It’s hard to believe that over 25 years have passed since Jurassic Park hit the theaters. I still remember the thrill of seeing Steven Spielberg’s T-Rex stomp across the screen for the first time, and the simultaneous horror and fascinating of watching the velociraptors hunt. For a kid who grew up with dinos on the brain, it was close to the perfect film.
I wanted to join Dr. Grant on his explorations, make snarky remarks and sly observations with Ian Malcolm, and punch Dennis Nedry square in the face. Sadly, none of those were realistic options. Fortunately, the year after the Jurassic Park’s release, I was able to visit Isla Nublar in a different capacity: as an Ingen employee dedicated to cleaning up the mess left behind by the disastrous events of the movie.
I am talking, of course, about the arcade game version of Jurassic Park, released by Sega in 1994. The game had a fairly elaborate sit down cabinet, with your chair resembling the backside of a Ford Explorer. It was a rail shooter, and has drawn a fair number of comparisons to Operation Wolf and Rail Chase. You had one mission: shoot the dinosaurs (as well as objects like boulders and fences which may impede your progress). To make the game more of an immersive experience, the seat moved, providing the illusion that you were actually racing through Isla Nublar’s treacherous terrain.
There were four areas to clear, and the game could accommodate two players. Instead of using a light gun, you had a joystick that you used to aim and fire at the terrible lizards. Speaking of those fearsome foes, here’s who you would encounter: T-Rex (obviously), Velociraptor, Gallimimus, Triceratops, Dilophosaurus, Pteranodon, Ankylosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Ichthyosaurus. Despite the fact that gameplay centered around you shooting frantically at the dinos like a big game hunter on a bender, your ultimate goal was to capture the beasts. The end of the game provided a cut scene of the animals being caged up again, keeping humanity safe from the mess they had brought on themselves. At least, until the sequel.
The game cost $0.25 to play and, as with most arcade games of its type, was basically designed to keep you pumping quarters into the machine. Similarly, the “plot” was a bit slap dash and really only existed to get you to the action sequences. While these kinds of details didn’t exactly earn high marks from critics, they were irrelevant to a kid with a pocket full of change and an unquenchable thirst for all things dinosaur.