Review: LEGO Jurassic World

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As much as I want to be done with the annual barrage of licensed LEGO games, TT Games’ fun-loving formula continues to suck me back in every time. Given my general lack of enthusiasm toward the movie release of Jurassic World, I thought maybe the video game adaptation would be the one to push me over the edge of not caring anymore. But alas, here I am, once more glued to my DualShock 4, gleefully romping around in a LEGO-brick world as a vast array of digitized minifigures. Dinosaur minifigs even! How sweet is that?

Though it is not made entirely clear by the title, LEGO Jurassic World is a fully LEGO-ized compilation of characters and storylines from all of the Jurassic flicks, not just the new box office powerhouse starring the dreamy Chris Pratt and the lovely Bryce Dallas Howard. After a prologue mission set during the early moments of the first movie, you are given the choice to play through the progression of Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Jurassic Park III, or jump straight into the story missions for Jurassic World. For continuity, I chose to go through the original trilogy first and finish off with Jurassic World. The game does a wonderful job of capturing all of the iconic moments from the films, either as cutscenes, playable levels, on-rails dino chase/escape sequences, or quick-time events. For just the story missions, each campaign is about the length of a movie (two to three hours), so you’re looking at an average range of eight to twelve hours to complete all four, more or less depending on how obsessively you go after studs and other collectibles.

As usual, TT Games lightens the mood by injecting a good-natured sense of humor throughout, using the Danish toy line’s inherent charm to take some of the scary edge off of certain scenes and welcome in the younger target audience. (Think of it as the PG-13 rating of the movies being toned down to PG.) When Donald Gennaro gets chomped off the porcelain throne by the T-rex, he first runs into the bathroom and builds a barricade out of toilet paper rolls, and then he tries to fight off the king of all dinosaurs with a toilet brush. In The Lost World, when Kelly Malcolm drops her gymnastics kick on the Raptor, the scene cuts to a judges’ table where Ian Malcolm and Sarah Harding give her perfect 10s while the Raptor on the panel does its best French Judge impression by only giving her a 6. Clearly someone’s holding a grudge.

Welcome to LEGO Jurassic Park!

Welcome to LEGO Jurassic Park!

Continuing what LEGO Batman 2 started a few years and many games ago, LEGO Jurassic World features voice acting. I’m normally all for having voice-overs, but in this case I think the experience may have been better off without them. For starters, the game is packed full of generic, nameless NPCs who vomit bad jokes and one-liners as you walk by them. Additionally, the audio quality of the dialogue sourced directly from the movies is woefully inconsistent, at times downright piss-poor. Many of the voice tracks sound as if the actors were recorded in an echo chamber or a submarine. TT also had to replace some of the original actors (I’m assuming due to licensing conflicts) with new actors who try (and fail) to provide respectable sound-alike performances. Sorry, but Dennis Nedry without Wayne Knight’s voice just isn’t Dennis Nedry.

In terms of gameplay, LEGO Jurassic World is typical LEGO-game fare, consisting of easygoing 3D platforming with light puzzle-solving and the occasional bout of button-mashing beat-’em-up combat against compys or generic InGen mercenaries. Family-friendly cooperative play is the draw, but playing solo is every bit as enjoyable–even if TT Games still has yet to find a way to make the companion AI smarter than a bag of dino droppings. Sometime during my lifetime it really would be nice to play a LEGO game with AI-controlled characters that don’t get stuck in the environment or just stand around twiddling their minifig thumbs when not under active control.

Each playable character livens up the gameplay with a unique set of navigation and problem-solving abilities, accurately portraying their actions and personality traits from the films. Alan Grant can dig up loose dirt piles with his shovel, assemble bone piles into full skeletal models, and cut ropes and vines with the raptor claw he uses to scare the boy with at the beginning of the first movie. Ellie Sattler uses her paleobotanist education to make saplings grow into larger plants, and when other characters turn away from smelly piles of dinosaur poo, she’s willing to dive right in to uncover hidden objects. Robert Muldoon is armed with a dart rifle and tracks buried items. Ian Malcolm has a flare to light dark areas and is able to solve Simon Says equation puzzles. Dennis Nedry throws soda cans and hacks computer terminals. Nick Van Owen and Sarah Harding use their photography skills to flash-stun dinosaurs. Billy Brennan paraglides across long gaps. And… I think you get the idea here. Beyond the main cast members, there is quite a bit of filler in the game’s 94 total playable characters–it’s hard to get excited about unlocking various no-name park workers, guards, scientists, and soldiers. But there are a number of fun cameo minifigs, like Mr. DNA and even Steven Spielberg.

Don't go into the long grass.

Don’t go into the long grass.

Each movie title takes place within its own hub environment that steadily opens up as progress is made through the story levels. These hubs are not open world per se, but they are large enough in scope to add an element of free roam exploration. While it is a blast to relive magic movie moments in the individual campaigns, the game doesn’t truly come into its own until free play, when you have free reign to go back through any level or environment as any character to hunt for gold and red bricks, rescue workers in peril and sick dinosaurs, and unlock jeeps, ATVs, Gyrospheres and other vehicles for use in checkpoint races (or just to cruise around in), among other optional tasks. Thankfully, navigation is effortless through a world map that allows for intuitive quick travel from point to point, even across hubs.

Free play is also when you get to unleash the dino minifigs. The story missions don’t offer much opportunity to play as the dinosaurs, but in free play a number of species are available at any time right from the character select wheel. Raptors sniff out scent trails and pounce up to higher ledges. The Dilophosaurus spits venom that melts through otherwise unbreakable rocks. The mighty Triceratops rams through weak barriers. Larger dinos such as the T-Rex, Brachiosaurus, Mosasaurus, and Indominus Rex are playable as well, but only from special spawn pads located in park enclosures and special arena locales. To work around this limitation, the game offers a dinosaur customizer that allows you to mix and match DNA traits to create cross-breed dinos. For example a Raptor with a T-Rex head (and the abilities that come with it). Even though the controls for some of the dinosaurs are a bit stiff and tank-like–the screen-filling Brachiosaurus is majestic to behold yet moves at a snail’s pace–the feeling of childhood wonder and nostalgia that takes hold while stomping around as toy dinosaurs ultimately wins out.

All told, LEGO Jurassic World is brimming with fun, albeit familiar gameplay, signature LEGO humor, and OCD collectible hunting that will eat up a meaty 20 to 30 hours to achieve 100% completion. (I got my Platinum trophy in around 28 hours.) No, the game does not push the series forward with any grand innovations or even address many of the nagging bugs that have gone unsquashed for some time now. However, TT Games’ joyful LEGO brick recreation of the Jurassic Park universe is enough on its own to revitalize the increasingly stale series formula with a much-needed shot of dino magic.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Playable dinosaurs
+ Recreates all of the iconic movie moments with that signature LEGO charm
+ Diverse character roster offers plenty of interesting gameplay interactions
+ Four story campaigns plus addictive free play exploration

Cons:
– Still no improvements to AI or other reoccurring bugs
– Low quality movie voice-over samples
– Familiar LEGO-game formula is on the verge of overkill

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS4, also available for 3DS, PC, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Developer: TT Games
Release Date: 6/12/2015
Genre: Action/Adventure
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-2 (local co-op only)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!