Tag Archives: Doug TenNapel

FGC #372 Jurassic Park (SNES) & Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis)

Jurassic!Jurassic Park was a cultural phenomenon because it combined the two things that people love most:

  1. Dinosaurs
  2. Looking at Dinosaurs

Once it hit those two essential beats, Jurassic Park could have been the sad tale of two kids that go to the worst summer camp ever, it was going to be a success. Luckily, Steven Spielberg didn’t just rest on his dino-laurels, and decided to include a plot that at least moderately utilized science/Jeff Goldblum/Jeff Goldblum doing science. There are dinosaurs, there are hackers, and, somewhere along the line, Santa Claus learns that nature finds a way (to eat your lawyer).

When you sit down and look at the basic plot of Jurassic Park, however, you see that it was already a videogame all along. Theme parks are ideal for videogames, as they naturally produce interesting and eclectic levels without having to generate an excuse for why the volcano is six feet from the sewer. Random dinosaurs create an army of easy mooks (that one spitting dork), mid-bosses (raptors), and final bosses (terrible thunder lizards). The kids can either serve for an escort mission or some kind of assistive advice dispenser, and maybe we can toss in a hacking minigame or something. Oh! And Grant is a paleontologist! That’s a fine excuse for a fetch quest for dinosaur eggs or triceratops dung or whatever we can find. Jurassic Park the Motion Picture may as well have come with a controller, because it’s halfway to your preferred console already.

NoooooAnd, though I loathe to admit it, given the choice, Jurassic Park for the Super Nintendo would likely be exactly the game I’d create with the Jurassic Park license. Well, not exactly, but the fundamentals are there. It’s a top-down adventure-esque game in the Zelda vein. And that’s a great start! It would be easy to make Grant an action hero, but he is more of a science nerd, so it makes more sense to see him inhabiting an elf’s Pegasus boots. And the general plot and mood of the game is not one of oppressive dino-danger, it’s much more akin to a stroll through a (Jurassic) park. Granted, it’s a park where you could be devoured at any time, but the “have fun and explore” sunny blue skies and lush, green grass is a lot more inviting than a thunderstorm. And that’s what Jurassic Park is about! Sure, it’s a big, scary trek through a naturalistic horror of man’s creation, but a solid half of the movie is given over to the wonder anyone would experience when confronted with Barney’s more savage cousins. A Jurassic Park that doesn’t pause to let the player enjoy Jurassic Park seems contrary to the spirit of the movie itself, and it would be far too easy to turn JP into Grant’s murderathon.

But other than that? Jurassic Park for the SNES kind of sucks.

Jurassic Park is very Zelda-like. In fact, it’s very much like the original Legend of Zelda, a game that tells you it’s dangerous to go alone, hands you a sword, and then provides no more information. Sure, we’ve all taken it for granted with decades of Nintendo Power and speed running and maybe a cartoon or two, but The Legend of Zelda is a very confusing experience for someone with absolutely no context. What are you supposed to be doing? Why are you collecting triangles? Are these rupees for something? And why did that orange mush eat my shield? There is no Zelda tutorial, and, if you hit start on that title screen as quickly as possible, it’s entirely possible a new player would have absolutely zero information on so much as Link’s basest objective (kill pig wizard). In a similar manner, Jurassic Park welcomes you to Jurassic Park, and… that’s it. You’re on your own, Grant, and your objectives are about as clear as molasses. Kill dinosaurs? Collect eggs? Earn a high score? Nedry didn’t leave you a manual, and the occasional tip to “avoid t-rexes” isn’t exactly the most useful thing to learn after becoming tyrannosaurus poop for the third time.

Take a stepBut even assuming you’re not the most goal oriented player in the world (the goal of any theme park is to have fun!), you’re still stuck with a pretty lousy experience. Grant moves at a snail’s pace, and velociraptors… don’t. Ammo is limited, and your default, rechargeable weapon is a stun gun (lightning blaster?) that actually stuns. Knock out a dinosaur, waste too much time investigating the area, and then discover that that toothy grin is back up and barreling down on our poor hero. Dinosaurs and traps come out of nowhere, health is difficult to recover, and saves or passwords are out of the question. It’s a game where you have no idea what you’re doing, and you’re inevitably doing it poorly.

And we haven’t even gotten to the best part! The “dungeons” of Jurassic Park were 3-D, FPS-esque affairs. This could be interesting on a system that wasn’t the SNES, at a time that wasn’t the dawn of the FPS. But on this system, in this epoch? It’s terrible. The SNES controller is not equipped in any way for a FPS, and a thousand Grant corpses being devoured by a million raptors is a testament to this fact. And never mind that the graphics for these areas are just a step above something a dilophosaurus might spit out. And the back of the box has the audacity to claim “no polygons or two-dimensional sprites here! Ocean’s exclusive REAL 3-D graphics will have you screaming… for more.” I take personal offense at every word in that sentence.

Bah! This game sucks! What’s happening in the Sega Genesis version?


Oh, I get a choice of characters? And the other choice is… a raptor?


A jump kicking gangsta raptor!?


And I can screw with Grant? For points?


Yes! Raptor! Save the world!

Okay, yeah, Sega wins this round.

Being a dinosaur is the best.

FGC #372 Jurassic Park (SNES) & Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis)

  • System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis for this review, but also available on every other system that was available in the early 90’s. Did you know there was a NES version? It was the Gameboy version, but with color!
  • Number of players: This is going to be a good week for single player experiences.
  • Hate himFurther complaints: SNES Park has a number of dinosaur enemies… and giant dragonflies. In the one game that is all about dinosaurs, they somehow ran out of dinosaurs. I hate everything.
  • Favorite Weapon (both versions): Is this where my love of rocket launchers originates? Grant can find a few in either game, and exploding dinosaurs into meaty chunks is always a good time.
  • Other Genesis Options: You can play as Grant in Genesis Park. It is not worth it. Oh, someone incorporated the river level? Well la di da. Grant can’t eat lil’ dinos for health, and I don’t want to deal with that.
  • Did you know? The animators for Genesis Park (including Doug TenNapel) studied real, live lizards to properly animate the dinosaurs that would inevitably devour poor Grant. The creators of SNES Park, meanwhile, stuck sharp sticks in their eyes so they could properly convey human pain to the audience.
  • Would I play again: SNES Park is never happening ever. Genesis Park is a solid maybe, but only because of one thing, and that rhymes with “Slayable Maptor”.

What’s next? We’re closing out our SNES vs. Genesis duel with one wish: world peace. Just kidding. We wished for Aladdin, and it’s coming up next. Please look forward to it!


FGC #294 Skullmonkeys

YummySkullmonkeys is notable for being a pretty fun videogame that, incidentally, hails form an alternate reality.

History is written by the winners, and, given enough time, even people who lived through that history tend to paper over the genuine details of reality. Case in point: the death of the 2-D platformer. To hear many of the old guard of videogames tell it, we spent the glorious 8 & 16-bit eras awash in an embarrassment of riches of 2-D platformers, and then, the moment the Playstation and N64 rolled into town, the era of 2-D was dead, presumably punched into an early grave by the sharp, polygonal fists of Battle Arena Toshinden. Sony had a legendary policy of rejecting all “childish” 2-D games, and the N64 couldn’t render a “retro” sprite to save its cursed life. 2-D died, and the Buster Sword was the murder weapon.

Except that’s complete bullshit, because there certainly were 2-D games on the Playstation. One of the most lauded games of all time was released on the Playstation, and it was 2-D. Mega Men of various origins had a number of 2-D adventures through the 32-bit era, and Playstation even paid host to many underdog 2-D adventures, like Silhouette Mirage and Norse by Norsewest. In short, while 3-D certainly dominated the epoch (for every Symphony of the Night there was a Castlevania 64… maybe even two) there were also 2-D action games available on CD and cartridge straight through to the death of the age of DVD. Yes, Mega Man 9 was a retro innovation, but it wasn’t that far removed from Mega Man X8.

So if 2-D games did exist, then where did they go? No, I don’t mean, “where did they end up?” We can see the answer to that every time we check the 3DS’s eshop and encounter a variety of platformers wallowing in the “Under $10!” ghetto. What I’m referring to is evolution. What I’m talking about is Mario, and the enormous gulf between Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario World. Heck, we consider Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World to be roughly contemporary, but Mario Maker reminded everyone that the difference between 8 and 16-bits is a lot more than eight digits. But that’s just how videogames worked practically since their inception: a new system with new possibilities means all the old games you remember with all-new graphical upgrades to get with the times. Super Contra, Super Castlevania, Super Adventure Island, Super Alfred Chicken. It’s a brand new day, and it’s time to see just how many pixels we can dedicate to Link’s eyebrows.

Look awayOf course, I suppose it’s Link and Mario that killed that trend. Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time destroyed the idea of the “evolving” sprites. Now Sonic would have to have an adventure, Mega Man would have to be a legend, and anybody that wanted to stick to the 2-D universe (hi, Wario!) would have to retreat to the lesser, portable systems. It would be years before we saw an updated Master Higgins or Monster World, because it was time to permanently migrate over to 3-D pastures.

But 3-D was not the welcoming land of milk and honey that many expected. The mascot platformer had ruled the 16-bit world, and, while many were happy to see that trend die kicking and screaming, it was clear that a universe of polygons was not going to do “cute characters” any favors. Many believe Sonic conquering the consoles fast is the only reason we saw the rise of the generic furry with attitude, but it’s a lot more likely that the horsepower of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis simply allowed for more expressive and “interesting” (I’m using quotes specifically for Aero the Acro-Bat there) mascots. And the Playstation could certainly create characters with a greater range of expressions than on the old systems… but nobody was going to mistake a model full of angles and sharp edges for cute. In fact, the death of Bubsy and his furry friends was probably just because no one could properly render fur. And without fur, all you’ve got is a ry.

ChillyBut there was one mascot from the 16-bit era that didn’t possess a single tuft of fur: Earthworm Jim. EWJ was the 16-bit mascot ideal: he was the cover-worm for every videogame magazine, he starred in his own animated series, and everyone fought over which version of which game was truly the best of the bunch. EWJ was a full-fledged phenomenon… for all of ten minutes. But, one-hit wonder or no, shouldn’t the ol’ powersuit have made the transition to 3-D? Where did our invertebrate hero go? Or, more particularly, where did the people who birthed Earthworm Jim go?

Well, they went to the Neverhood. Doug TenNapel created Earthworm Jim, and he left Shiny Entertainment (with a number of other employees) in 1995, likely because everyone seems to think Dave Perry invented the previously mentioned groovy guy. The Neverhood Inc (company) then partnered up with Dreamworks to create The Neverhood (game), an adventure game with a sincere/crazy sense of humor/whimsy. It was also a game where everything was made of clay, and there may or may not have been a hallway of scribbles that took about seventeen hours to read. It… was a weird game. But it was fun! And funny! And if PC gaming wasn’t a living hell at the time, The Neverhood likely would have become a game just as legendary as Earthworm Jim. Unfortunately, this was also a time when Electronics Boutique stopped selling PC games entirely because it was getting fed up with having to accept constant returns from screaming customers that never seemed to be able to purchase a game that would actually run on their own computers, so The Neverhood fell into that limbo of “great game, but only six people ever played it” like many 90’s computer games.

So, naturally, Neverhood Inc. tried to get a piece of the console pie. Wisely, Neverhood Inc. realized that the King’s Quest-esque adventure genre wouldn’t work on consoles for another decade or so, so the Neverhood world was repurposed as a more console friendly platforming game. Skullmonkeys was born.

WeeeeSkullmonkeys is a platforming game, plain and simple. You run, you jump, you jump on enemies, you spend a lot of time waiting for moving platforms, you’re dead in one hit unless you grab a powerup that allows for two hits, and there are a few “fireball” bits of ammo scattered around for when jumping just won’t do it. There’s a simple progression of difficulty and an increasing number of “traps” as Klaymen ventures through Idznak. There are bosses with simple, repeating patterns. There are bonus stages available only through finding various hidden knickknacks. It’s a platforming game, and if you switched in Bubsy or Awesome Possum for Klaymen, nobody would blink an eye. … Well, aside from the general confusion that would arise from playing a Bubsy game that was actually good.

Except… this was a game on the Playstation. There weren’t platforming games on the Playstation, and there certainly weren’t games that looked this gorgeous. Skullmonkeys was released the same year as Resident Evil 2 and Metal Gear Solid, 3-D games that are marvelous, wonderful experiences that are also, incidentally, terrible to look at. No, Skullmonkeys must be the last vestige of an alternate universe, another timeline where platforming games were allowed to evolve and grow into their “next gen” forms. This gorgeous, but limited, platforming game could not have seriously been released the same year as Spyro the Dragon. 1998 games are supposed to be polygons for days, with FMVs like you’d find in Ehrgeiz. There weren’t playforming games like this on the Playstation!

History tells us that platforming died with the last gasp of the Super Nintendo. Skullmonkeys, clearly, never happened.

More’s the pity.

FGC #294 Skullmonkeys

  • Platform: Playstation. I do not believe this has been ported anywhere else. This is what happens when a game is imaginary.
  • Number of players: Just Klaymen. I would not have said no to Willie becoming the Luigi.
  • Go joe!Favorite Boss: Joe Head Joe has Joe’s head for a body. At least, I would assume that is Joe. If not, he is pretty poorly named.
  • Pedantry Corner: Yes, I know there was a 3-D Earthworm Jim game. No, I am not ever going to acknowledge it.
  • Sequel Story: Skullmonkeys is a direct sequel to Neverhood, picking up exactly where the good ending of Neverhood left off, and including the planet Idznak, which was mentioned in that long-ass hallway. Fortunately, you don’t need to know a blessed thing from the Neverhood to enjoy this game, as “Klogg is evil” seems pretty apparent from the first moment he skins a monkey and wears his skull as a hat.
  • Just play the gig, man: The bonus stage music is delightful, and I certainly do not jump every time the singer claims there’s a monster right behind me.
  • Secret Shame: I have never seen the 1970’s bonus stage. Where are those damn things hiding!?
  • Goggle Bob Fact: There was enough advertising for Skullmonkeys that a Skullmonkeys sticker wound up stuck to my locker freshman year. For some reason, I found this act rebellious. I was a troubled youth.
  • Yummy!Did you know? There was apparently a Japan-only “sequel” to the Neverhood universe, a sports game called Klaymen Gun-Hockey. It was created by the company that had the Japanese rights to localize Neverhood games, and… was probably insane.
  • Would I play again: Probably yes. This is a genuinely good platforming game, and I’d love to see it available on a portable (not phone, we need buttons here) system. Assuming we ever see that, couple it with save states, and we’re golden.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Sunset Riders for the Super Nintendo! Get ready to bust some outlaws, pardner. Please look forward to it, ya’all!