Published on June 23rd, 2015 | by Ross Thompson0
Lego: Jurassic World (Warner Bros., Multiformat)
If you would be so kind, allow me a moment to unshackle myself from journalistic objectivity, break the fourth wall and relay to you a personal anecdote. Twenty-two years ago, I was staying with some relatives in Toronto, and my cousin announced in her languid Canadian drawl that she wanted to see the new Stephen Spielberg film: “Ya know, tha one aboot the dinosaurs eating folk.” I was easily sold, having been fascinated by the idea of palaeontology since I was a toddler, and so we made the forty-five minute drive along the freeway to the “nearest” multiplex, conveniently situated at one end of a mall and large enough to house the inhabitants of the entire city in the event of an apocalypse. Before we went into the screen, we loaded up on provisions from the concession stand. My cousin bought a box of shelves of popcorn separated by crustaceous layers of melted butter. It was described as “medium” but was the size of a generous girl guide. I procured a Coke, which was also qualified as a “medium” but was the girth and depth of a window-cleaner’s bucket.
The theatre itself was dark and cavernous. I felt like Jonah in the great fish’s belly, an appropriate simile given that in an hour or so I would watch a terrified lawyer being gobbled up by an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex. Before the film started, there were a lot of trailers for subpar early 90s action movies, and a lot of trips to the bathroom to evacuate the contents of the aforementioned medium Coke. By the time the opening credits rolled, I was extremely giddy. The cinema always has this kind of effect on me, even now as a semi-responsible adult. There is a rough and wonderful magic found in sitting in the dark in a room that smells of stale popcorn and congealed syrup, watching moving pictures being projected onto a screen, as if conjured from someone’s imagination. I can at will recount and re-experience afresh those instances when a film took me entirely out of myself to a place that I cannot adequately capture in words, and Spielberg created many of those instances. His “magic light” touch was epitomised by Jurassic Park, specifically the first moment the characters, and therefore the audience, spy the Brachiosaurus lumbering into view, its great bulk shifting beneath CGI skin as it reaches up to gobble branches off a tree. It was a fantastic – and fantastical – moment, and the audible gasp releasing from the assembled Canadians’ mouths was one of the purest sounds that I have ever heard.
It would be unfair to expect English development company Traveller’s Tales to be able to encapsulate that moment – and everything it represented – in diminutive, digitised plastic form. In this compendium of moments from all four Jurassic Park movies, it is inevitable that the scaling down would lead to some of the magic – and Spielberg’s magic light – being lost. However, that does not mean that there is not a good or potentially successful game on offer here. The biggest issue is the encroaching sense of déjà vu (or déjà joué), the niggling feeling of familiarity that always accompanies each and every LEGO release. Anyone with any knowledge of the videogames industry will know just how lucrative the franchise has become in the past decade. Each incarnation, whether it is Batman or Indiana Jones or Harry Potter, receives essentially the same review with the same criticisms yet goes on to shift multiple units. The premise of each game, as outlined one year ago with The Hobbit, is exactly the same: a wide selection of LEGO characters run amok in pre-rendered versions of scenes from the film, assembling and disassembling things in order to progress to different parts of the level. It’s a basic concept but one that is expanded upon through a series of puzzles that shake up the gameplay. Each character has a unique skill: little Alan Grant can piece together skeletons, security guards with electric prods can kick-start generators, Ian Malcolm can solve equations, Ellie can hoke through mounds of steaming dinosaur poop – yes, really – and so on and so forth. In the classic Metroidvania style, doing so opens up previously unavailable areas, which in turn unlocks new skills, which in turn… well, you get the picture. LEGO Jurassic World does not stray too far from this template, and there are frequent moments of maddening repetition, not only within this game but also of puzzles from previous LEGO jaunts, particularly perfunctory levels spent fleeing towards the camera from rampaging dinosaurs. As is often the criticism with these titles, a breath of fresh air and a few more risks would be most welcome.
However, one has to appreciate that this is designed with children in mind, which has not only led to a simplification of game mechanics but also a softening of the violent scenes. When the Velociraptors stalk kids through a kitchen or a T-Rex stampedes down a busy main street, the emphasis is on humour, and the comedy is quaintly British and therefore largely silly – there is a recurrent gag about sausages, for example. While there may be, ummm, running and, ummm, screaming, it is not surprising that nobody dies in this treatment of the source material: wee LEGO men end up cleaning a dinosaur’s teeth with an oversized brush. That said, there are persistent problems that risk nixing the enjoyment altogether. Unclear objectives, characters getting stuck on the scenery and an occasionally wonky game camera are the order of the day, just as they always have been in every LEGO game since time immemorial. It’s futile to complain about these finer details – they haven’t been fixed before so it’s not likely that they will be fixed now. That said, with multiple replayable levels, challenges, in-jokes and unlocks there is a wealth of content for your money, and as ever it is difficult not to be won over by the tiny avatars of Oscar-nominated actors synching to original dialogue from the films. LEGO Jurassic Worldmight not inspire audible gasps but it is good for consistent chuckles. Medium rather than mammoth entertainment. Ross Thompson