REVIEW: Jurassic Park 83/100

A review of Jurassic Park Pro by Stern Pinball with the version 1.00.0 (released) software with MQVS.

Manufacturer: Stern Pinball Released: July 2019 Designer: Keith Elwin Software: Rick Naegele Art: Jonathan Bergeron (Johnny Crap)


MQVS RATING

83/100 – Jurassic Park is DANG GOOD overall!

PWS RATINGS

Player – 87/100
Collector – 82/100
Operator – 79/100

Keith Elwin and company have done it again! Jurassic Park is Dang Good overall on the Meaningless Quantified Value System (MQVS). When weighting is applied using Point-of-View Weighting System (PWS), it scored as Awesome with Players!

I purchased a Jurassic Park Pro NIB shortly after launch and have reaped enjoyment from over 100 plays experiencing new features introduced with each software release from v0.8 to last week’s release of the v1.00.0. And that brings something up that has come up quite a bit on-stream and on Pinside…


PRE-RELEASE SOFTWARE

There were issues encountered along the way… the first being that none of the mini-wizard modes were in the game. That was interesting. Getting to Visitor’s Center wasn’t too difficult, but the game kind of just ended when you got there. We had a few crashes. But that’s pre-release software for you.

And maybe this is a good opportunity to address this…

I’m a software developer and have been for almost 15 years. I’ve worked in numerous environments in teams that develop software in numerous ways… and a constant across all of them is that the customer always wants early access to whatever you’re creating. And do you know what? That is so common that all of software development has shifted to a “Get the software in the customer’s hands as fast as possible” methodology for development called “Agile”.

The same goes for pinball. In every instance of software development, getting the software into the customer’s hands faster results in better software upon release. If you don’t want to help “test” software for Stern, wait until the software is “released” before you buy it. If you’re Ok with using software before it’s been released, then expect bugs or unfinished code. It’s pretty simple and common across all software industries.

It seems silly to me to complain to or about a company that their pre-release software isn’t bug free or contain all of the features that will eventually be there.

Note: Because there is so much confusion over versioning in software and often little to no understanding of what it takes to write good software, I’ve scheduled a blog to identify and address all of this in the next week. It will likely say everything I said above in greater detail with sources cited. So feel free to skip it if you read the above paragraphs and have decided you don’t need any additional information about software development.


HOW I RATE PINBALL MACHINES

I wrote an article that goes in-depth into how we rate pinball machines. It’s fairly dense so only take the plunge if you’re comfortable swimming in the deep end. Here’s a link to that article: Pinball Machine Reviews: A System to Quantify Value in a Meaningless Way

Otherwise, I like to think of myself as both a harsh critic and wonderfully fair. I set high standards for myself and hold everyone to that same bar. So when you see a review with a rating and the number may seem low when compared to what’s possible, that’s just me.

But I’m human and that means I’m biased even when I don’t want or think I’m being biased. So take all of my thoughts and reviews with a healthy grain of salt (unless of course you have high blood pressure or are on medication that salt causes issue with) and try the game out for yourself. You might think it’s the cats pajamas or maybe the bee’s knees. This is what I though of it:


CATEGORY BREAKDOWN

Jurassic Park Playfield

THEME – 13

Theme is where Jurassic Park scored the lowest. And not because of how it was implemented. I’ve listened to interviews with Keith Elwin about Jurassic Park and he’s spoken extensively on how his hands were tied with regards to licensing. Stern was only able to use the logo, dinosaurs from several of the movies, and Nedry. And I completely agree with Keith that Nedry was probably the single best asset he could have grabbed!

Keith and Rick did something really fun with what assets they had available and that was to create a first-person adventure through the eyes of a new recruit to Jurassic Park. And what happens is all very reminiscent of the plot from the Jurassic Park movie but it’s NOT the Jurassic Park movie. It’s as though they’re retelling the story through an alternate universe where you are the potential hero. And that’s cool!

But… this game could have been so much more with regards to theme. Once again, I give (if you’ll excuse the 90’s parlance) “mad-props” to Keith and the dev team for making the journey through Jurassic Park and escaping the Island Nublar seem magical… but actual assets from the film, voices from any of the actors, and the iconic Jeep from Jurassic Park all would have gone a long way to a more immersive experience.

I was there, in the theater when Jurassic Park released. I remember the theater being oversold with people sitting on the floor next to me not caring that the concrete was sticky or that I dropped popcorn on them. I remember arguing with my parents that I was old enough now to see it and I promised not to bother them with nightmares if I had them afterwards. The movie was THAT GOOD for the time.

And when I heard that Stern was releasing a Jurassic Park themed pinball machine, in my heart-of-hearts (I really dislike that cliched reference but I can’t think of a better way to phrase it right now) I really-really (there we go, much better) wanted a piece of that (the nostalgia, obviously).

The art is reminiscent of the old sticker books from the 80s and 90s you could buy at the grocery store. It didn’t push any boundaries, it didn’t have the mean appeal of Zombie Yeti’s work or the wonderful overlapping awesomeness of Dirty Donny. It wasn’t bad, it just isn’t one of the best parts of the pinball machine.

And that “Not-A-Jeep”… I get that Stern realized not having the iconic Jeep from the movie was going to be an issue. George Gomez personally designed this “thing”. But… it misses the mark with me as anything that isn’t a Jeep would have missed the mark. And once again, Stern tried their best with what assets they were given. I just can’t rate theme any higher knowing what Jurassic Park had the potential to be.

And those call-outs… such awful attempts at an Australian accent.

  • Pros
    • Despite lacking assets from the movie, the first-person story theme is quite enjoyable/fun.
    • Dinosaurs!
  • Cons
    • Artwork only meets expectations. Unfortunately, Chris Franchi and Zombie Yeti have set quite a high bar!
    • Very few movie assets obtained.
    • Awful voice-acted call-outs meant to be similar to the movie.
    • So many iconic scenes from the movie missed out on that could have really immersed the player in Jurassic Park.
    • The game feels more like a story set in the Jurassic Park instead of a pin of the Jurassic Park movie.
    • No iconic Jeep from ALL of the Jurassic Park movies.

COMMUNICATION – 19

A 19!? That’s pretty high. Didn’t you just get done saying you set high bars and blah blah blah?

Yes. And Jurassic Park does an amazing job of communicating the rules, general plot of the story based modes, and what shots to hit when you’re supposed to hit them. Almost as if Stern and other manufacturers have figured out that players want to not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out how to play the game. Sure, there should be some hidden features and easter-eggs too to give incentive to explore for players who have this game in-house or pockets full of quarters in the arcade, but I should be able to figure out the game by looking at the card, reading the playfield/lights, and interacting with the DMD/LCD.

In fact, the first and only time I ran into a real issue was during the Museum Mayhem wizard mode when I needed to spell T-REX again by hitting the “Not-a-Jeep” but the T-REX letters were filled out already. I was streaming at the time and we clipped it and recorded it as a bug and sent it off to Stern’s dev team. There is something significant there about how well the game communicates with the user that the first time I felt it necessary to tell the software team about an issue it was just a bug.

Progressing through the game using the map of the island in the center of the playfield is a breeze. I think the biggest issues new players will have is connecting the direction the Not-a-Jeep is pointing to the direction you’ll move on the map once you initiate a mode. Once a user understands that, I think the rest is “figure-out-able”.

The only reason this isn’t a 20 is because it’s difficult to figure out how to light the different Control Room modes and start the Secure Control Room mini-wizard mode.

Jurassic Park is not a simple game. The ruleset is deep and the first-person story mode “driven” game (ha, see what I did there) is not an intuitive leap for seasoned pinball players or noobs, but the LCD interface, the rule card (please don’t forget to look at these), the lighting, and the playfield itself all work together to communicate what needs to be done effectively.

  • Pros
    • A good LCD interface to keep track of perks and display pertinent information.
    • Lighting used effectively to illustrate where and when to make shots on the playfield.
    • Ample response on the LCD when shots activate events.
    • Good delays built into the game where the ball is safely held and information on how to proceed is presented to the user.
    • Map progression system is easy to understand.
  • Cons
    • How to light Control Room is not clearly identified in the cards, playfield, or primary LCD screen interface

Want to full break-down of how the Jurassic Park works? Check out the Tilt Forums!

PLAY – 17

I was a pretty big fan of Keith Elwin’s first game Iron Maiden. Keith’s second attempt at a design/layout was a big improvement. The shots are challenging but make-able. There are easy shots, difficult shots, and then WaHoo I did it shots (the ‘O’). There are numerous combos in the game that you get rewarded by making. But no primary “toy” in the PRO version. Oh there is the Not-a-Jeep in both the PRO and the PREMIUM/LE but that’s not what I think of when I imagine a pinball machine toy like Sparky in Metallica or an upper playfield, or something like Groot’s head in Guardian’s of the Galaxy. Yet, it does change something significant about the game.

In the PREMIUM/LE, you get a T-REX head that grabs the ball, a spinning helicopter blade, and a wall that traps a ball for Raptor multiball. The gate and ball eating T-REX actually don’t do anything for me. I’ve seen the T-REX reject too many times to be interested in it personally and the gate on the raptor multiball just makes it more likely that I’ll kill myself trying to hit it.

But the kinetic satisfaction of spinning the helicopter blade is one of my favorite things about Jurassic Park. I know that’s silly but when I see a PREMIUM/LE, I feel the need to play it not because of anything but the stupid helicopter blade. It’s amazing.

I think I’m Ok with no toy. Iron Maiden didn’t have a toy in the more standard sense and it is still a fun shooter. It gets repetitive and the only real challenge is the ramps but even that gets boring in a good game.

Deadpool has the mini-pool locking mechanism and the katana lock… but still no toy and that game is one of my favorites.

So once again, I’m Ok with no toy because the game is so fun to shoot.

There are the two tip of the flipper shots with the control room on the left of the raptor cage and the helipad shot to the far right. Those are both difficult but makable shots. There is the raptor cage which can be both lucrative and scary as it deposits your ball straight down the middle. The 2 shots accessible from the upper flipper leading to a mini-orbit and the tower. The left ramp for whatever reason I struggle to find sometimes. I’ll hit it perfectly 20 times and then miss it 5 shots in a row. The center orbit with the spinner on it is incredibly satisfying. The smart missle shot through the pops (nice nod towards the original Jurassic Park Data East pinball machine) is TOUGH with a capital T. The right ramp is rough sometimes but comparable to the right ramp on Iron Maiden.

And then there is the ‘O’ shot. You deserve a beer for every time you hit it on purpose. Maybe even accidentally.

Jurassic Park has a lot of shots that vary between easy and difficult and makes use of other weird targets and a rotating ball that changes the direction of the Not-a-Jeep and the game as a whole. It is well developed and very nicely integrated into the ruleset and animations. That’s why it’s rated so highly.

  • Pros
    • Good mixture of easy, difficult, and near impossible shots.
    • Ability to play through the penultimate wizard mode directly.
    • Interesting mechanic in the Not-a-Jeep that is creatively used to create several different shots that are necessary to progress.
    • Three flippers and a non-fan-layout with an enjoyable loop.
    • That O shot is so tough!
    • It has a ball eating T-REX (Premium/LE versions only)
  • Cons
    • No major “toy” to interact with on the playfield.
    • The ball eating T-REX does reject and when it does it often goes down the middle.

VALUE – 15

The game takes another small hit on value. I like the way Keith Elwin designs for value reasons. Without a crazy toy or elevated playfields, there is less that can go wrong, less that will break…

But I’ve run into issues with Jurassic Park both personally in-house and on-location.

The first and most irritating issue is the post just below the upper flipper. This post on every Jurassic Park I’ve played routinely comes loose. On-location, it needs to be tightened daily. Often multiple times a day. I’ve run into several Jurassic Parks where this post was removed. Apparently, Stern put out a fix for this and you can hit them up to have the replacement parts shipped to you. I haven’t done that yet, I only heard about it a week or so ago but plan to send an email to their support team.

Second, on my Jurassic Park and every other one I’ve played on, the ball gets stuck in the Raptor fence. A good wiggle will force it loose but being on-location and often in competitive games with others, this can result in a danger, a double danger if it’s really in there, or worst yet a tilt if the bob is set tight. It happens, has happened, and continues to happen. I don’t know how to solve this unfortunately. This may be a component design flaw. It could just be an issue with pitch?

Another issue, and this one is with Stern’s in general as opposed to Jurassic Park is the coil stop under the playfield associated with each flipper. Apparently Stern decided to go with a cheaper coil stop at some point that fails often. I’ve replaced 2 coil stops on my Jurassic Park and have read online that this is fairly common.

Lastly, there is the target in the back of the Raptor fence. This jammed behind the post next to it several times after a couple of hundred games. I ended up removing the rubber on the post and that resolved it but that issue for an operator would have resulted in a maintenance call requiring the glass to come up.

These are the kinds of issues that make operating a game like this cost-ineffective which I think is exactly the opposite of what an operator like Keith Elwin was trying to design. For these reasons, I had to give drop the value a bit.

But this game WILL hold its value. Once those kinks are worked out and assuming the dimpling issues that Pinside is still stuck chatting about every day aren’t really going to affect prices in the long run… this is still a good buy. Jurassic Parks haven’t dropped much in value and have remained consistent in pricing with games like Deadpool and Star Trek and I expect it to maintain that indefinitely.

  • Pros
    • No major components that could break on the Pro.
    • Already holding it’s value well.
  • Cons
    • Issues with several components straight from the manufacturer have required replacing.
    • Ball gets stuck in places.
    • Theme isn’t really based on any of the movies.
    • Concerns over playfield longevity that are well commented upon by Pinside.

Link to Pinside Stern Jurassic Park Pro Market

FUN – 19

This game is fun. I don’t know that I really need to say much more beyond that. But I will because I like to hear the sound of my own… typing?

Jurassic Park is a unique first-person experience to a story mode pinball machine. The shots will keep this interesting enough for me to play it 1000+ times. I may even invest in a custom sound package at some point to better enjoy actual call-outs from the movie.

Completing the mini-mode/wizard-mode: Escape Nublar in 5:16

Don’t think you’ll get to the Escape Nublar wizard mode by playing through each of the mini-wizard modes? That’s fine, give it a shot directly by holding both flippers and playing through the super fun wizard mode and attempt to Escape Nublar!

The rules have really turned this into a winner in my opinion and if you’re in the market for a pinball machine you can keep in-house for years or if you’re an operator looking for a new machine to make money with, I think Jurassic Park is a solid bet. It’s a shooter’s game (per Keith Elwin) that is rewarding to both new players and good players, competitive players, and those being pulled in off the street by the sounds of a T-REX roaring it’s way into multiball!

  • Pros
    • First-person story based modes
    • Map traversal guided by the direction of a kinetic toy
    • Dinosaurs!
    • The most amazing kinetic helicopter spinner that defies my understanding of why I like it so much.
    • Easy and challenging shots combine to make this an enjoyable experience.
    • Ability to play through the penultimate wizard mode at will!
  • Cons
    • The Jurassic Park music got tiresome very quickly.
    • The 2nd worst call-outs in Stern’s recent machine offerings.

My Hat’s Off to you Stern, Keith, and Rick (and anyone else involved) on a DANG GOOD game overall and an AWESOME players game!

Let me know if you agree or disagree, if you think I’m off my rocker or if I missed some major component in the review. Feel free to comment below or email me directly at george@dontpanicflip.com

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