While perusing a local vintage game store, I blundered upon The Lost World: Jurassic Park for the PlayStation 1. I bought it, played it, and woke up the next day with patches of hair missing from my head. Visually, for its time, it’s a good game, and the sounds are fantastic. The gameplay, however, leaves you wanting.
Developed by DreamWorks Interactive, and published by Electronic Arts, Lost World is a side-scrolling platformer that will test your skills, as well as your resolve. You start out as Compsognathus, or “Compy” for short. After battling through waves of Velociraptors and hunters with your small-dog-sized dino, you venture into the shoes of a human hunter, Velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and finally, Sarah Harding (the only human character that transitions from movie to game). Through these characters, you will fight your way across the plains, jungle, and human camps of Isla Sorna, or “Site B”. The story? Survive. That’s basically it. Each character has a set of levels dedicated to them (30 in total, spread out over six-plus hours of gameplay), with a quick cut scene before each first level, setting the scene for the player. At the beginning of my playthrough, I, being a very story-oriented player, found the lack of writing irritating. As I continued to play, however, I found myself questioning that assessment, ultimately coming to grips with the story actually being exactly what was needed. This game is hard. Brutally hard. Until you figure out the strategies to beat the levels, you will die….often. With that in mind, the story actually works perfectly. SURVIVE. That’s the story, that’s your motivation, that’s what you have to do. As a dino (Compy, Velociraptor, T-Rex), you must out-maneuver or kill other dinos and human hunters armed to the teeth, with only your teeth. As a human (loaded with various weapons, including a machine gun, flamethrower, darts, flares and a grappler for platforming), you must also out-maneuver, only your targets are strictly the dinosaurs roaming the island.
The game, being released in 1997, is graphically solid, with beautifully portrayed backgrounds, and rich colors. The dinosaurs are rendered far better than the humans, with faces somehow articulated clearly through the PlayStation 1’s pre-HD tech. The T-Rex sports the same, almost mischievous look it carried in the film and the Velociraptors all appear to be almost smiling as they jump on a human’s shoulders and eat their head. The in-game, movie-inspired music feels somewhat out of place, especially when a pretty, sleepy-time orchestra tune is accompanying you while you desperately run, jump, and grapple away from the roaring T-Rex. However, this only happens a handful of occasions. Through the majority of the playthrough, the music is fairly decent, and adds to the suspense of survival by picking up the tempo at certain times, or mellowing out at others as needed. Something that really stood out to me were the sounds of the game. The T-Rex’s roar and the bark of the Velociraptor were spot on from the film. The prime sounds exploded from my speakers with impressive clarity, which I shall consider the X Factor of this title.
As I stated before, this game is fairly tough until you get accustomed to each level. I died a bunch. Once I accepted that fact, I relaxed a little, and started to map out the levels. I took notes on where to grapple up, shoot a flare, or simply how close to the edge of a platform I could walk to shoot a baddie, without falling off. The levels then side-stepped the irritating frustration, and evolved into a quite addicting challenge.
Regardless of the addiction factor, there are a few aspects that just didn’t do it for me. While the control scheme makes sense in its arrangement, the follow-through is terrible. The buttons are laggy, and often get you into trouble because of it. Imagine, as a child, your older, cocky cousin comes to stay at your family’s farm. Although his name is right next to your name on the chore list, he doesn’t do anything, and takes credit for your work, leaving your butt on the parentals’ list to chew. Well, that’s sort of what Lost World does to you through its controls. You push yourself to get it done, only to have four Velociraptors jump on your head when you go back for that missed power-up. Now you’re yelling at your Playstation. It retorts with, “Oh, I’m sorry…I didn’t realize you had open wounds. Here, let me just pour some salt in them…theeeerrrrreee we go….much better.” The salt, you ask? After those baddies be-head you, regardless of where you’re at, you’re going to start back over at the beginning sequence for that character! Ha!
Along with the graphics, sounds, and addictive gameplay, Lost World does a fairly decent job at varying up the level requirements. Some levels are spent running and attacking, while others are spent grappling and distracting. Although no in-depth side missions are available, you are urged to use as much “skill” as possible, and are awarded a title after the level, depending on your skill percentage. Throughout the levels, DNA is scattered about, and if you collect all of them, an actor from the film will make a special cameo once the game is completed.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park for PlayStation 1 will frustrate you beyond belief when you start the levels, but will ultimately give you a feeling of superiority and triumph when you finally complete them. In the six hours of gameplay, you may throw your controller, or put a sailor’s vocabulary to shame. Once it clicks, however, the anger will (for the most part) subside. The controls are laggy, and the respawn is irritating, but it is mostly made up for with striking visuals, outstanding sounds, and addictive gameplay. If you were to discover this game lying about somewhere unloved and dismissed, I would suggest picking it up, as it is a decent game; however, unless you are masochistic by nature (I’m not judging), you’re probably not going to play through it more than once.