Remembering one of history's worst control systems in Jurassic Park: Trespasser

Trespasser, or Trespasser: Jurassic Park: The Lost World to give it its full, unwieldy title, is a very interesting—and very broken—game. I've been playing it for a Reinstall retrospective. But in the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this video compilation of my last few hours of play. I've focused on protagonist Anne's long, flapping arm, which you have to wrestle with to perform even the simplest of tasks, like some angry, fleshy snake. It's a nightmare to control, but there's a weird charm to it.

Trespasser is also famous (well, infamous) for its, uh, unique approach to displaying the player's health without relying on a HUD. Swing the camera down and you'll see Anne's heaving cleavage, on which there's the outline of a heart tattoo that fills in as she takes damage. And when the tattoo is complete, she dies. It's preposterous, but an example of how imaginative Trespasser can be—even if, and this goes for pretty much everything in it, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. But hey, at least they were trying something new.

To control the arm, you first extend it with the left mouse button. Then you can swing it around by moving the mouse, and grab stuff with the right button. But even with the sensitivity lowered, the thing has a mind of its own. You'll drop anything you're holding if you bump into a wall, and trying to use a fixed machine gun (as seen in the video) is basically impossible. It's like Surgeon Simulator, but played completely straight. Apparently the game was originally going to have two arms, but one was cut, which is probably for the best.

See the unruly arm of Trespasser in action below.

Thanks to these fan patches, Trespasser runs surprisingly well on Windows 10 at 4K/60fps. I used Lee Arbuco's 'CE patch' to capture the above footage, and it's a far cry from the experience I had playing it way back in '98. The game was infamous for its slowdown, even on the most powerful PCs of the day, but now you can enjoy it without any hitches. I wouldn't say it was a good game, but it's certainly worth playing—especially if you're a Jurassic Park fan. The excerpts from John Hammond's personal journal that play throughout, read by the late, great Richard Attenborough, are particularly fantastic.

The game is set on Isla Sorna, or 'Site B', which fans of the series will know as the island where InGen's dinosaurs were created before being shipped over to the ill-fated park on Isla Nublar. Anne's plane crashes on the beach, and she has to make her way to the summit of a mountain to contact the Navy and get rescued. Which would be (relatively) easy if there weren't hungry dinosaurs roaming the island, and she didn't have a crazy, flailing tentacle for an arm. There's some fascinating insight into how the game was written, and its unusual design philosophy, in this interview with writer/designer Austin Grossman.

Trespasser was a bold, ambitious game, and way ahead of its time in some respects. The real-time physics, procedural dinosaur animation, and large, open maps were impressive for the era. And even today, witnessing a T. Rex for the first time is a nerve-racking moment. You hear her pounding footsteps way before you see her, which is an atmospheric bit of sound design, and a nice reference to the movie. It's tough on modern eyes, but hey, it's from 1998, which might as well be 65 million years ago in terms of computer technology. Check out my Trespasser Reinstall for a more thorough reappraisal of the game.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.