I’ve said for a long time now that Lego games are pretty dang underrated. While nowadays Mario, Crash, and Spyro sit comfortably on the Iron Thrones of 3D platformers (Yooka-Laylee presumably in a plastic lawn chair just off to the side), there was a time not too long ago where the genre laid pretty barren. Mario was in his 2D post-modern phase, Spyro was trying to sell you Skylanders, and I think Crash might’ve been in rehab.
Traveler’s Tales’ (TT) Lego Star Wars the Video Game turned a lot of heads when it first dropped back in 2005, but nobody would’ve guessed that one console generation later, they’d basically be carrying the 3D platforming genre. As the years went on, not only was each new installment a consistent success with young audiences thanks to Lego’s never-ending grab bag of licenses, but TT was always careful not to cut corners and continued to offer fully featured, charming 3D collect-a-thons with surprising amounts of content and replayability. And while the gameplay formula has remained mostly untouched from the days of Lego Star Wars, it’s only because the addictively simple platforming has aged surprisingly well.
Such is the case for Lego Jurassic World on Nintendo Switch. Only like a year late for the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Warner Bros. dug up this fossilized amber of a title from 2015 and worked their crazy DNA voodoo to bring it back to life on the Nintendo Switch.
The game takes you through the events of the first four films in the Jurassic Park franchise, reimagined through the scope of Lego. In a way the game’s title is a bit misleading because Jurassic World only makes up about a fourth of the game. So to get to Lego Chris Pratt, you’re gonna have to go through a lot of Lego Jeff Goldblum first. Jokes aside, don’t be fooled because you are getting four movies worth of content for your dollar. Not the most TT’s fit into a single Lego game, but definitely enough to get a comprehensive dive in the lore of Jurassic Park. I had only seen the movies once before playing, and now plastic dinosaurs haunt my dreams so I say a job well done.
How does Lego Jurassic World stand out amongst other Lego games? Admittedly, not by much given that the most surprising mechanic of the game is just that Jurassic Park is probably the first franchise adapted by Lego to not include any sort of fantasy element to its gameplay. Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even Batman to an extent had a tendency to play up their more supernatural themes to make them work as game mechanics. I can count on my hands the amount of times a character uses The Force in the original Star Wars movie trilogy. But in Lego games, The Force is used all the damn time for everything from opening cabinets to disarming attack droids. Jurassic Park on the other hand is based in our world and, while it does take some science fiction liberties, mostly abides by real world possibilities. So I was curious to see how much fun a Lego game could be when you take away the spells and fancy powers, replacing them with dart guns and dinosaur bones.
Once again, TT makes me look like a complete fool because, nope, the game is still fun. While Lego Star Wars and Lego Marvel focused more on unique abilities and combat, Lego Jurassic World is more puzzle based while keeping the open world presentation, and this turns out to be a really good way to adapt the story into a playable form. You don’t spend a lot of your time confronting the dinosaurs as much as you are maneuvering around the island, evading dinosaurs, and eventually containing them. Most levels will drop you into an open-ended environment with some kind of threat or blockade keeping you from advancing to the next part of the stage. Your job is obviously to neutralize the threat and continue on your way, but how to do so isn’t usually straightforward. You’re then left to your own devices, where you can explore the area and interact with a barrage of NPCs and set pieces. You’ll eventually figure out a way to advance in the stage, whether that involves building something, wrecking something, or wrecking THEN building something.
In between story missions, you’re free to roam an actual Jurassic Park as the game’s hub world, complete with overhead map, drivable jeeps, and the usual assortment of Lego goofiness. It’s a super charming way to connect all the films and was actually one of my favorite parts of the title overall.
The gameplay continues to be as solid as ever, and it feels right at the Nintendo Switch. HD textures look fantastic docked or handheld, and the drop in/out co-op mode from previous entries is alive & well here. This is an absolutely welcome feature in a time where local multiplayer is basically on the endangered species list.
While Lego Jurassic World does seem to hit all the check marks for an acceptable Lego game, it does hit a major snag in the audio category. Back in the day, early Lego games didn’t really bother with voice acting, and instead told the entire story through slapstick grunts and motions like the ridiculous cartoon it was. But as the games grew in popularity and TT felt inclined to tell more interesting stories, Lego games began featuring full dialogue and voice acting with 2012’s Lego DC Super Heroes 2.
Since the Lego DC games were usually original stories and not adaptions, getting it voice acted wasn’t really an issue. But when you’re adapting something like a movie it can get complicated. Instead of rewriting dialogue or springing for Goldblum impersonators, TT used the original audio from the movie, worked all the animation around that, and recorded bits of original dialogue to fill in some of the gaps.
They’ve done this before to varying degrees of success but the Jurassic Park series was one where they really should’ve just rerecorded the whole thing. Not to knock any of the original performances, it’s not that. It’s simply the fact that audio recorded 25 years ago, spliced together with new audio is going to be jarring and awkward no matter what you do. The subtle shifts in audio quality when an NPC interacts with one of the main characters is enough to wreck the tone of the entire scene.
This sounds like an incredibly minor nitpick, and those less sensitive to audio quality may be able to look over it entirely, but when your franchise is championed for its consistency, even a minor discrepancy like this will come across as a bad look. Newer Lego games have improved significantly in both the writing and voice-acting department, but this title remains an awkward in-between note for that process. This seems like it would’ve been a great opportunity to go back in and actually remaster some things instead of just deliver a one-to-one port.
Lego Jurassic World Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Lego Jurassic World is an incredibly easy to pick up platformer. It’s a solid throwback to old school adventure games, and a super fun way to experience the story of the franchise. It’s definitely not as fleshed out as the more “Triple A” Lego titles, but this game shows a lot of love to the Jurassic park fandom and will have fans hooked almost immediately.