Most of the time, movie licensed games turn out to garbage. Sure, there are exceptions, like GoldenEye 007, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, but those are the exceptions to the rule. But every once in a while, you come across a game like Jurassic Park on the NES. A game that’s not exactly a great game or anything, but it’s certainly much better than what you’d expect.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the game is the visuals. They’re bright and colorful and have a surprising amount of detail for an NES game. All the dinosaurs look like their movie counterparts, with some of the larger enemies, like the stampeding triceratops, having tons of scales and wrinkles. It’s really impressive stuff, especially when you consider that most NES games look like a series of boxes crudely aligned to resemble a character.
The music in Jurassic Park is absolutely phenomenal. Although it doesn’t sound anything like John Williams’ score from the movie, the tunes are expertly crafted and are easily some of my favorite NES songs. It was like the composer felt like this was his chance to make it big, so even though it was just a movie game, he was going to put as much effort into the soundtrack as he could. Don’t believe me? YouTube user GBelair uploaded the soundtrack to his channel, and you can hear the music to the first level right here.
Playing the game itself is fun, but at times is unfairly difficult. Your main objective most of the time is to collect dinosaur eggs. In the first level, Tim is trapped on the other side of the main gates to the park and is about to be crushed by a stampede of triceratops. In order to save him, you have to collect eggs which will eventually drop the passcode to get the gate open. I’m not entirely sure why eggs would have a passcode, but whatever, that’s what you do. Along the way, you fight various dinosaurs who all have unique patterns. It’s pretty cool, but the constantly respawning enemies get to be a little much at times.
There’s multiple types of pick-ups to help you out. You’ll find ammo scattered about, some more powerful than others. You can push the select button to cycle through your ammo, allowing you to horde the super-powerful blue ammo for when you need it the most. You’ll also find boxes with question marks on them. These might be the worst thing about the entire game. The boxes will either grant you health or explode in your face causing damage. There’s no way to tell them apart, so when you’re in desperate need for some health, you’re really risking a lot if you decide to grab one. When you consider how vicious the dinosaurs are even in the early levels, having pick-ups that also hurt you just seems unbalanced.
Every once in a while, the game will shift it’s focus and allow for completely different kinds of gameplay. Remember the stampeding triceratops? When you get past the main gate, you’ll find Tim just standing in the middle of the screen while those triceratops come charging down towards him. You have to touch Tim, causing him to follow you exactly, and then weave in and out of the dinosaurs until they’ve all gone away. The second level has you tracking down Tim’s sister Lex, who apparently chose to hide in the T-Rex enclosure. While the beginning of the level plays out very similarly to the first, it ends with you in a raft, paddling your way to a boss fight against the T-Rex.
The fight with the T-Rex is ridiculous. I honestly don’t think I ever made it past this point when I was a kid, and I still couldn’t manage to do it today. The main problem is Lex, who will follow you around, but not as closely as Tim did. So, you’ll find yourself dodging the T-Rex’s mouth, only to have Lex run directly into it a few seconds later. It’s absolutely infuriating.
And, that’s my thoughts on Jurassic Park for the NES. With some better balancing, it could have stood out as one of the exceptions to the “movie games are garbage” rule. But as it stands, it’s a pretty cool game that’s just a little to difficult for it’s own good.