Thursday, January 9, 2020

Game 18: Jurassic Park 3: Dino Defender

Name:Jurassic Park III: Dino Defender
Publisher:Knowledge Adventure
Developer:Funnybone Interactive
Genre:"Survival Horror"
Time:8 Hours

I don't really know what the audience for this game is. Children are unlikely to play this for long. Fans of cinematic platformers aren't going to like how stiff and unfluid the controls feel. Fans of survival horror, which is what I've been playing this as, aren't going to enjoy how lame the puzzles and fighting are. Someone eager to learn (or make someone else learn) will be disappointed by the lack of education. I guess there's always the three Jurassic Park know, the oldschool kind, not the new kind that just buy anything with their favorite brand on it. Given that Knowledge Adventure was passed around by many companies I can see that this was really just a cheap cash-in for kids...for some reason.
When starting the game it frequently took minutes to load. I don't know if this is a hardware (my dvd drive) or software. (the game is badly coded) I checked the other reviews (my opinion was set in stone by the first boss battle) and several others mentioned this issue. I think they were just bad at compressing their images, and the backgrounds take an unreasonable amount of space on the disc. This was made in Macromedia Director. An engine you might be familiar with if you enjoy adventure games from the '90s. The Journeyman Project, Cosmology of Kyoto, not Myst though. Director was the bootleg Myst engine*. Director contributes, I think, to most of my liked adventure games. Not my favorites, just the ones I like. Judging by this game, however, it is not a good tool for anything actiony. Hmm, probably could've told you that without having played this again**.
The game feels curiously small. Probably some fifty or so dinosaurs and two levels that are basically a series of boss battles. I don't know, I just don't think what is effectively a giant island zoo is going to have that little in the way of animals. A few reasons the game is so short, low development costs, relatively high level costs and a strict timetable. Knowledge Adventure wasn't exactly flush with cash and Funnybone wasn't exactly a group with the best graphical talent. Add in a movie you have to be released before and you have a recipe for eh.
Because this is a children's game, we can't really use effective weapons against our targets. Instead we get nets, sleeping gas, call boxes and flares. Effectively nets and sleeping gas. At no point, despite knowing that programming it would be to much work, do I ever feel like I have actually trapped the dinosaurs. 1/10

Every dino has a unique way of dealing, and while I wasn't always happy to deal with them, this was the best designed aspect of the game. I can see someone really into dinosaurs liking this aspect. 5/10

...I don't know if there is or isn't any non-enemies. Eh, might as well assume not. 0/10

Somehow I find myself disliking most of what is there and wishing there was more of it. I don't mind sections of each level, but each level also has sections that are just annoying. 3/10

Player Agency:
To recap, this controls like a cinematic platformer. Ledges are a key element. You climb up them, you climb down them, you sometimes grab unto them at the end of a jump. I find the controls lack the fluidity of a typical cinematic platformer, they're just wrong. I also dislike how your environment prevents you from performing some actions. 3/10

It exists. You don't really do much. You push maybe one boulder, flip some switches. There's some lame puzzles too, I guess. 1/10

There's definitely that good educational children's game feel here, but once you get past the tutorial level things feel...disconnected. The combination of the way the backgrounds and the characters in the foreground clash. Not graphically per say, but in the sense that they don't belong together. I don't associate this in a good way. It feels not unlike like an alien world. I guess, for a dinosaur game that isn't a bad option. 4/10

The graphics in Dino Defender are two layers, foreground and background. Each are prerendered, and a few times they interact. It is not always easy to see what can be climbed or pushed. That's one problem. Another is, well, let's compare this to the most famous example, Myst. Myst is basically a topography map with some 3D models thrown on top. Water was carefully done so it wouldn't reveal the limitations of 3D at the time. There was a waterfall, but I don't think it was too bad. Now, Dino Defender, in comparison, looks worse in most respects. Certainly, the dinosaurs look good, as do the death cutscenes, but the rest feels really bland. Lifeless. Lower quality than the absolute best 1993 had to offer. There are several glaring graphical issues, that as soon as I spot them, make me cringe. I don't cringe often, even at old 3D. 3/10

A raging typhoon destroyed the electric fences around Jurassic Park. Isn't that just the plot to every Jurassic film? There's nothing outside of a guy who tries to sound very important person in the opening menu. I guess you could say the protagonist's journey resembles a plot, but its not a very good one. According to places I read after the fact, the protagonist's suit is supposed to be some kind of bio-mechanical thing. Nothing mentioned this, but I could have missed it. 0/10

While on the surface we have everything we need for an ideal sound system, all elements are bad in some way. Dinosaur sounds all feel off. The footsteps always sound like grass. The music is generic movie background music, in midi form. Slightly more...disconcerting however. 2/10

That's...20 out of 100. You might say this is because it should have never been placed in a shooter environment. I say bull. Give me a tranq rifle, competent level design, an engine that isn't Macromedia and a good music composer and this game shoots up to the forties.
Contemporary reviews seem to have been mostly positive. One positive from KidZone, apparently written by someone with less grasp on the English language than myself, refering to it as a 2D Tomb Raider. He's generally positive, calling the death scenes "just plane cool", but taking issue with the game's apparent massive sound requirements, saying he has "all-knew hardware" and that this isn't Max Payne. He refers to the game repeatedly as an arcade action game. Hints that maybe his high praise isn't entirely legitimate peaks through in places, as he refers to later levels as irritating. This review seems to have been taken from somewhere else, making Max Payne a reasonable reference.
I couldn't access the other positive review on Mobygames, so I only have the blurb. Which sounds like it was also written as a promotional aid. "Testers would play again, but not for several months."
There were two Russian reviews I couldn't read. I suspect they're probably more even-handed.
Meanwhile, Wikipedia had a few more.
USA Today, for some reason, had a review of it. The reviewer didn't seem to understand how video games work, referring to six levels of difficulty. My sentiments regarding the game's age range and the difficulty are echoed here. "It works well because it requires an agile mind in addition to good hand-eye coordination." Which, when you get down to it, that's a lot of video games from this era.
Elecplay, some website I've never heard of, probably because of a severe lack of quality control. The publisher is referred to as Sierra and the game is compared to Oddworld. No real opinion on it one way or another from the author, however.
We have contemporary reviews for this one. First up, Kotaku, in a curiously not bad article, states nothing much about the quality but calls the game very weird, and mentions that without dinosaurs on-screen this feels nothing like Jurassic Park.
Meanwhile, The Gaming Beaver, some LPer I've never heard of before, seems to like this. I can't really tell, he's the kind of LPer that annoys me so I can't stomach him.
There's also a very quick speed run for this, meaning someone must have liked this enough to get their time down to just under 17 minutes. Meaning, if I cared, I could probably get my time under an hour. Would that be like Resident Evil and grant me invisible enemies or special weapons? Nah, probably not. And I didn't even care enough to do that with Resident Evil, I'm going to do that with a children's game.
Before I finish, I have one point I'd like to bring up. Non-violence. Several reviews mention the game as being non-violent. Now, I'm not terribly into that sort of thing, as can be evidenced by my fondness of games involving violence. However, if I was a proponent of non-violence, I don't think I'd like a game where I have to use dinosaur bones to knock out a living dinosaur. So, for some reason, if you're looking this game up and want to know about that, its untrue. Come to think of it, even the Myst series, something supposedly non-violent, frequently has violence in its endings, or the story would end much quicker if you were able to resort to violence.

There were no Mobygames user ratings/reviews, but we do have some from GameFAQs. a 3.5/5 about twelve hours and let's say a 3.5 difficulty. Probably fair.
As an aside, almost everyone seems to have finished the game, or gotten somewhere around level 5. That's actually really surprising.

As to the companies...
Funnybone Interactive almost exclusively did educational games. Children's games are a better choice, as if this game was any indication, they're not very educational. Only the other Jurassic Park game they did, Danger Zone, is of any remote interest in this project, and I have no desire to play a computerized board game here.
Knowledge Adventure...well, we're certainly going to see them at least one more time. Maybe two if I decide to break like I broke for this.

As to myself, well, I need something easier. Something that doesn't make me question the game's base design. I'll get one of those things.

*Myst, meanwhile used HyperCard, an engine known for being used by Myst and the rest of Cyan's output. Also some JRPG.
**Now, while there are not any other action game examples I can label off the top of my head, I can tell you about Mortalus, an adventure game with action sequences thrown in. Completely unplayable action sequences.

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