Few franchises captured the minds of children everywhere like the original Jurassic Park film did in 1993; it kicked off an entire dinosaur craze while maintaining much of the novel’s poignant message exploring the perils of genetic engineering. Jurassic World – 2015’s revival starring
Mario Chris Pratt – had nowhere near the same impact, though both critics and audiences found it to be a passable popcorn action thriller (and the less said about the other two films in the World trilogy, the better). Originally developed as a VR title for the Oculus Quest and now rejigged and ported to the Nintendo Switch — with the 'Part 2' DLC content included — Jurassic Park Aftermath Collection picks up two years after the events of Jurassic World but takes after the original film thematically.
The opening moments introduce you to the voice of Dr. Amelia ‘Mia’ Everett – you never actually see other humans as all dialogue comes through radio. Taking control of a voiceless security expert named Sam, it isn’t long before the rickety plane you’re on experiences some winged-dinosaur-related issues which cause the pilots to lose control and crash land on the infamous Isla Nublar. Mia, you see, hired you to help her retrieve her life’s work as a geneticist. The crash left her with a shattered leg, holed up in a bunker somewhere. From there, she feeds you information to help save both your lives.
Aftermath takes place entirely within the confines of a research facility. Scientists’ residences, laboratories, and underground maintenance rooms are accessed from a central hub area. You only see glimpses of the lush forests of Isla Nublar through crumbled walls and from executive offices. To keep things spicy, three velociraptors stalk you throughout, and you have to sneak, hide under desks, and enclose yourself in lockers to avoid becoming dino food.
And that’s about it. The entire experience has expanded from that excellent scene in Speilberg's first Jurassic Park where the two children hide from raptors in the kitchen into an eight-hour game. Sure, we weren’t only hiding. Sometimes we had to access a computer to find a keycode or connect power cables so a shutter would open while a raptor snorted and growled nearby, but we spent too much time crouching beneath a desk waiting for the deadly beast to circle around to the other side of the room. It didn’t help that early in the game Aftermath teased us with a spooky little section with Dilophosauruses popping out of vents to spray us with toxic goo, plus a good late-game sequence we won’t spoil, but the rest consisted of hiding from raptors with small variations thereof. By the latter third of the game, we hid not from fear but from worry that we’d have to repeat the area from a checkpoint.
Accessing terminals for bits of lore and to progress the story requires solving a variety of little minigames. Simon-Says button presses, memorising the location and matching patterns – that kind of thing. Translated from VR motion controls, they’re all a little clunky and dull. Spinning joysticks and tapping the D-pad didn’t have the same level of feedback, so we ended up skipping almost all non-necessary terminals to avoid these tedious little tasks.
In fact, Aftermath loses a lot of what made it a decent, narrative-driven VR game. We can clearly see how peeking around corners or watching as a raptor, jagged teeth bared, leaping to take a bite would make for a much more immersive experience in VR. A lethargic walking speed, perhaps to combat motion sickness, doesn’t help. As it stands, this transition to Switch left us somewhat detached from much of the game and lacking that palpable, sustained sense of fear we assume is a key factor in the VR original.
Our gripes out of the way, however, we absolutely loved all the soundwork in Aftermath. This is a game that requires a good pair of headphones if you’re playing undocked or a great speaker system to truly enjoy. Raptors footsteps will boom when they approach and their growls echo down the dilapidated corridors. Your own footsteps will alert them if you run. Scratches within the walls, creaking framework, and dying air circulation systems give Aftermath some much-needed life. It all comes together to create quite an impressive soundscape, marred only by the tedium caused by the switch from VR to regular controls.
Voice actress Laura Bailey’s stellar performance as a geneticist wrestling between guilt and ambition also keeps the narrative engaging the entire way through, and a few audio logs voiced by Ian Malcom – Jeff Goldblum himself – made the 10-year-old dinosaur-obsessed Jurassic Park fan in us giddy. Though a bit heavy-handed (“While we’re waiting for the computer to compute, why don’t I play audio logs from my past for you?”), Aftermath tackles many of the themes of the original in a respectful, canon-centric way that we quite enjoyed, and the nostalgia-laced finale didn’t disappoint, either. It's just tough to escape the feeling that everything here would work so much better in its native VR habitat.
We do have to note we experienced a bug near the end that caused the game to freeze up after reloading a checkpoint, effectively making us have to restart from the beginning. This, it seems, was potentially caused after installing a day one patch on our pre-release version and shouldn’t affect new players.
We love the first Jurassic Park film, and the other five to varying degrees. Luckily for us, then, that despite its name, Jurassic World Aftermath generally takes after the original rather than any of the sequels, although the Switch version simply isn’t the best way to play it. If you have an Oculus headset, do yourself a favour and play the way it was meant to be – fully immersed in the soundscape of a ruined Jurassic World theme park while velociraptors stalk you. If you don’t have one, Aftermath on Switch certainly does enough for fans of the series to take a look, but the short experience grows a little too tedious by the time the credits roll without the immersion of VR to keep you on your toes.