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Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure

by Steve Schardein - February 27, 2002, 11:08 am EST


So, you want to experience all the fun of Universal Studios without the pricey airfares? Well, then, you’d better start walking.

Kemco’s Universal Studios™ Theme Park Adventure seemed like an odd idea from the start, but we’re always willing to give things a chance. Unfortunately, Universal Studios misses the mark, plagued with fundamental flaws that overshadow the game’s high points.

The point of the game is to acquire eight red stamps. Seven of these stamps are earned by gaining a high score in seven different “attractions” (which are really more like being slapped with heroic roles from the respective movies), and the last stamp is awarded after the player collects all 16 letters, strewn annoyingly and inconspicuously around the theme park, to spell “Universal Studios”. Red stamps represent a good score in the attraction, and blue stamps represent a “bad” score (according to the instruction manual).

Completing attractions also earns you points, which are used to buy an assortment of helpful (most necessary) items from Woody Woodpecker back at the front of the park. There is one item per attraction that grants you unlimited access to that attraction, as well as several (two) other items that allow you to run faster. “E Passes” are also available – they grant the player one-time admission to a specific attraction of their choice. You can also earn points by shaking hands with certain individuals walking around the park, and doing other things such as picking up trash. Other visitors also swarm the park, most of which offer such interesting conversation to our hero as “This is exciting!” and “Collect letter tiles!”.

After naming your character and diving into the game, the first thing you’ll notice is the nicely rendered backgrounds. Most of the theme park looks quite nice, although some parts of it are downright ugly (the water, some textures, and some blurry backdrops). The next thing you’ll notice is that most of the buttons on the controller don’t do anything. In fact, the only parts of the controller you’ll find yourself using regularly during gameplay are the control stick and the A and Z buttons. Easy-to-understand controls always are a plus, except for when you feel you need more control over the game. This is the case with Universal Studios. Walking around the theme park looking for items and attractions might seem exciting for the first ten minutes, but after realizing that you can’t even enter most attractions without first walking back to the front of the park to buy items that grant you access, you’ll quickly begin to lose interest (“You can’t get in here because there are too many people!”, says Woody).

The gameplay setup is similar to most survival-horror games, sporting sometimes commendable pre-rendered backdrops which are navigated from a still-cam third-person perspective. Some details are nice: Birds fly from the ground as you approach their territory, and the time of day will eventually change from day to night (after five attractions are completed). Irritatingly, however, it is often hard to tell where you can and cannot go, and you can’t walk across some parts of the street or sidewalk due to careless production…

But perhaps the most irritating aspect of the game is its lackluster attractions. Several of them are fun (Wild Wild West is enjoyable, and Backdraft is actually almost worth the experience), but others, such as Jaws, which arms you with explosive barrels and pits you against the famous shark, are so short and half-hearted that you’ll leave feeling violated. Several times during the Jurassic Park attraction the framerate actually suffered – a pretty unacceptable fault considering the pop-up and lackluster textures that make up the experience. Not to mention if you happen to die during the considerably long and repetitive Jurassic Park ride, you’ll end up back at the beginning again… yeesh. The manual describes the Waterworld attraction as “a demonstration of the climactic scene of Waterworld”. Now I know Waterworld wasn’t a very good movie, but for some reason, I remember there being more to the climactic scene than seven seconds of a plane crashing into the water. On the other hand, Backdraft is actually somewhat fun. You don the role of a fireman, searching for victims in a burning building. I had the most fun with this attraction, although some more creative gamers might find more fun in trying to line up the camera so that it looks like the victims are wreathing in the flames.

Universal Studios would probably land right in the middle of the graphical quality scale… somewhere around a 4 or 5. It isn’t that the game doesn’t boast some attractive scenery; in fact, it sometimes does. It’s just that it can be so ugly at times. Some notably unappealing moments include the water in Jaws (it’s more of a low-res bitmap tiled along a wavy surface than water) and the ground texture in Jurassic Park (Ugh).

The sounds and music of Universal Studios are probably its highest point, although that’s not saying much. Many of the tunes are borrowed from movies, although some are unrecognizable (the Jurassic Park tune doesn’t even seem to be from the movie). In addition, some original songs are quite decent. The problem arises when the songs repeat for the umpteenth time – they’re simply too short to get the job done. During trivia and the other Animation Celebration games, the same relatively short piano piece plays over and over in the background. It’s a nice touch, but after a couple of repeats, gamers may be tempted to turn down the television and up the [insert your favorite band / artist here]. Still, the music is far from bad. Of special interest is the Wild Wild West tune, which is curiously similar to the “I want to be like Buddy Lee” theme. My friends and I actually found ourselves chanting the words to the Buddy Lee song while playing the attraction (not recommended).

The in-game sounds are generally satisfactory, although some can be fairly annoying – the voices, in particular (Woody Woodpecker sounds more like a nine-year-old with a cold, placing him under the heading of “bad and annoyingly over-expressive voice acting” along with the entire Sonic Adventure 2 cast). However, some are very nice and reproduce the desirable effect quite well. The crisp splash of water in Jaws and the appropriate noise of gunfire in Wild Wild West are convincing attempts at aural proficiency. Also, sexually deprived gamers will find humor in Woody’s blatantly connotative remarks such as “Do you want to go inside?”

In summation, Universal Studios is a pretty lackadaisical attempt at both a kid’s game and an all-round quality title. Though it has its moments, its flaws far outweigh its strengths. I’d love to recommend this title to kids, but I’d be skeptical to make even a statement of that nature. It’s simply indisputable that Universal Studios just isn’t the game to own, regardless of personal taste.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
4.5 6 5.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Although suitable and pretty at times, for the most part the graphics just aren’t up to today’s standards. Could have been done on the Playstation without too much sacrifice.


Some of it’s alright, some of it’s not. Voices are horrendous. Music, although tolerable, loops much too often and becomes noticeably tiresome.


The controls in this game range from third-person character-on-foot to first-person move-the-reticle-to-shoot. Many of the control schemes get the job done, but none of them are spectacular, and a sparse few are pretty bad. Also, stuff like hitting Z instead of Start to bring up the menu isn't necessarily a big deal, but it's annoying nonetheless. Many times the controls feel somewhat unoptimizied.


Plagued by neglected essentialities, Universal Studios waters down what appropriate gameplay elements it possesses through the inclusion of faulty mechanics and untweaked controls. One particularly annoying aspect of gameplay is evident in the Jurassic Park attraction, where the targeting reticle fails to follow the camera’s angular changes. During several memorable instances I actually found that the reticle wasn’t even visible on-screen due to the swift automatic alteration of the camera angle... that's simply unacceptable.


Hardly. The trivia game injects a bit of life into the otherwise nonexistent thought of replaying this title, but even then, you can just select the game from the “Attractions” list found on the main menu.


Not recommended for anyone, regardless of personal gaming preference, age, or interest (unless you like bad games). If you feel you really must give this game a fair chance, please, for the love of God, rent it first.


  • Buddy Lee-esque Wild Wild West tune
  • The trivia game
  • Victims in the Backdraft attraction look like they’re standing in the flames
  • Boring gameplay
  • Far too short (Under three hours of gameplay)
  • The Waterworld “attraction”
  • Too many problems to please the gamer, regardless of age or interest
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Adventure
Developer Kemco
Players1 - 2

Worldwide Releases

na: Universal Studios Theme Park Adventure
Release Dec 18, 2001
jpn: Universal Studio: Japan
Release Dec 07, 2001
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