The Lost World: Jurassic Park

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 hunter, the first of two playable human characters.

 

 

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.

Play as the T-Rex, but watch out for the laggy controls.

 

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.

 

Here is where you see your skill percentage, as well as the amount of DNA you collected through the level.

 

 

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.

Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles (PS1)

Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles for the Playstation 1 is a game that I had located in a bargain bin about a year ago.  After watching the trailer for The Force Awakens the other day, I decided to dig it out and finally give it a chance.  I’m not too sure that was the best idea.  My time could have been better used cleaning my attic, garage, or simply zoning out at the wall.

You begin the game by choosing one of five Jedi Knights: Plo Koon, Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Adi Gallia.  After you receive word from the chancellor concerning shipping to Naboo, you then take your character to battle through ten levels, all with different settings (Trade Federation Battleship, Swamps of Naboo, Tatooine, etc).  Throughout these levels, you must overcome several different instances of platforming, enemy swarms, short-lived escorting, and incoming motion hazards (rolling boulders and animal stampedes, for example).  In addition, this must all be done while blocking enemy blaster shots, managing terrible controls, and dealing with a limited amount of force powers.  Lives are replaced by credits, giving a nostalgic arcade feel, which makes it seem only right for a buddy to hop in and copilot the game for the duration.

Select your Jedi!

Select your Jedi!

The visuals are actually quite impressive for the Playstation 1, and would have been moreso, had it been released a few years earlier.  Being an early 2000 release brought its wow factor down considerably, but not so much that it hurts the eyes or distracts much from the gameplay.  There is a great deal of strange texture rendering, however, especially in the Naboo swamp.  What I mean by this is that you can clearly make out grass ahead of you, while the ground is blurry underfoot and behind.  Then, when you approach the rendered section, it becomes blurry, and the places you were just inhabiting become fully clear.  It’s not a huge deal, but it did catch my eye whilst destroying droids in that particular level.  The character models (especially those based off of the actors appearing in the film) look decent, but had a few quirks.  For example, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, looks incredibly confused the entire time, and Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn is strangely missing his neck.  The in-game animations are carried out just fine, though, save a few awkward running motions.

I believe Mr. Jackson is befuddled over who's taken Neeson's neck.

I believe Mr. Jackson is befuddled over who’s taken Neeson’s neck.

The music, being seemingly brought straight from The Phantom Menace, provides a very nice soundtrack to slash enemies to, and appears to actually fit specific scenarios.  This is a big plus for me, as too many games I’ve previously endured had randomly generated scores and tracks that just did not fit the scene.  This really takes away from the immersion of the game.  Thankfully, though, this is not the case with JPB.

While making your way through the levels, you will pick up power-ups that accumulate points, and fleeting upgrades to your light saber. The points are then attached to skill and level.  You don’t have the option to manually level your character, from what I can tell, but it does help your character’s health and force pool throughout the game.  Each time you pick up a goodie, you hear a little snippet from Yoda, addressing his pleasure from your exploring.  It’s not much, but it is amusing (the first few times, anyway).  Eventually, the slashing gets a bit old, but for a good while, it is rather satisfying.

Grab a buddy and carve up some droids.

Grab a buddy and carve up some droids.

What really turned me off from this game was the frustrating 2.5D platforming.  You have no idea where you’re jumping until you see a tiny shadow on the targeted platform, letting you know that you’re on the mark; or you simply miss, falling to your death. Perhaps if the aggressively laggy controls were a tad more responsive, this wouldn’t be quite an issue.  However, the final product we are left with will drain your credits quicker than a rigged arcade cabinet at a sketchy pool hall by the docks.

One spot of guesswork platforming.

One spot of guesswork platforming.

Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles for the Playstation 1 is a frustratingly platformed beat ’em up that does a couple of things alright, but mostly just falls short.  If you discover this game in a bargain bin or garage sale for a shiny nickel, and you have a competent copilot in mind, you may want to pick it up.  If you’re looking for a good Jedi-themed game to enjoy alone, I wouldn’t recommend it, as there are much better choices out there.

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