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Lost Demos: Jurassic Park - Trespasser
Welcome to the first edition of "Lost Demos". In each episode, I as an Internet "Webleontologist" will examine a demo that has managed to slip from our online consciousness. In many cases the demos I will be reviewing never did actually enter our online consciousness, some were a safe distance from it, while others were an antipode away. My aim is, to understand the bizarre panoply of demos out there by playing them and judging them based on their content, in an attempt to understand the ancient and forgotten cultures that preceded us, and what they were trying to communicate. No matter how obscure, hated, or secreted beneath time and wishes of the developer to be hidden, I will find them.
Jurassic Park - Trespasser
First 20 Seconds of Play: I managed to fall to my death, twice. The first was off a walkway that came loose and introduced me to the ground from an inadvisable height. The second was trying to jump, across the gap that the lack of the walkway caused. While falling and dying I managed to notice how poorly things are rendered.
Developer: DreamWorks Interactive
Publisher: Electronic Arts (but of course)
Download it from: GameZone demo downloads
Story: When you enter, you are given a mission so to speak. You must descend to the ground level and secure it, then proceed through the gate to the lab. They managed to follow the old rule of "if you can't say something nice, say something vague". This is about as good telling someone how to get to Nicaragua by telling them to go out their front door and hang a big left. They let you guess the rest of the story after that, But judging from those instructions and finding a pile of weaponry nearby: I think you are some kind of dino assassin involved in industrial espionage. You are a woman though, that much is for sure.
The Demo: The demo level itself is fairly small, in which about five dinosaurs (that I could find) were roaming about. You start out on top of a helipad, next to what looks like another helipad. You are greeted by what must be the voice of John Hammond telling you about your first and most immediate threat throughout the demo, the Velociraptor. After getting your bearings you will find that the stairs to the helipad have fallen, which complicates your ability to get to the ground sans broken legs. After jumping to the next helipad, you will find a cache of weapons, but still no way down.
Physics --- In 1998 I don't think there were a whole lot of games that featured a 3d world with objects (however few in number and diversity) that could be moved, stacked, and thrown. But I'm sure actual people of any time period would (as I do) liken this game to a blowjob from a VCR: Cumbersome, clumsy, and disappointing. Things become easily stuck inside each other or the ground, navigating around larger objects feels like getting into a shoving match with jello, and simply watching items fall at strange angles and become stuck to hidden vertices can be a scary experience first hand, something like realizing your reality is turning into a dali painting. A part of me wants to think that you are simply touring a version of Jurassic park where a large magnetic temporal bomb went off over the island causing every object to become agglutinative, and awkward in its existence. From the information given, I may never know. But one strong argument I managed to make for the "Magnetic Temporal Bomb Theory" was that I could get a box to fly ... with me on it, in a very mayor of space kind of way.
The Arm --- Another interesting point seems to be that you only have one arm. And it's not just any arm. In discovering your arm, you will notice that holding down left click will extend it, and moving the mouse will guide it around your immediate view. If you right click (while left clicking) you will grab whatever your hand appears to be touching. But wait there's more; your arm much like a Russian MIG also has a stabilizer button, and a pitch and a yaw control. More evidence for the temporal bomb idea is that, any item you are able to pick up, you can pick up from any side. Crates can hefted above you with great control by simply affixing your hand to the side of the object. Your arm will stretch and whip back if you hold onto an object and walk away from it, and will wildly snap back into place if holding something at an odd angle, much like the retraction cord on a vacuum. Needless to say that being able to deform such a rudimentary tool of the game into such excessive contortions loudly foreshadows the problems you will have with every item your arm comes into contact with. If in game you happen to turn too fast, you will often drop what you are holding. Objects easily become caught on uncouth edges and angles unsympathetic to the cause of trying to walk around a tree. While holding an item, and trying to jump, evade, walk, look, or shoot, it becomes another example (of 10+ button tandems) that the developers didn't really intend for you to play this game that much anyway. Otherwise they would have spent the time and money they had on development, and not on designer whiskies and high-fiving each other in circle jerks.
AI --- The dinosaurs roaming around make up everything you could consider AI in this demo, a term which I want to say I'm using sparsely. Without getting their attention, the dinos roam about rapidly changing direction and sometimes without waiting for all of their polygon clusters to catch up. Occasionally they attack each other and then scream for a while, then just sort of idle for a bit, so overall it'snot unlike a pack of retards attempting to gang rape a carpet. Let me say in their defense, that if you and a velociraptor are standing in an open field, you have its attention, and are not moving, it WILL kill you in about eighteen minutes, tops. Every other instance outside of that favors you heavily. Hills are seemingly impossible to navigate for the tenuous path finding capabilities of the dinos, causing even more frantic spinning and growling. Any object with more than about a foot of height is nigh impossible for these poor creatures to get around or over. Further that I managed to get a few of the dinosaurs stuck on tree branches, and not just immobile, it was as if they were feral pocket watches that had expeditiously wound down. Short of that, if you ARE faced with one of these creatures on open ground, a basic matador imitation will keep you unmolested.
Weapons --- Most of the weapons provided are guns. After doing a short review of reaching, picking up, and aiming, and aiming while moving (another 5+ button combo) you are ready. There is no reticule so good luck lining up a shot with your magic bendy arm. The best way to assassinate these large carnivorous and ill-tempered dinosaurs is at point blank range, so good luck with that. Another weapon I found useful was a giant metal walkway that you are introduced to in the first 20 seconds. Each time you start the demo, this item will fall off the helipad to the ground below, and I call it an item because it can be picked up. Due to some misappropriation of mass and volume, you can lift it with your one magic bendy arm. The other face of this misallocation is that it retains some of the aspects of being a giant metal walkway, and you can crush velociraptors with the same ease and great taste as backne on a fat chick. One hitter quitter.
Graphics: Aside from the odd texturing of some items, and the draw distance, the dinos don't look that bad. The level design is pedestrian at best, the first level featuring three helipads within 50feet of each other, and about 20 of the same box strewn around. The sparse ground cover looks out of place on a tropical island as well, but for its date it's about average in that respect.
Sound: Not terrible actually. The dinosaur sounds were par, and the noises of objects colliding were surprisingly competent. Gunshots also passed muster. (And they managed to get Minnie Driver, who at the time had just done Good Will Hunting.)
What we can deduce: Having taken a blast to the past, I only have guesses as to what DreamWorks Interactive was getting at with this offering. Disjointed physics, distressingly erratic raptors, all wrapped around a fermenting franchise. For the time, it clearly took a good amount of money to produce an intricate game engine that no sane, or mortal person would put a significant investiture of time into playing. Perhaps a first offering, but there was some other decent fps fodder out that year, Golden Eye was out within a few months, and a little game called Half Life made its way onto the scene. So it's not exactly an fps adventure pioneer. Honestly, it seems like the developers had some lofty goals but no way to get to them, much like trying to get your girlfriend to understand that you receiving BJ from her, while watching TV, will bring you closer together.
What the full game must be like: Judging from the disaster of a demo we were presented with, I can only guess that the full game is a bigger disaster, like what Hurricane Katrina is in comparison to the Movie "The Island". Some of you might say "but Kai, the whole game might explain the story better, and at least you'd have a context." To you I say: "I hope you die in a building collapse." Don't fuck with my world; you are a dino assassin.
Good: I got to kill a dinosaur with a gun, which has become the highlight of any dinosaur picture.
Bad: Walking, looking, jumping, using the keyboard/mouse, having the monitor on, or game installed. That pretty much covers it.
Game in 7 words or less: Gross waste of funds for attempted game.
Best Bug: Of course the physics are going to overshadow most of the other issues in this game, and so the award goes to an insta-death problem with the physics. On flat ground, Take object "A" (an object which you can completely stand on), place it on top of object "B". Now try and pick up object "B" while standing on "A", your arm will generate enough force to flip the object "B" out from under Object "A" to either fling you hundreds of feet to your death, or instantly crush you under the force of the physics engine adjusting its bony, and ragged existence.
Score: - I rated this game kindly, because I think it should stand as an example to people as an amalgamation of things you should avoid in a game.
Supplement: I thought my first foray as a Webleontologist would be rather uneventful, but it has proved quite the opposite. I have discovered an ancient tribe of those who still hold a candle for this dead, and forgotten Videonic Gamen. The Forgotten people A painstakingly researched fan site, with countless numbers of inane projects related to a seemingly pointless cause. A community that has meticulously gathered resources in an attempt to modify and expand upon a universe that never really worked in a video game format in the first place. Trying to master the very thing they worship is quite the conundrum, a fascinating find to be sure. Mountains of evidence show that, theirs is a culture clearly based on blind insanity. This find is also staggering in the amount of evidence, forums, mods, fan fiction, walkthroughs, fan-art, and even links to other sites of this kind. This demonstrates that the game spread beyond vice and obsession, and also to other people. It begs the question, was it fanboyism that lead them to this dead end link on gaming genealogy? Or sheer lunacy.