I’m always a tad wary with VR games that get ported to regular platforms. VR games tend to be focused primarily on being a VR experience first and a proper game second.
As such, the announcement of Jurassic World Aftermath Collection for the Switch had me a little conflicted between my indifference of VR ports and my love for dinosaurs.
Regardless of how it turned out, I knew before I started that this was going to be an interesting game to cover regardless – for better of for worse!
Many thanks to Thunderful for the review code.
EVERYBODY DO THE DINOSAUR
After crash landing on Isla Nublar with your companions Mia and Carlos (the latter of which finds himself as dino-dinner shortly thereafter), Jurassic World Aftermath has you exploring the destroyed facility in order to find a means of escape.
Guided over the radio by Mia, who was once one of the geneticists for the park, you’ll need to reactivate communications and broker a deal with the shady Doctor Wu (not the Time Lord) in order to get transport out of there. Of course, he wants you to collect certain important research that resides deep in the heart of the facility, so expect to be avoiding the dinosaurs that still roam the premises and are looking for their next meal.
Despite being a silent protagonist, the game has near constant dialogue as Mia witters away about her past, often trapping you in a room as she forces you to listen to her audio recordings. Whilst it is nice to hear the [always excellent] Laura Bailey conversing with actors from the movies, it would have been nice if they had them playing whilst you were doing something a little more productive.
These moments aside, both the script and voice acting are really strong throughout and help keep you focused on the task at hand. Whilst the plot may be slightly predictable due to you undergoing a series of unfortunate setbacks, it still works due to the breakneck pacing of it all.
The easiest way of describing Jurassic World Aftermath is that it’s essentially a cel-shaded version of Alien Isolation, except you’re avoiding dinosaurs instead of Xenomorphs. It’s still a first person ‘horror’ title (albeit one that’s more tense than outright scary) with the emphasis strongly on using stealth for evasion whilst dealing with all the problems that arise that prevent you from escaping. From satellites that require manual alignment to simply finding door codes, there’s a lot for your unlucky mute hero to deal with.
Avoiding prehistoric predators is what really makes up the core part of the experience, however. Whilst the majority of puzzles and actions are the typical throw lever, push button, turn the crank variety (or one of the handful of hacking minigames variants), these are mainly to put you in harms way. Raptors will be your primary foes, and they stalk you in a similar way to the Xenomorphs in Isolation. They creep about hunting you, and will make a dash for your throat should they catch a glimpse of you or even hear you move faster than you should. They’re surprisingly smart too, as they’ll actively look under tables trying to sniff you out, requiring you to make heavy use of the leaning function in order to stay out of sight.
Thankfully, you gain access to a handy little gizmo early on that can interfere with electronic devices to provide handly little distractions that can help you stay alive. By holding the bumper button, your gizmo will cause interference with printers, cameras, or anything else that can produce aural noise. With their keen hearing, this will send Raptors into a frenzy as they head towards the source. Provided they don’t see you whilst heading to your distraction, it’ll provide you with a brief window to bypass them. You don’t need to provide a distraction as you can just as easily sneak by, but doing so will certainly make things safer and far less stressful. Just bear in mind that their sensitive hearing works to their advantage too, as stepping on broken glass or pressing buttons will also alert them to your position.
Whilst Raptors are the main foes you will be up against, there are an assortment of other dinosaurs you will encounter during certain set-pieces. They’re a great way to break up the pacing a little, although they certainly lack the fear factor of the Raptor encounters. Even the mighty T-Rex is a little pathetic as you stay still for the brief moments he looks your way. Thankfully the other dinosaur encounters are far more exciting, but unfortunately no more threatening.
It’s not just these set-pieces with other dinosaurs that help break the game up: Jurassic World Aftermath is fully aware that there’s not enough there at the base level to keep the game going longer than its brief six hour or so runtime. Outside of your hacking tool, there really isn’t anything else to add to your toolset in order to vary up your journey through the facility. Whilst you will get some additional things, they’re mainly used for tracking certain objects and are pretty non-essential.
What the game does to counter this is to mix things up frequently with new locations, obstacles, and set-pieces to ensure that nothing really gets too stale. There are darkened maintenance rooms that have you evading a sneaky Dilophosaurus, outside areas that have you re-routing electrical cables to open up doorways, trains to fix, and much much more. And when you do start to feel tired of the gameplay loop, the game ends. It’s surprisingly well paced for the most part, and results in a game that feels just the right length.
The only real issue with the pacing is the movement speed of your character. Whilst the controls in general are excellent, with the game even implementing a quick turn and a slide button to help you get out of trouble, your characters inability to move fast can border on tedious at times. The game does have a sprint button, which is also connected to a sprint meter, but I found myself rarely using it just to how little difference it actually made – it’s just too damn slow. I’m sure this is done to reduce motion sickness in VR, but on console it just makes the movement feel pretty obnoxious. On the bright side, the focus on stealth also means that you’ll only ever want to use it in those moments where you know that you’re truly alone, but that still doesn’t help prevent the frustration.
All in all though, it’s a relatively minor gripe for what is an otherwise fun experience. What is more of a problem is with some elements of the presentation. Most of the issues aren’t too big of a deal, such as the game having menu buttons that are so unresponsive that I never really knew if the game registered my selection or not, but the one thing that almost spoils the entire experience relates to the death scenes – or rather, lack thereof. When a dinosaur spots you, usually the recurring Raptor enemies, the game will glow red to indicate that you’re probably going to be dead in a moment before the creature either swipes or jumps at you. The game will then fade out and bring up the reload screen, making you sometimes question what even happened. The first time I died, I didn’t even realise why. There’s absolutely no sense of impact at all and it feels rather pathetic. Perhaps in VR this worked better, but here it just ruins the moments. They really should have altered these scenes so that the deaths are more drawn out, with the Raptors grabbing and dragging you helplessly towards them, and it feels like a lost opportunity. If there’s one change that the developers should do post release to the game, it’s with these dreadful death scenes since they ruin the overall presentation so much.
Jurassic World Aftermath Collection was a pleasant surprise; offering a similar style of game to Alien Isolation, this game will have you cowering in fear as you manoeuvre around Raptors and T-Rexes. A few minor issues, such as pathetic kill scenes and a slow running speed, hold it back a little; but dinosaur fans out there should absolutely adore this game.