TT Games have made 23 games bearing the iconic red Lego logo, and this year they'll add three more. The first is Lego Jurassic World, which finally brings a long-requested series into the Lego video game fold.
The results – as ever – are charming, but the series is showing clear signs of not just its age, but the effects of a studio spinning too many plates.
IBTimes UK was shown select portions from four of the game's 20 levels, five based on each of the Jurassic Park trilogy and the Jurassic World film set to arrive in cinemas this June. What we were shown was limited to the first two films however, showing Lego recreations of the series' most iconic scenes.
We begin with a sick triceratops and a "one big pile of s**t" (sadly not referred to as such in the game) in a simple, slower-paced level designed to introduce players to the mechanics. Gameplay has changed very little over the years in terms of the broad strokes: players switch between collectable characters (there are over 100 here, including variations), pick up Lego pieces as they go and build Lego objects to complete puzzles and objectives.
This basic formula has been added to over the years (the introduction of powerful Big Figs springs to mind) and there has been a constant honing of the presentation too, with voice acting mixed with dialogue lifted directly out of the films replacing the silent comedy approach of yesteryear.
In this game the big new addition is playable dinosaurs, and the first we're given control of is the sick triceratops that Ellie Satler and Jurassic Park vet Gerry Harding are trying to cure. This forms the first puzzle, with players searching through piles of poop for clues and three items that will aid the dinosaur – an apple, a carrot and an ice cream, of course. It's silly fun, and not the only sign that TT's sense of humour is as endearing as ever.
To complete puzzles players use each character's special ability. Ellie can grow plants to reach platforms, Gerry has a tranquiliser gun which can shoot targets (there were no enemy dinos to shoot) and later on we played as young Lex, whose piercing scream can shatter windows. There's that humour again.
Playing as the trike felt reminiscent of the Big Figs from Lego Marvel Superheroes, but restrictive in such a small area with not much to do. There is however plenty to do with these dinosaurs outside of story levels thanks to a customisation mode and two hub worlds.
Both Isla Nublar (setting of Jurassic Park and Jurassic World) and Isla Sorna (The Lost World & Jurassic Park 3) have been turned into hubs which allow players to explore mission locations between levels. Players will also be able to populate each with their customisable dinosaurs built from pieces of the animals they've unlocked as they play.
Want to put a raptor's head on a stegosaurus? Go ahead, they can be as insane as you please. Players can also take control of them and pit them against each other in the hubs, but sadly we didn't see any of this in action.
The success or failure of these hubs will have a huge baring on the outcome of Lego Jurassic World. The story levels we played were basic and restrictive given the hardware available. Sure it's a children's game, but it was hard to shake the feeling that TT are dragging these decade old mechanics into new gen without much thought about how they could be improved with the tech available.
In the second playable mission we were put into control of Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm during the famous Rex attack sequence from the first film. The Rex has flipped a vehicle and begun snapping at its occupants, so Alan and Ian must find a way to rescue Lex and Tim from inside. They do so by building a Jack-in-the-Box style toy with a big squeaky bone inside, which distracts the Rex.
Once again it felt a little lifeless and overly simplistic, with the scarcest of interaction with the dinosaurs themselves and no real sense of peril - something that can be implemented into a children's game and which is a big part of the film series. The final two segments eased that final fear however, the first of which being a chase sequences, recreating the Rex chase from film one.
Players are sent hurtling down a relatively straight route heading toward the camera with a dinosaur in hot pursuit. There will be multiple examples of this but here one player could move the car from side to side while the other attempted to hinder the dino's progress. In this instance Malcolm (complete with hairy chest on show *swoons*) was throwing flares into the Rex's mouth.
The demo's final sequence depicts the final escape from The Lost World. With raptors leaping at your feet there's a little more danger here, but only when a raptor leapt out from nowhere to initiate a scripted QTE did we feel any kind of thrill. When a QTE is among a demo's highlights you know there must be a few problems.
Arguments in favour of TT's Lego games always challenge criticism with the fact it's a game targeting a young demographic. That can justify the simplicity of the gameplay, but not how worn out the mechanics feel after over two dozen games. On this evidence we're sceptical, but there's enough here to say TT might find a way come June.