassic Park may be a series on its fourth cinematic incarnation, but of the four films, only the first was ever actually worth remembering. The Lost World was always mediocre, a re-tread of the first movie with Jeff Goldblum thrown in to provide a sense of continuity. Jurassic Park III was a movie clearly built to order, the product of executives keen to keep the money rolling in. Jurassic World… well, the jury is still out on that one – but don’t expect it to pick up an Oscar.
“Clever Girl”? Not Quite
If you’ve played a LEGO game before, you know what to expect. Smash scenery for studs, and solve simple puzzles by switching between characters with unique abilities.
Once a level has been completed, you can return to it and freely swap between all unlocked characters to unlock every secret. Red bricks, gold bricks, smashing scenery and then building contraptions out of the debris: it’s all very standard for the series, with nothing substantially new to speak of.
There are hints that TT has some love for the films, though. Lex, for example, can shatter glass by screaming; Ellie dives into piles of dung to find objects. But such instances are few and far between, and even Traveller’s Tales’ trademark slapstick humor fails to provide enough levity to make LEGO Jurassic World rise beyond being an above-average offering for kids.
LEGO Star Wars felt like the product of a devoted fan. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes exuded comic book fandom from every pore. LEGO Jurassic World feels built to order.
More recent LEGO games have included dialogue to provide additional character and exposition. LEGO Jurassic World is no different, but the result is spotty at best. Without the original cast on hand to reprise their roles, Traveller’s Tales has had to rely on audio taken directly from the films. This at least means that characters sound as you expect them to sound, but the audio quality is patch at best. Some lines of dialogue sound crystal clear; others sound as though they were recorded with a duvet between the microphone and the sound source. At times, dialogue is almost unintelligible, so poor is the quality of the recording. It also jars when sound clips are repeated within the same scene, complete with background noise from the original film.
Visually, at least, the game passes muster. While never ground breaking – this is a LEGO game, after all – the graphics are crisp and clear, and there’s some decent use of motion blur and lighting. Oddly, cut scenes are pre-rendered video clips rather than real time, and heavily compressed at that; but overall LEGO Jurassic World is easy on the eye.
Ultimately, LEGO Jurassic World is competent without ever feeling progressive. By sacrificing much of the progress made in LEGO games over the years, Traveller’s Tales’ latest title feels somewhat archaic, and if you didn’t know better you could mistake it for a current-gen remaster of a game sandwiched between LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Batman. Hell, it barely surpasses the quality bar of LEGO Indiana Jones, which is still the low point of the franchise.
It’s still a solid slice of gaming, and kids will no doubt enjoy it – even if they’re too young to have seen the films upon which much of the game is based. But the presiding impression is that LEGO Jurassic World feels like a relic, its gameplay preserved in amber for a decade before being resurrected in a more modern era.
LEGO Jurassic World still offers some limited enjoyment, but Traveller’s Tales can do so much better.