Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure
released on Dec 07, 2001
,Nai'a Digital Works
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being a huge universal studios fan as a kid, this was very disappointing
but years later, knowing that this game ended up being a bleakly prophetic vision of my future (picking up trash at universal studios), it's even worse. /better. i don't know anymore
The first time I remember being disappointed in a video game. Thank you for taking my innocence Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure.
This could have been a decent minigame collection if it actually had a good amount of minigames, and didn't focus instead on wandering aimlessly around the park picking up garbage to get points to spend on hats that then allow you to get to the front of queues so you can finally actually go on the rides (Yes, really).
They should have known it would be shite as soon as they came up with the idea of putting queues for the rides in the game. The core gameplay is just awful, and this isn't even taking into account the frozen camera, the crap minigames themselves, or the horrifying, bone-chilling noises that Woody Woodpecker makes.
The only reason it isn't half-a-star is because it's really funny watching YouTubers react to the game when it's making them listen to Woody, pick up garbage, or wait in line for a ride. So it has that going for it at least.
besides picking up trash, this game was cool
why do i have this rated so high?
i actually played this game
it is really good, i recommend it
i actually played this game
it is really good, i recommend it
I sure picked up some garbage, huh?
The game is successful at replicating the experience of being a kid alone in a theme park, perhaps more accurately than Universal may have liked. The obtuse inner workings and unclear objectives of the game, combined with the disorienting fixed camera angles, come together to vividly remind me of the time me and my little brother got separated from our grandpa at Silver Dollar City's Geyser Gulch. Waterworld consists of 5 FMV's, each mere seconds long, each showing the same animated scene from different angles, truly serving up the classic amusement park experience of "uh, that's it?" Seemingly random crowds and wandering NPC's will block you as you aimlessly stumble around, and at any given moment at least half of the rides will be unavailable because of the long lines. There's even an NPC a few hundred yards into the park who tells you that you should have grabbed a map while you were at the entrance, and now you need to go back.
I've seen videos wherein people note a lack of "design" but I think the logic here was pretty clear. If you're making a game about a theme park, you want the rides to be the big exciting set-pieces; if you want to convey the scale of the park, to have a large detailed environment, how do you accomplish that while leaving enough space on the disc for the stuff that really counts? You make it pre-rendered, of course, and because it's pre-rendered that means you can use the rest of your rendering budget on character models and sprites to give the (paper thin) impression of bustling crowds. Why do you pick up trash? For the same reason barrels and rupees spontaneously rise from the sea in Wind Waker, to give the player something to do during what would otherwise be mere traversal. Why are the objectives so obscure? Why are the mini-games so hard? Why is the layout of the park so indecipherable? Why are half the rides too crowded to access at any given time? Why, it's the oldest trick in the book, it's just to pad the game out and make it take longer to beat.
One of the game's 8 major objectives is passing a movie trivia quiz given by Winnie Woodpecker. Every other question is about some completely inconsequential detail of a movie nobody cares about; I have never heard a single human being talk about the film "Backdraft", I have never seen a single person online talk about it outside of the context of this game. The rest are at least about movies that people have actually seen, but the specific aspects you're being quizzed on are so minute that I think literally nobody will get through this without some trial an error. The only text guide I could find for this game was no help, it literally just says "the questions repeat, so just write the correct answer down". I failed this quiz over a dozen times and rarely if ever saw a repeat question, there must be hundreds of them. When you fail, the way that Winnie says "you need to watch more movies" in a peculiar tone of voice. You would think it's like when a friend says "you need to check this out", but it's not, it's much more muted, clerical, a simple requirement. It doesn't feel like part of the "game", it feels like an oldschool PC game's copy protection asking me to find the 17th letter on the 13th page of a manual that I don't have.
This game came out barely a month after the GameCube's launch, and it sure feels like it. Between the muddy, flat textures, simple models, and eye-piercing "graphic design is my passion" text, it feels more like Nintendo 64 backwash than a new generation. The anime-styled character models of the player and NPC's are probably the most visually appealing aspect of the game. The characters are in this style because this was developed in Japan by a studio that seemingly only made this game and nothing else (though a look at MobyGames shows some number of the development staff went on to do things like environments and animations for companies like Square Enix and Hudson). Universal Studios Japan opened near the beginning of the same year that this came out. The game prominently features on both it's box and in-game a disclaimer that the game is not necessarily an accurate representation of the park, and it seems that this is because the selection of attractions more closely resembles the Japan location. Knowing that this a third party game released so early in the system's life, and a tie-in game likely meant to coincide with the opening of the park, I imagine the unimpressive presentation is a consequence of these factors.
The main attractions, the mini-games, aren't that bad, but they aren't that good. Back to the Future controls fine enough and is a visual spectacle, but it does still feel like it could have been done on N64, and the time limit is too strict (I have no idea how someone could get the higher rank on this, it requires having a full 30 seconds left over). Someone else on here said ET is worse than ET on 2600, which is a little mean. The trick (as explained by a random NPC in the park) is to always land your bike's back tire, meaning you should never ever tilt the analogue stick to the right; once you know this, it's fine. Jurassic Park is a mediocre rail shooter. Like BttF you don't have much room for error, and while the reticle is accurate for targeting your homing missiles, it doesn't line up with your rapid fire shots at all.
Backdraft might be the longest and most fully featured mini-game of the bunch (this attraction is still open in the real-life park in Japan, was that movie just a massive hit over there or what?), and in some ways it's pretty cool. It's like a firefighting take on Luigi's Mansion, though the control scheme is nowhere near as intuitive. You shoot with the A button, and while shooting you rotate with the analogue stick and move with the D-pad, though this is mostly workable. The main issue is one common in games with fixed camera angles: when the screen transitions, your character's movement direction won't change, they'll continue to move according to their rotation relative to the previous camera angle until you completely release the stick, at which point the directions are realigned with the camera. If you've played something like one of the old Devil May Cry's or Resident Evil's from this era without tank controls, you know what to expect here.
Jaws isn't particularly great, but at least if you've read the manual it's pretty easy. Most videos I've seen of the game show the player throwing barrels at the shark, but you're actually supposed to throw the boxes at the boat's cabin to break them. Inside the boxes are various items, the most valuable of which is a stick of dynamite that can take out half of the shark's health in a single hit; there's also a bottle item that doesn't do much damage but appears to have unlimited ammo. I haven't done the Wild Wild Wild West mini-game yet, though I think my patience with the game may have reached its limit.
The last of the main 8 challenges is collected hidden letters throughout the park, eventually spelling out "Universal Studios". Between these, the random trash you can pick up for points, and just trying to figure out where you character ended up on-screen between each camera angle transition, there's a good bit of pixel hunting. It's rarely much worse than looking for items in games like Resident Evil or Final Fantasy on PS1, but it's not particularly fun.
I was surprised going back to this how, uh, not impossible it was. As a kid I could barely make any progress in this at all, I thought the mini-games were impossible, I thought the caps were so expensive that I could never reasonably afford them. As an adult the game is certainly not good, it's tedious, it's boring, but it is playable. I thought there was almost literally no reason to talk to NPC's, though there is a sidequest you can find where a character has lost her phone. You can find it ringing on a bench and bring it back to her. I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't any other moments like this in the game, but it is at least interesting that there are any little touches like this at all.