'Jurassic Park' game lacks bite

— -- Passersby who glance at the new Jurassic Park: The Game will no doubt be impressed with its graphics, strong writing and sound effects.

But those holding the controller will likely tell you it lacks in the interactivity department, ultimately leaving players unfulfilled. This is especially disappointing for fans of the film franchise hoping for a deep and immersive dinosaur experience.

While not horrible, Jurassic Park: The Game is at best a weekend rental.

Available on disc for Xbox 360 and digitally for PlayStation 3, PC, Mac and iPad, Telltale Games' action-adventure hybrid brings players back to Isla Nublar, the island that houses Jurassic Park, during the events of the original movie from '93. The game picks up on that rainy night when Dennis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame) meets his fate while trying to steal invaluable dinosaur embryos hidden inside a can of shaving cream. You'll play as a half-dozen characters at different times of this four-episode game. They are each stuck on the isle and must use brains and brawn to stave off the vicious dinosaurs .

While there's plenty of atmosphere and action, you're not directly controlling your character, or the camera for that matter. Rather, you're presented with button prompts on the screen and you've got only a second or two to press the corresponding button for the game to perform the desired action. In some cases, you're tapping a button rapidly, rotating the right analog stick or pushing forward on the sticks for a closer look at an object. The game is built around these floating icons rather than you moving your character — similar to the contextual elements in Heavy Rain but a lot less interactive.

In fact, Jurassic Park reminds me of the Dragon's Lair arcade game from the '80s, where all the actions are pre-scripted, and you must simply push the joystick in a given direction at the right time or press the button when prompted or else you die. (On a related note, if you meet an uncertain death in this game you'll start again moments before you perish and will need to repeat the sequence until you get it right. As a result, you're nudged along a pre-written path instead of feeling like you're at the heart of the adventure.)

Gameplay is broken up into action, puzzle-solving and exploration. In the game's first chapter, for example, you'll press buttons to run from escaped dinosaurs by sliding under (or hopping over) various objects in your way; you'll figure out how to open the gate of a fence by unlocking it elsewhere (and using a car's horns and lights to annoy a stubborn herbivore who won't budge); and you'll explore the grounds to see where footsteps lead.

Along with merely pressing buttons that match the pre-scripted move, there are other issues with Jurassic Park. For one, there are icons that flash on the screen so quickly you can't possibly press the corresponding button in time. Or the icon will be partially obstructed by your character — who you can't move — so you miss your cue. The game developers did add a number of entertaining sequences for each action you perform (or don't perform), but it still feels like a string of cut-scene sequences rather than real gameplay.

As a longtime fan of Telltale Games, I'm especially let down with Jurassic Park. Perhaps the developers went for a more accessible game, something for those who want to push buttons and see things happen, but it's so dumbed-down that even casual players might feel it's simply a "choose your own adventure" game with little bite.

Jurassic Park: The Game

Platform: Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iPad, PlayStation Network (PSN) for PS3

Genre: Action/Adventure

Developer: Telltale Games

Publisher: Telltale Games

Web site: www.telltalegames.com/jurassicpark

Price: $39.99 (Xbox 360), $29.99 (PC, Mac), $19.99 (PSN), $6.99 (iPad)

Rating: "Teen"

Score: 2.5 stars (out of 4)

Contact Saltzman at techcomments@usatoday.com