Review by Mega

"Hey, it's better then Waterworld."

I love theme parks. The excitements, the food, the smells… nothing quite like it. Carnivals try their hardest to reproduce the attraction of theme parks, but only few seem to score big. Theme parks offer many a thing to do. You can ride rides, play the games, and watch the shows, or shop, which is one of my favorite things to do. Show me some cash and a gift shop, and I’ll show you a happy Mega. Another great thing to do is hunt down the giant, costumed characters. Every theme park has a set of costumed characters, waddling around the park with an employee, shaking the hands of snot nosed little brats. Who hasn’t beat up one of those characters? I sure know I have.

I remember one time when a group of friends and I went to the nearest Six Flags theme park. We spent the whole day hunting down Bugs Bunny, and finally found him in front of the funnel cake shop, shaking hands with little kids. The park employee with him was this hot little blonde dish with curves that you couldn’t even imagine. I managed to distract the attention of the blonde employee with my mad flirting skills and devilish good looks. My friends took the opportunity and shoo’d the kids away and began to beat on Bugs Bunny. The blonde, whose attention was still on me, didn’t even notice. One of my friends held Bugs’s arms behind his back, and the others took his head off and skyrocketed away. I grabbed the blonde, gave her a quick kiss, and took off with my friends and the Bugs Bunny head. We managed to ditch the employees for a while, and we dropped the Bugs Bunny head into a toilet in a stall. We then casually strolled out of the park.

USTPA could’ve been grand. It could have been an enthralling, fun, and exciting interactive theme park adventure. Instead, it feels rather dull. Add to the fact that it misses out on key elements every game gets right, and we have a below average game.

Today at Universal Studios, the park is having a stamp-collecting contest. You first get a stamp card, and you must ride the rides and do well at the attractions to earn stamps. That’s it. That’s the story. Nothing more and nothing less. Bah. Any other type of story would have been better, such as a bet to see who can do better at the rides and attractions, but all we get is a stamp-collecting contest. Exciting.

Playing as one of six boys (No girls, to my surprise), you go around the park and tackle the mighty 8 attractions, also known as mini-games. Each mini game is based on one of Universal Studios movies, and they all have unique goals and objectives. As soon as you enter the park, your guide, Woody Woodpecker, greets you. Ha… woodpecker… I said woodpecker… Oh, ahem. Sorry. Woody tells you to walk around the park first and grab yourself a map to help find your way. Once you get a map, you are allowed to walk around more of the park. Once you find one of the 8 attractions, you are allowed to enter and play the mini game and compete for either a red or blue stamp, each meaning you did good or bad, respectively. Since you got to the park early on in the day, you won’t encounter many lines until you complete about two mini games, and by that time the park will be full. This means that you might run into attractions that are too busy to let you in and play. You do have a way around this, though. At the front gate, Woody Woodpecker sells you different caps and shoes for points. Each cap has one of the attraction’s names on it, and it allows you to have full access to that single attraction.

How do you get points, you ask? If you complete an attraction you earn some… and… well, you earn points for doing… I’m going to be sick… “Good deeds”. Yes, you heard me. Wholesome good deeds will earn you points. There is a lady who lost her cell phone in the park. If you find it and bring it to her, you’ll earn points. Shake hands with the park characters such as Chilly Willy and you’ll earn points. Probably the most revolting of these meaningless point tasks is picking up garbage and putting it in the trash. People throw their garbage on the ground, and you act as the park’s bitch and throw it away in the trash for them. Do you know how many points you get for that? 20. A measly 20 points. All of the caps and shoes are actually rather expensive, so this means you’ll be the park’s trash boy for a long time.

First and foremost, if you are going to make a game centered on mini games, make the mini games fun. A few of the mini games here are surprisingly fun, but the rest of them are too frustrating and annoying to be any fun.

The Animation Adventure mini game is a quiz game that is hosted by Winnie Woodpecker. She asks you 12 questions about movies from Universal Studios, and they are all questions a trivia buff would only know. These questions are hard, and she asks the most nitpicky and trivial of things, such as what class of tornado the people in the movie “Twister” were chasing. The only reason I beat it was because I got questions that I already answered in an earlier attempt to beat this mini game.

E.T. puts you in the shoes of young Elliot. Riding your bike, you must maneuver through the obstacles and take E.T. to the mothership where his family awaits. Controlling the bike is a pain in the ass, and requires much practice. If you jump off of a ramp, for example, you must move the control stick left and right to adjust your bike and maintain your balance as you fall back to the ground or you’ll very humorously fall off your bike. When you fall, you’ll take about 3 seconds to get back up on your bike and continue pedaling. Once you are able to maintain your balance well and have practiced the controls, E.T. is one of the more easy games.

Back to the Future is a very simple game. Biff, the bully in the Back to the Future series, has stolen a DeLorean and is taking on a joyride through time. You must pilot and drive another DeLorean and rear end into Biff enough times that his DeLorean malfunctions and he is brought back to the present. The DeLorean is simple to control. Hold A to accelerate and move the control stick left or right to steer. To cut sharp turns, hold R or L to skid. Using L or R to turn sharply will take some practice, and if you don’t judge distances correctly you’ll hit the wall. Interestingly enough, the game crosses three eras of time that are the future, the ice age, and Mesozoic era. You are also timed, so if you do not destroy Biff’s DeLorean in enough time, you lose. While this is a rather simple premise, it is strangely difficult and one of the more enjoyable games.

Jaws is a tense, difficult, and frustrating game. You are out on a boat in the middle of nowhere, hunting down the great white shark himself. Sadly though, the shark is hunting you too. Jaws will surface and take a bite out of your ship, hoping it will sink. On the deck of the boat are barrels and crates, and when Jaws surfaces, you must throw these things at him. It sounds simple, right? In the top right corner of the screen you see radar that has a picture of your boat in the middle. The little red dot on it is the position of Jaws. Radar helps a little, but not by much. You’ll be able to see where Jaws approaches your ship, but as to where exactly he will strike is tough to pinpoint. This means you might be in the general direction of Jaws, but you’ll miss where he’ll surface just by a hair. This makes the game much more difficult and frustrating. Also, you are able to toss the crates and barrels on the ship deck and hope they break. If they do, you’ll find a weapon inside of them to throw at Jaws that will cause more damage then than the standard barrels and crates. The thing is that there are only about 4 barrels with the powerful weapons in them, and if you attempt to hunt them down intentionally there is now way you’ll be able to kill Jaws.

Backdraft is my least favorite game. As a firefighter, you run into a burning building and you must save all the people inside. Fire is everywhere, but you have a water hose to help douse the fires. Hidden in the building are fire extinguishers which will put out any fire quickly, but you can only use them once. It sounds like a surefire (HA HA!) way to make a fun game, but the controls and camera angles make the game needlessly painful. Using the hose and extinguishers are simple, but moving your character is a pain. The camera angles are all fixed much like Resident Evil. This means you’ll have a different view as soon as you enter a new area. Now with the ever-changing camera angles, this means each screen and area will have a slightly different control scheme to move your character. Instead of fixing it so the controls always change when you change camera angles, the previous angle’s controls are still on. Let us say you were running down a hall, and the camera angle was set in the middle of the hall, facing you and the door you entered from. You’d press down on the control stick to move down the hall. When the angle switches so it faces your back, you’ll still be moving forward down the hall, but you’ll still be pressing down on the control stick when you should have to press the control stick forward to move forward. This is remedied by standing still every time you get a new camera angle. In 3 seconds, the controls will be set to where they should be. But in doing this, you lose valuable time. The controls make the game difficult enough, but they decide to make it even more difficult by adding fires that blast homing fire balls at you. This is most apparent in the last part of the game. We have 5 of those fireball-blasting fires, and if you stop to put out one of those fires a fireball from one of the other fires will hit you. The terrible controls and frustrating difficulty make this the worst game on the disc.

The Wild, Wild West attraction is a basically a light gun type shootout. If you ever played the popular Point Blank arcade games, you’ll have a feel for this. Three cowboys want to challenge your shooting ability. You must shoot down targets and cans when they pop up to score more points then the three cowboys. If you want a target shooting game, however, go to the arcades and play Point Blank yourself.

My favorite game is the Jurassic Park attraction. You are riding on one of the Jurassic Park jeeps, and a woman is driving it through the park. While she is driving, you are both attacked by a T-Rex. Lucky enough, there is a gun with tranquilizers situated on the back of the jeep. You jump in the back, and you must fend off the incoming dinosaurs until you leave the park. If enough dinosaurs attack the jeep, it will slow to a crawl and explode. To fire, you must use the A and Y button. Hold A over a dinosaur to lock on, and release it to fire homing sleep missiles. This is the best weapon, but it only works on far off targets. The Y button fires off rapid shots, but they are somewhat weaker. Also, there are points in the game where you must hold the L or R button, such as when there is a rock in the path of the road and you need to swerve around it. React lately to these commands and you’ll be tossed on the bottom of the jeep and you become unable to defend the jeep against incoming dinosaur attacks for a few seconds. This game scores most points with me because it manages to create a tense, nervous mood. My favorite point in the game is where you pass up a huge hill, and you see a huge herd of raptors rushing down it to attack you. This gives you a feeling of “Oh ****.” Although it drags on a little long, it is still the best mini game on the disc.

The 8th attraction is anything but. It is a special 10-second graphical demo of the climatic sequence in the box-office bomb Waterworld. You get to view the scene from five different angles. It does display the GCN’s powers quite well. That’s about it. You do not even get a stamp for watching, but you do get 100 points.

The final stamp you’ll earn is a tough one. Hidden around the park are letter tiles that spell out “Universal Studios”. You must find all 16 letters to earn the stamp. The park is huge, and that makes hunting down every letter a chore.

The camera angles are also fixed through the park, as well. Unlike Backdraft, however, moving your character is simple and painless. Hunting out letter tiles with the fixed angles is terrible, since they are all rather small and you’ll pass them up easily without seeing them. The letter tiles also seem to change places through a force of will, and this means you’ll be spending hours hunting down that last vowel to get that stamp.

Universal Studios is authentically recreated beautifully, although the park in the game doesn’t really match the park in real life. Buildings are detailed and colors are vibrant. The people inside the park look somewhat cartoonish and generic, and the park, especially at night, looks great. The neon lights and detailed structures are splendid. There are some mean slowdowns and frame rate drops in Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, but the rest of the games are squeaky clean. The T-Rex in Jurassic Park is detailed straight down to his scales, and the DeLoreans look superb. There is a great shot at the start of the Jaws game where you see the boat sailing the sea from the inside of Jaws’s mouth. The detailed graphics, beautiful colors, and authentic structures of Universal Studios look great, but the mean drops in frame rate and somewhat generic and cartoonish looking people bring the graphics down.

The games all have music from their respective movies, and the best ones are the Jurassic Park and Back to the Future tunes. The Jurassic Park music is amazing, and scores high on the hum factor. Back to the Future does have a weaker tune, but it a blast to listen to. The park music is cute, happy tune that you won’t notice or hate. USTPA has some exceptional voice acting, such as the Woodpeckers and the lady in Jurassic Park. The sound effects, such as the crash when you hit Biff in Back to the Future and the zap of the tranquilizer gun in Jurassic Park sound good albeit a bit generic. The high pitched “BING” noise that you hear when you pick up garbage or a letter tile will get on your nerves after a while, since half of the game is picking up the park’s trash.

USTPA goes by the old saying “If you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it is bound to stick”. The crap that does stick against the wall is the Back to the Future and Jurassic Park games, and the good voice acting and music. Slowly trickling down the wall are the graphics and the other games. Lying on the ground is the poorly executed “good deeds means points”. Rotting on the ground is Backdraft. That sure paints a pretty picture in your mind, doesn’t it?

NOTES:
If this wins ROTW or ROTD, I’ll hire a Russian bearded dominatrix to tutor me in Algebra.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 01/24/02, Updated 01/31/02


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