Michael Crichton has got much to answer for. Too much to anser for, some would say. Yes, he is the man responsible for the much-vaunted book which inspired the vastly over-hyped dinosaur film Jurassic Park (Oh no. - Ed).
I will let you into a little secret now. The fame looks even better on screen than you could imagine from the screenshots. In terms of aesthetics. Jurassic Park is probably the most beautiful game you will ever see on the Amiga. It is a vibrant exciting work of art. In fact, it is so lovely that it is surprising that the Late Show on BBC2 has not picked up on it to discuss its quality, meaning and symbolism in an age of disposable consumerism.
But hey, (drums, roll, trumpets trumpet, dogs bark, children scream, grown men faint in anticipation) great graphics do not a game make (phew). We are here to let you know which games are good and which are crap, and with Jurassic Park, there is a real dilemma on this front. The best way of describing the gameplay is to draw an analogy with the film.
DON'T BELIEVE IT
Yes, my steely, rock-hard mind composition had fallen victim to the hype. Yes, I really wanted to see the film almost as much as I wanted to live. And Colin The Publisher provided the means to see that film (he came into the office one day when he was bored and took all the AP staff to the local cinema).
Funnily, the film was incredibly disappointing. Yes, the sound was fantastic. I could feel my heart flutter with every thudding footstep of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes, the bit with the kids and the Velociraptors was terrifying. Yes, Jeff Goldblum provided relief in his own inimitable style. But NO, the film was not any good. It was ultimately tedious with more holes in the plot and characterisation than Rab C Nesbitt's string vest. In fact the best part of the film for me was watching all the wimpy little kids being escorted out of the cinema by their mothers.
Unfortunately, much the same can be said of the game. We have already discussed the graphics. They are the most stunningly radiant visuals that you will ever let reside on your optical cords. They massage your retina with the soft soothing stroke that flesh makes against silk. And er, that is about all they do.
So why the negativity? Simple. The gameplay - with some reservations, see later on - is utter crap. Dull, tedious, boring, bland etc. It is basically a big maze that you have got to explore. On the way, you have got to pick things up in a sort of 'collect as you go' fashion.
The puzzles are linear and never change
Dotted all around the park are motion sensors which contain terminals that you can log onto. These are vital to the completion of the game. They give you access to the park's map and allow you to open doors in buildings and so on. You can conclude from this information roughly what you have to do in each section of the park.
So without giving too much away, we will use the first level as an example of the challenged gameplay. You start off beside the overturned car, and you have got to find the two kids on this stage. The little boy is a piece of cake (well, he is more like a collection of pixels actually). He is always, and I mean always, in the same location. From there, head off in the direction of one of the motion sensors and log onto the park's computer system. Unlock the door of the building near the bottom of the enclosure. Locate the front door and go in. You will now have picked up a toolbox.
Toolbox in hand, go to the drain near the top of the enclosure. Let yourself in. you are now in a rather unpleasant sewer maze. Flop around in the effluent until you locate the little girl. Make your way back outside. While searching for the girl, you will have come across a door pass. Use this to let yourself out and ta da - that is tragic, ladies and gentlemen.
The real disappointment is that the puzzles are linear and they never change. Not much scope is left for lateral thinking. Those of you who are good at real puzzle games will crush Jurassic Park underfoot.
Okay, that aside, we have got this far and I have not mentioned that a lot of the Jurassic action takes place indoors in a texture-mapped 3-D environment. So let us redress that now. This is also the part of the game which could be considered the saving grace of the package. It is not that it plays all that differently. It is still a walk-around-collecting-things-and-switching-things-off-and-on kind of a romp. But oh, the atmosphere. It blows Hired Guns away with a 'Punchhhm ka-Chak a Dagga Dagga Doo. (Push pineapple, shake the tree. - Ed).
For the first time ever in my life I was afraid. I was very afraid. Imagine your first viewing of Jaws or Alien. Remember how your heart started to tighten in anticipation of something nasty happening? Your breath quickened, throat dried and pupils dilated with the tension. That happens with the 3D section of Jurassic Park too.
It is all achieved by the soundtrack which has the same effect as the Jaws buildup dooroo... dooroo... dood dood dood dood dood doodle OOH. (Oh God. - Ed). Yes, it starts low and builds high, the music pounds away as you get closer to any approaching Velociraptors. The energy released when they attack you and you get to blow them away with your big gun is almost orgasmic in its intensity; die die DIE, you fetid fossilised, er, fantom.
JACK IT IN
You must, repeat, absolutely must, play this section of the game with a powerful hi-fi or pair of headphones jacked in. You are entering another world. One where you inhabit the ether of bogeymen in the cupboard and psychopathic clowns under the bed. That is right, a scary, frightening, exhilaratingly exciting world.
And with that said, it is time for a rather ambiguous conclusion to the game. Imagine that you had to fold a whole pile of till receipts and then had to bring the washing in. You have got to admit that they are both pretty tedious jobs, but they have to be done in a certain manner. Now imagine that the till receipts were in fact fifty pound notes and that the washing was a line full of Armani suits. The jobs would be a lot more pleasant but would still be ultimately be tedious.
That is what it is like with Jurassic. It is lovely to look at and hold. The graphics, sound and 3D sections are gob smacking. Probably the best seen this year. The 3D sections stop it from being an utter flop. But ultimately (I know I am repeating myself, but imagine a towering edible ant machine constantly shaking his head in disbelief and disappointment) Jurassic Park is more than a little tedious. What a dreadful, dreadful shame.