Review: Universal Studios - Theme Park Adventure
Posted 05 Nov 2002 at 11:18 by Andy
Anyone who's ever sampled one of the handful of Universal Studios around the world you know just how much fun it is, even my father drags me around to ride after ride. Not to be outdone by Disney, Universal have decided to bring the magic of their Theme Parks into everyone's home. This is a bold move as the demographic is substantially higher in age than the average Disney fan and so the product needs to be that much more sophisticated. At least with a game unlike the Park there are no queues and, thankfully, no walking around. Have Universal managed the impossible then and squeezed the huge entertainment value of their Theme Parks onto one tiny disk? Let's hope so...
The first aspect of this title I must point out to you is that it's not true 3D; instead you have 3D characters that inhabit a pre- rendered environment. The characters themselves are quite good and anyone that's ever visited the Studios in Florida will easily recognise the backgrounds. Most of the games in this title utilise this graphical process with the exception of the Back to the Future and Jurassic Park sections, which, although also pre- rendered, don't have the screen breaks that the rest of the game has. It works reasonably well but this really is the bare minimum that the Gamecube is capable of and when you put this title up against other launce titles such as Rogue Squadron you really notice the difference in quality.
The audio is easily one of the best features of this title and movie fans will be delighted to learn that each of the themed rides is accompanied by the full orchestral score in vibrant stereo. The actual in-game sound effects are also well above average and everything from dinosaurs chasing you to oil drums exploding is, quite simply, an audible feast. Even when nothing exciting is going on and you're strolling around the Park you'll still hear the dull murmur of people chatting and going about their business. Wonderful stuff.
The whole of the game is navigated through a 3D map with your chosen player becoming a game piece and entering the various attractions. The first problem you'll encounter is that after you've chosen one attraction you can't get into the rest because of people queuing. The only way around this is by purchasing attraction hats (allowing unlimited access) from Woody Woodpecker who's also your guide throughout the adventure. Obviously these cost money but funds can be earned by helping people, success at attractions and picking up litter. There are also other items to be purchased such as hover boards and dinosaur feet but to honest the passes to the various rides are the most important.
On entering any attraction you'll be given your objectives and the controller setup. It's important to note here that when you've completed each section you'll receive a stamp of which there are eight in total. These come in blue, for an average finish, or red for the best. Obviously the red stamps are far more valuable and collecting all of them allows you to open up the special ending. It's also important to talk to everyone as some people have valuable information or even objects such as a map, which can be very useful. There's no set order to attack the Park but as soon as you have all the hats you can visit attractions as many times as you wish. They're all reasonably different but if you've ever visited the park also very familiar.
BACKDRAFT is without a doubt the highlight and, like the movie it's based on, involves extinguishing fires and rescuing people. This is quite tough, as you also have to deal with exploding oil drums all around and firebombs, which need to be avoided at all costs. If this isn't enough you also have to avoid the dreaded back drafts, which you'll hear before you see so listen out or they'll eat up your health.
WILD WILD WEST is a target-based shooter, which can also be enjoyed as a two-player experience. This is very simple and you should get it in a few tries. Basically you have three rounds to out-shoot your opponent and gain the most points. Just keep an eye out for the bonuses and it will all be over very quickly.
JURASSIC PARK can best be described as an 'on the rails shooter'. Put simply this means that all you do is shoot at things on a pre-determined path as your jeep is driven. Although Jurassic Park was actually about conservation there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained by mowing down hordes of dinosaurs.
BACK TO THE FUTURE is based on the ride and not the movie and as a result you have to bump Biff's stolen DeLorean back to the present day. You'll also have to keep an eye on the track as a single collision slows you down considerably and too many will mean you run out of time and Biff escaping.
JAWS has you defending your beloved boat from.. well… Jaws. To achieve this you must throw various objects into his mouth, which rapidly depletes his health. This is aided by your onboard radar but timing is essential as even a second too late will have you in the water paddling frantically to reach the safety of your boat.
ET ADVENTURE sees the quality of the games decline rapidly and your object here is simply to get from A to B. This involves dodging and jumping over cars in order to get to your spaceship in time and that's it. Deadly simple but completely uninspiring.
ANIMATION CELEBRATION is a strange mixture of puzzles and quiz games. It all starts out with the challenge of answering 10 movie related questions with only three lifelines. Once this has been completed a slide puzzle and pairs game is opened up all of which can be tackled as a two player game.
WATERWORLD is particularly pointless as all you do here is watch a short animation. Yes, you read that correctly, just watching from various angles and that's it. Complete waste of time and not even a stamp.
You're probably thinking now that that's only seven attractions but I'd stated earlier that there are eight stamps to collect. Wandering around the park and collecting the letters to spell UNIVERSAL STUDIOS achieve the eighth. These are dotted everywhere and are so tiny you'll pick most of them up without even realising. As an added challenge some of them only become available during the evening but chatting to people will provide you with some clues as to their location.
All the various sections are very playable albeit on a very simplistic level but the main problem is that there are just not enough things to do in the park. What you have are generic game types wrapped around a license and if they were stripped away you'd simple be left with driving, shooting, quiz, etc. If you are particularly interested in any of these genres then you're probably best seeking out a full title dealing with your chosen passion, as it will unquestionably last longer than a matter of minutes. It's all fun while it lasts but by no means a classic.
Once you've gained all the red stamps there's very little replay value but the biggest problem is it won't take you that long to reach this point. It may not only be three hours as most the other reviews you'll read are suggesting but it's certainly not long enough to warrant charging full price for this title. There is some further fun to be had with the two player modes such as the shoot-out but once you've tired of all these you're very unlikely to play this title again.
While not as bad as the majority of critics are reporting it's certainly not worthy of a full price title. Wait for a used copy or for it's eventual release as budget or, even better, simply rent it, as you'll no doubt complete it in one sitting.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Average, very average. Probably not even worth a look for most.
2P shoot out
Little replay value