A whole lot of chaos has ensued on the islands of Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar. Since 1993 we've seen two state-of-the-art theme parks abruptly go defunct and two rescue missions disastrously unfold on these isolated chunks of land. The crazy thing is, we relish in the spectacle that results from these unfortunate events. When dinosaurs treat humans as supper and remove man from the top of the food chain, we're all about it. But what about reliving those tense, chilling moments through a family-friendly, lighthearted filter? That's the type of experience that LEGO Jurassic World brings to the table, and the question is whether or not that edge-of-your-seat carnage translates well into brick form.
It's best to think of LEGO Jurassic World as an anthology that's made up of four separate games, each based on a Jurassic Park film; Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, and Jurassic World are all here, and these LEGO-ized re-enactments follow all the major plot beats from their respective films. Each game is made up of its own story missions and its own island area with optional puzzles and activities to seek out between missions. However, instead of taking a true open-world approach like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes or LEGO Batman 2, the format is slightly different.
As opposed to freely roaming in any direction over a massive area of land, the environment is more or less a singular pathway or road that leads around the park or island, either back to where you started or to a final destination. You'll be limited in where you can travel at first, but story progress and unlocked characters will open things up in time. This structure means that backtracking is part of the routine when you want to return to puzzles or areas that you couldn't previously access. So, in a way, it almost feels pointless to explore until every one of the games has been completed and all character types have been obtained. All in all, this aspect of the game is underwhelming, and even though it will extend the value for anyone that likes to milk their purchases for all they're worth, it's not designed in a way that ensures it will appeal to or satisfy everyone.
But the real star of the show comes in the form of story missions, which place players in the most memorable scenes from each of the Jurassic Park films. Progressing through these scenes is about utilizing the various characters – human and dinosaur – and their unique abilities to solve environmental puzzles and evade danger. It's the typical LEGO formula, and it serves its purpose and functions well enough, but there's no real evolution or ingenuity to be found; gameplay is exactly what we've come to expect of the LEGO series, with very few surprises. Thankfully, a herd of the missions are designed expertly, and they prove why such a prolific series has stayed relevant all these years. But there are also numerous missions that fall flat, relying too heavily on unneeded combat or working too many playable characters into the mix. The campaign is a bumpy ride to be sure, though it's nowhere near being classified a disaster.
The events of the Jurassic Park films have been spoofed/recreated in both cinematics and gameplay sequences, and they're generally charming, if sometimes a bit too corny for their own good. Reliving this classic series in video game form will no doubt be the foremost reason to visit LEGO Jurassic World, and we'd say the game mostly delivers in this regard. Keep in mind that the gags are positioned to amuse children more than adults, so don't be surprised if your kids or younger siblings end up more satisfied than you in the end. That's not to say that there's not an enjoyable all-ages ride along the way; it's just that the humour often comes in the form of random visual gags that don't always make the best use of the scene they're based upon.
Parents will be happy to know that the carnivorous violence that the films are known for has been greatly subdued. The iconic death scenes – like Dennis Nedry getting mauled by the dilophosaurus or the unlikeable lawyer getting eaten off the toilet – are now devoid of death, and a majority of the dinosaur aggression in general is offset by some sort of daft occurrence. There's still some intensity here and there, but it's been handled rather well by the developer.
As is the case with most LEGO games, there's drop-in/drop-out cooperative play available at the press of a button. We think LEGO games are at their best when teamed up with a partner, and that sentiment applies to LEGO Jurassic World as well. Thanks to the Wii U GamePad, both players are able to have their own screen, which is much better than dividing a wide television across its Y-axis. If you're engaging solo, however, the GamePad can be used for off-screen play.
Sadly, there is some turbulence that tends to cheapen the overall presentation. First off, the dialogue is made up of audio clips ripped directly from the original films, and the poor quality of these clips and their contrast with the music and sound effects make them hugely jarring in certain games – the original Jurassic Park being the worst. If the clips were extracted from the isolated vocal tracks and worked into the mix without much compression, it might have been fine. But considering there's a bunch of fuzz and noise bleeding in, it can really sound like a rough mess.
On the performance side of things, LEGO Jurassic World doesn't run as smoothly as it does on other consoles. Considering the power of the Wii U isn't comparable to Xbox One and PS4 this isn't shocking, but it does result in the general experience struggling to be optimal. The result of this is a frame rate that struggles to hold at 30fps and textures that are grainy and often unappealing. It rarely bogs down the experience enough to interfere with gameplay, but it's more than enough reason to skip the Wii U version if you own another current-gen console. (We've spent some time with LEGO Jurassic World on Xbox One as well, so we have a clear comparison of these two versions.)
When all aforementioned shortcomings are bundled with a small number of bugs, the result is a game that suffers to give the impression that no expense was spared. But that doesn't mean it's not a decent game. For the biggest fans of Jurassic Park and the LEGO franchise, this might be an attraction worth visiting; it's probably best to wait for the inevitable price drop before investing in a ticket, though. For everyone else, we recommend holding off to see how LEGO Dimensions fares when it releases this September.
LEGO Jurassic World has been birthed from the same DNA that the LEGO series has been reliant on for quite some time, and it's doubtful that anyone will be truly awestruck by its attractions. But that doesn't necessarily mean the adventure's not worth embarking upon. Reliving the Jurassic Park films in such a playful manner helps to offset the gameplay and technical disappointments, and the trip down memory lane will likely be enough to keep the biggest dinosaur fans entertained from start to finish. The park can be amusing, but it lacks its usual bite.