Genre: Action Developer: Appaloosa Int. Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1997
Back in the early ’90s I was a huge fan of dinosaurs and a major fan of the Jurassic Park movies, books and virtually anything related. As I was also a huge fan of the Sega Mega Drive, I was into the original Jurassic Park game in a big way too. The first time I played it as a rental and lost some interest due to time constraints and the difficulty but ended up picking it up a few years later. When I owned it I eventually got over the touchy controls, cheap deaths and high difficulty. I was a lot more patient than I am now. The Lost World: Jurassic Park movie is still my favourite in the Jurassic Park series, which is why I was surprised to only find out recently that there was a Lost World game on Mega Drive. Even today, all those years later with the toys and products gone, I had to go and find this game for myself and play it.
Unlike many movie games, The Lost World (hereafter TLW) does not follow the main story of the movie as movie licenses often do. I personally prefer movie licenses to either expand the main story or go in their own direction in the same universe. Anything less almost always ends in disaster. So instead of following the adventures of Ian Malcolm and friends you are a bounty hunter on a series of missions which mostly involve catching dinosaurs. Unfortunately I don’t have the instruction booklet so I can’t elaborate much more than that.
The game itself could be described as a mixture between Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Cannon Fodder. You view your character from a top-down perspective and are on a series of varying mission. These could be anything from capturing specific dinosaurs, destroying Velociraptor nests or switching on transmitters and you are often able to choose in which order you complete them. In between these specific tasks you are fighting a lot of dinosaurs and enemy hunters. It also includes a very welcome co-op option and both players will be fighting dinosaurs and completing missions together. I unfortunately didn’t get to try this out with a friend.
As it is mission based, you will be making good use of your start button. When paused the game has a computer screen with options to check a map, mission status and even some information on dinosaurs in the area, At first this will not seem so important but once you get into the missions you will regularly need to check these screens. This goes especially for the map which has a radar function that lets you find specific goals or enemies. Unexplored areas are covered by a black shroud similar to those found in RTS games but it can be completely uncovered by finding a power-up. While the map itself is easy to read, in missions where you constantly refer to it can be annoying as you will need to pause, navigate to the map screen and then choose which target you want to track.
Similar to the original Jurassic Park, TLW features a series of weapons which are used to stun the animals. You have a taser and gas grenades but you also have lethal weapons like a shotgun, fragmentation grenades and rockets. Although I mostly preferred to use the shotgun, you will require all the weapons at different points. When you need to capture certain dinosaurs, killing them will cause mission failure so the stun weapons are necessary. You also often need to clear land mines, rocks and fire with different weapons being useful for those tasks.
TLW is divided into four areas, each with a specific mission set that you must complete. After you have completed them a new area opens and you go into a special mission. These areas remind me a lot of the Mode 7 stages in some SNES games. In one you are chasing a raptor through a forest to capture it while fending off attacks by other hunters. In another you are riding a boat down a river while being assaulted by dinosaurs and falling rocks.
Many of the sound effects in TLW are honestly some of the finest I’ve heard on the Mega Drive. The shotgun in particular gives a large boom that sounds very similar to the shotgun in Doom. The dinosaur noises are all there and the Dilophosaurus sounds exactly the same as it did in the first game. While most of the sound effects are very good, there are few that sound grating such as the electric fences and the helicopter rotors in the introduction. The in-game music is bass heavy and energetic. While great the lack of variety harms the game as you can quickly get tired of the otherwise cool tracks. The mission complete jingle was a particular favourite of mine. Even the menu music is nice.
The visuals are good, but considering the size of the cartridge and how late it was in the release, cycle, I could have expected better. The main issue is that the levels themselves don’t change much. The outdoor jungle areas are bright and colourful and the cave stages are typically bland. Another problem which actually hurts gameplay is the way the ground blends into itself, making path finding occasionally difficult and rises and depressions hard to notice. The dinosaurs and characters themselves aren’t very impressive. With the top-down view you don’t get much detail except for the bigger dinosaurs. The animal movements are also quite stiff. The end of area missions look better but I felt that more colour could have been used in a few of them.
I found I was able to quickly master the controls for the game and when necessary the pause screen interface. Your character thankfully has eight-way movement and the enemies themselves do too and will take advantage of it. Fighting enemies can be frustrating as enemies have high health and are often quicker than you. The other hunters have projectile weapons and sometimes explosives and can quickly kill you. The dinosaurs mostly just run and attack and again not being ready can mean a quick death. Given that the enemies are either just as fast as or faster than you, it is necessary to kill enemies as quickly as possible yet I found myself being killed often. On the lighter side, the enemies also often get stuck in walls and run over land mines. You usually have about three lives and can obtain more. There are also regular checkpoints that allow you are able to continue from after losing your lives. There is also a password system and a new password is given after each mission.
You are able to get in some vehicles which makes navigating the larger areas much easier. The enemy behavior will not change so you are easily able to hit and kill the enemies though many enemies are still able to damage and eventually destroy your vehicle. You can also use a hovercraft to cross rivers and lakes. The only problem is the way they control. The backs of the vehicles often slide out and are probably best compared to the Warthog in Halo. This can be a big problem sometimes when trying to move through minefields or avoid enemies.
The aspects of the game I least enjoyed were the ones outside the normal missions. They were mostly frustrating experiences and I found myself wanting to get back into the main game. They may have been more exciting in 1997 but playing the game today, I found them gimmicky and generally unimpressive.
I’ve spent most of this review merely describing the gameplay and intentionally trying to spoil as little as possible. If you have found it hard to discover how I feel about this game then you feel the same way as me. It is very much a game that seems trapped in its own time. Had I played it on my Mega Drive back in 1997, I am quite sure I would have felt a lot differently than I do now. Playing it today, it is a fairly unexceptional top down, mission-based shooter with dinosaurs. There is little from the film represented here and that is perhaps a good thing considering other movie licenses but I still feel there was more that could have been taken from the source material. If you play the game co-op you could add one more point to my score but as far as Jurassic Park games go, you could definitely do better than this. Even with all its flaws, I would still recommend the original over this.
SCORE: 6 out of 10