Only when I started writing this review did I realise that some of these games came out 30 years ago. The whole 30th anniversary of Jurassic Park should’ve given it away, but holy crap! Thirty years ago, I was playing these games. Limited Run Games have rounded up Jurassic Park for the SNES, NES, GB and Mega Drive, additionally including Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues for the SNES and GB and, last but not least, Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition on the Mega Drive. It’s time to hop into your Ford Explorers and take a trip back into prehistoric gaming history.
The SNES game is probably the one I spent the least time with back in the day. I would play on demo kiosks, and later, I would get to sink a bit more time into it. This isometric/3D shooter is more memorable because of the 3D sections when entering the buildings. Coming back to Jurassic Park, it was a hard slog. The isometric view makes shooting at the Dinos difficult, and it is really easy to get trapped in small spaces as Dinos attack you. With the close-up view, it’s also difficult to get a better idea of where you’re going or what Dinosaurs lurk nearby.
The visuals aren’t bad for the time, and there’s some catchy music as you wander into new areas. It feels as much like a Jurassic Park game as the others in this collection. This game leaves a lot for you to work out on your own, and it’s easy to get lost or head in the wrong direction. I really wanted to enjoy this game more than I did; the less said about the 3D sections, the better.
While the Nintendo consoles/handhelds stuck with the isometric view, the Sega Mega Drive turned Jurassic Park into a platformer. Here you’re still Dr Alan Grant, or you can be a deadly Velociraptor in pursuit of Dr Grant. This version feels more like a movie tie-in compared to the others, as Dr Grant is trying to survive the park following the T-Rex attack.
This platformer feels clumsy to control. It’s inconsistent on what ledges can be grabbed to avoid falling into the path of a Dino or pit of spikes below. Dr Grant has Tranquiliser darts and grenades at his disposal to knock out the Dinosaurs. In contrast, the Raptor has to bite and kick their way through soldiers and other Dinos. For an early 90s platformer, it’s alright, but the frustrations stand out these days.
NES and GB
The NES/GB version is the one I am most familiar with, next to the Mega Drive original. I spent a lot of time on the GameBoy version. Its tunes are still burnt into my memory. Returning to this game was a walk down memory lane, for better or worse.
The NES and GB versions are essentially the same game, with the NES being in colour. You’re once again playing as Dr Alan Grant, tasked with rescuing Tim and Lex Murphy and collecting a bunch of Dinosaur Eggs before escaping the island.
The levels aren’t large, which is a nice change compared to the more open and easy-to-get-lost SNES game. Between each egg collectathon you’ll also be scouring for key cards and finding terminals. There are additional sequences where you’ll need to help rescue Tim from a Triceratops stampede and Lex from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Here, Dr Grant needs to help guide the kids through these areas, effectively working as an early kind of escort mission. If the kids get stomped on or eaten, then it comes off your health meter; it’s not as easy as it looks.
The placement of items has no rhyme or reason and will often hide eggs or items behind the scenery in ways that are just mean. Because of the isometric perspective, Dinosaurs would also get lost behind walls. This game is riddled with tiny Procompsognathus’ or Compy’s to just get in the way.
JP: The Chaos Continues – SNES and GB
While these two games share the same name, the GB version isn’t a port of the SNES version. The SNES version starts with a cutscene (which has voice acting, too, surprisingly) where a corporate rival to InGen called BioSyn is looking to steal Dinosaurs. What’s not included is that the generic-looking Merc you’re controlling is actually meant to be Dr Alan Grant. Surviving the island makes you the best candidate to run and gun through the jungle and wipe out everything that moves.
Instead of the isometric overworld, it is now a 2D platformer. Reminiscent of Contra, only don’t go expecting a game as fun as Contra. You are presented with a few missions to take on, whether it is dealing with a T-Rex, gassing a building or taking down a helicopter.
The SNES version has difficulty settings, but the game doesn’t tell you that there are different endings and extra missions depending on your chosen setting. This information is only in the manual, which I couldn’t find within this collection. Regardless of the difficulty setting, this game is punishing in frustrating ways. If you die the mission needs to be started from the beginning, timers begin without warning and if you aren’t prepared chances are high you’ll die. There’s also information omitted because the manual isn’t included in any form, and the game is super light on information. For example, you need to be careful of what and how many Dinosaurs you kill through the game. It turns out that if you kill too many, then it’s game over. There is also a 2 player Co-op mode here. I wouldn’t recommend it, but then I wouldn’t recommend playing much of it alone, either.
The Game Boy version sees Dr Alan Grant returning to the island; this time, he actually looks like the Dr Grant we are familiar with. This version is also a side scroller, only you’re exploring different enclosures on the Island as you collect Key Cards and defeat boss Dinosaurs. I actually didn’t mind this game; it’s a simplistic platformer with a Jurassic Park coat of paint. Levels don’t go on too long, and out of this collection, it controls pretty decently compared to the rest. If you liked the music of the NES/GB Jurassic Park the good news is that it’s back again!
JP Rampage Edition -Mega Drive
After surviving Jurassic Park once, Dr Alan Grant once again becomes a stone-cold killer. Gunning his way through the park, against Dinosaurs and Humans alike. Or you can be the vicious Velociraptor, biter, kicker and spin jump extraordinaire.
Just like the original Jurassic Park, Sega goes its own way for a sequel and follows up with the Rampage Edition. Like the original game, this is a platformer, and you can choose between Dr Grant and the Raptor. The visuals here are more simplified than the original Mega Drive game, making it easier to see what is happening.
Like Chaos Continues, Rampage Edition lets you choose what mission/area you’ll take on. One includes riding a Gallimimus, which you can essentially speed run through the area with. You can go on a frustrating boat ride while avoiding a T-Rex, or visit the Aviary, which I always thought was a cool addition in reference to the original novel.
Dr Grant feels slightly better to control here, but the Raptor is still a wild beast! Now, with an added spin jump, the Raptor has added mobility, if only attacking wasn’t still awkward to do. The levels still feel hard to navigate, especially when there is any verticality incorporated.
Every one of these games is roughgoing; they are products of a bygone era (30 years ago, apparently…). Each of them is also fascinating in how a licensed movie game wound up as 3 very different games with quite different non-lost world sequels. The positive is that most of these games are not like the others, each with a different take on this franchise that was still really new at the time.
Limited Run Games have added the ability to save the game at any point, although keep in mind there is only one save slot per game. There is also the very useful retro collection addition of a rewind button. You’ll likely give it a workout with these games, although I did find that the rewind doesn’t go quite far enough back. If you get into a scrape chances are by the time you rewind out you’ll just be in place for it to happen all over again. It wouldn’t be as annoying if some of the games weren’t so punishing. If you die in the SNES Chaos Continues, you have to start the mission from the beginning!
While the collection contains seven games, there is a smattering of extras included. Each game has a music player to enjoy some admittingly catchy chip tunes. You can select the size of the screen (the biggest still has borders), or you can apply a CRT or Dot Matrix filter depending on the version of the game. Given how little information these games give you, a glaring omission are the game manuals. A nice touch for the isometric Jurassic Park games is that they can open up a map in the collections pause screen to help out. Unfortunately, this isn’t also available for the side-scrolling games, where I would argue it would be just as helpful.
It’s great that some of these older games are being made available on current platforms, and bundling them like this helps. It’s unfortunate that the games haven’t aged well, and they were pretty frustrating at the time. The only difference is that way back, these games might be the only games we’d get until the next Birthday or Christmas. It’s Jurassic Park, what could go wrong!?
The Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection, much like Jurassic Park itself, is bringing history into the modern age. While in Jurassic Park, it meant accidentally unleashing killer Dinosaurs, in the case of this collection, it is unleashing some frustrating retro games onto an unsuspecting public.