Review – LEGO: Jurassic World

When you open the door to a discussion on LEGO games, a few people that mosey in can’t wait to tell you how terrible they are. They’d go on about how they’d be nothing if they hadn’t stood on the shoulders of franchised giants, and inevitably bust out the ‘they’re for kids, anyway’ remark.

What’s frustrating is that, well… they aren’t wrong.

LEGO games ARE for children, and a major part of what makes them work for big kids are the licenses at play. But these complaints often come from narrow-minded plebeians that have never played a LEGO game, so I’ll lump them in the ‘broken clock is right twice a day’ category.

Once upon a time, I, too, was a LEGO naysayer. It wasn’t because the character models were too cutesy, nor because the gameplay was simple. No, it was because the most important character of all had been missing: Good stage design. Tackling Star Wars had been a grand idea, but the backdrops were too sterile and felt restrictive. But as time went on, this aspect of the LEGO games had gradually improved.

The real turning point had been Harry Potter Years 1-4. It did a fantastic job of adapting the film world into something that wasn’t entirely devoid of life… into something that was merely accented by LEGO as opposed to being ruled by it. Ever since, each successive game has only gotten better, with Pirates of the Caribbean and Marvel the developer’s greatest achievements to date.

Now, all four ‘Jurassic’ films have been adapted for the world of LEGO. Question was, would it roar onto the scene, or whimper its way to bargain bins?

Undoubtedly, one of the largest obstacles LEGO Jurassic World had was translating the second and third films. I’m a HUGE fan of the original, but The Lost World and Jurassic Park III left a lot to be desired.

While The Lost World had some good ideas at play and Steven Spielberg at the helm, it suffered from sluggish pacing and a silly, overindulgent finale. Jurassic Park III was smart to bring back Alan Grant, but… man, I don’t even know where to begin. Everyone else had been miscast to a horrifying degree. William H. Macy had nothing to work with, and Tea Leoni spent all her screen time screaming “ERIIIIIIIC!” Any semblance of plot or charm were nowhere to be found, instead opting to engage the audience as a 92 minute dino extravaganza… but, I guess that’s what happens when the director and his advisor (Spielberg himself) decided to reject a working script FIVE WEEKS before filming was set to begin. Bad jokes, T-Rex pee, a talking raptor, and a disrespected fan-favorite dinosaur, all culminate into a project that should have remained extinct.

I know some will disagree with this harsh assessment, but there’s a lot of people who have little-to-no love for the sequels. So, why would people want to play through them in a LEGO game?

Simply put, the devs understand how to keep things interesting. In this case, all four films are adapted into a total of 11 hours of playtime (or 15+ if you’re a completionist). All the meat’s been stripped from the bone, and all fat trimmed from the edges. What we have here is a lovingly crafted homage to the ‘greatest hits’ of the franchise. Every major set piece you’d expect would make an appearance does, and they’ve all been laced with the dev’s unique brand of family friendly humor. This means we don’t have to suffer to get to The Lost World’s exciting moments, while the plotless, yet action-packed Jurassic Park III works better as a cut-to-the-chase game than it ever did as a film. And hell, because LEGO Jurassic World incorporates the orchestral soundtrack and even original voice work from the films, there’s more than enough nostalgic driven charm to keep the Dinosaur Train a-chuggin’.

Of course, the gameplay itself hasn’t changed one iota. You typically have two characters at your disposal, each with their own special abilities. You move from one area to the next by breaking nearly everything in sight. Break the right stuff down, and you’re left with building blocks that will help you reach the next part of the stage. Specific skills are required to reach certain locations, so no single (primary) character will be neglected. Otherwise, everything else you beat down will leave behind LEGO bits, the game’s currency which can be used to unlock new characters, vehicles, and even dinosaurs.

Yes. You can even play as your favorite JP dinosaurs.

Very few are accessible through the primary campaign, however. You’ll constantly come across obstacles that can only be broken by certain dinosaurs (or other characters, for that matter), so you’re constantly reminded that you’ll need to play through the game multiple times if you’re looking for 100% completion. It would have been great to give us more control of the T-Rex, but the only extended time spent with him (her?) is during a playable bonus stage during the end-credits of each ‘film’.

Before moving on, let’s address something about those character abilities, because honestly, I’m surprised the doofs of #gamergate haven’t caught wind of them. While the guys are sneaking, shooting, grappling, chopping, or fixing their way through obstacles, the girls – get this – scream to break glass, and leap into ginormous piles of dinosaur shit. Now, I’m not personally bothered by this, because it echoes the source material. Women in the entirety of the franchise are quite strong, and digging through poo actually showcased their intellect, not some kind of weakness. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well in the context of a LEGO game. But, let’s be honest: If you’re playing LEGO Jurassic World, you’ve likely seen the films and know what the deal is.

But if you have yet to see Jurassic World, stay away from that portion of the game until you do (shouldn’t be long, I anticipate a DVD/Blu-ray release in October). In my opinion, it’s the first sequel that actually behaves like a worthy successor, but that experience might be lost on an audience that’s already had key moments spoiled by this game.

Anyway, the gameplay does get a little tedious, and the devs acknowledge that by tossing an occasional ‘chase sequence’ at us. Once in a while, you’ll find your characters running at the screen with a dinosaur licking their chops a few dozen feet behind. There’s pieces of LEGO currency to collect here as well, but unless you know what side of the screen they’ll appear on next (since you can’t see what’s coming), you’re bound to miss out on more of the goods than you’d like. Unfortunately, these chase sequences ALSO get tedious, since they seem to be the only variation in gameplay throughout.

Well, almost.

Once you hit the Jurassic World portion of the game, you’ll get to ride around in those human-sized hamster balls (as seen in the trailer), which provide new ways to solve environmental puzzles. You’ll also shoot projectiles from turrets, guide Compys through green pipes, bash Triceratops through concrete barriers, and quick-time event your way through massive dino battles. All are a welcome change of pace, but these moments are very brief, and too few and far between.

As far as performance is concerned, the game ran smooth on the Xbox One. LEGO titles aren’t exactly demanding though, so that isn’t much of a surprise. The only issue I stumbled upon during my time with the game was that a character would get stuck, meaning I’d have to quit and reload my most recent save. This wasn’t an isolated incident either, as it happened a total of four or five times. Thankfully, the game auto-saves enough to make this a minor issue, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

Despite the flaws mentioned throughout this review, they’re all par for the course in LEGO-land. I really did have a blast playing through LEGO Jurassic World, and I’m not afraid to admit it’s because I’m a huge fan of the franchise. I mean, that’s the appeal of any LEGO game, is it not? It’s fun to play in a virtual playground that’s been designed as your favorite entertainment property, and the brand really knocked it out of the ‘Park’ this time. If you’re the kind of gamer that can just sit back and chill with something that offers little in the way of challenge or complexity… well, as John Hammond would say: “It’s right up your alley!” However, if you’ve never played a LEGO game before, there’s no better place to start than right here.

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