FBT tries to keep his eyes above Anne’s neck.
Trespasser is one of those games that even if you haven’t played it, you might as well have – every gamer knows about the mad arm, the sketchy graphics, the ADHD dinos, and that checking out your own cleavage is encouraged. Time to see what all the boob is about.
Washing up on an island after a plane crash, Anne discovers she’s on ‘Site B’, the back-up Jurassic Park. It’s here that dinos thrived freely after InGen’s collapse. Completely unprepared for the island and its inhabitants, and with just her cleavage and an arm for company, Anne must find a way to survive and escape.
Let’s just get Anne’s boobs out of the way. Except I can’t. Like a 13yr old boy, I can’t stop looking at them. It is a clever idea, that instead of a HUD we glance down her chest to see a heart tattoo - the redder it is, the closer to death she is. Really, it would have made more sense to place it on her inner arm, since that’s extended for most of the time, but at least Anne doesn’t have any jiggle physics otherwise I’d not be doing anything but jumping. They are real, and they’re spectacular – they’re about the only believable thing in the game.
As hard as I try, and I really am determined to make this work, Anne’s arm is more misbehaving that Dr Strangelove’s. Extend it out, move arm, twist hand, grab and use mouse to move. It’s impossible. I get a jolt of joy when Anne does pick something up, but then oh crap she’s dropped it. This is like one of those grabber games on the pier.
You don’t know if she’s refusing to pick up something because she can’t or it’s me fluffing her arm actions. And it’s wildly inconsistent; I lob an oil barrel for miles but she can’t use it to clamber – and she can’t holster anything. I understand and love the simplicity of it, she’s not Doomguy, but why can’t she tuck a gun in her belt? Or between her boobs?
In the tutorial I found a table with two revolvers, a desert eagle and a machine gun. This is aiming for realism; I have to chose, but if I were Anne I’d stick the revolver in my pants, unload the other and put the bullets in my pocket, sling the rifle over my shoulder and carry the Eagle. But no. Now armed, as it were, I navigated the hand to get through a gate and strolled off, except I couldn’t work out how to reassign the gun to her hand - turns out she dropped it while farting about with the fence.
If I found myself on Isla Sorna I’d sure as hell have a death grip on my gun. I love that Anne is someone completely unprepared for all this; so many survival and open-world games have a regular guy dropped into a war zone who then instantly turns into Rambo, and it’s great Anne isn’t that - but somehow she can estimate how many bullets are in a gun by it's weight, and is calm enough to count them as she fires at a raptor, yet drops it while opening a gate?
I also have absolutely no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. Again, I love this. In theory. No mission markers, convenient radio with a disembodied voice telling me what to do, just me and the dinos. But I realise I need more than nothing to go on. I’m completely lost and the look and design of Isla Sorna is hard on the eyes, especially when you’re too terrified to go wandering with your daffy arm. While Anne mutters sort-of hints to herself it’s not enough to lead you, so you just wander into death or get stuck wondering if it’s you or your arm that’s at fault. Meanwhile, a God-like Lord Attenborough wistfully fills us in on the history of Jurassic Park, which isn’t helping - you can trigger Hammond’s ethereal voice out of order too; I got killed by velociraptors twice before Hammond warned me about them.
Still, when I first see a dino, despite the twenty-year-old graphics that look thirty years old, I am still awestruck. They’re so cool, and just, oh … whats it doing? The original coding was way ahead of its time, having dinos in different emotional states related to the environment and interactions; problem was it didn’t work, the dinos all suffered from anxiety and shut down. The ‘solution’ was to turn off the AI and hardwire them to be 100% pissed off. Great.
The first time a Velociraptor jumped out it was a great moment; before I knew it, I was staring down my cleavage while the ‘raptor tucked in. There are worse ways to go I guess, but after reloading I immediately got offed by another I didn’t even know was there – clever girl. I reload the save, drop my gun, get eaten. Reload, fire and still get killed. One time my arm goes wild and I high-five the ‘raptor instead. It left me hanging.
Again, it’s realistic – I have no chance of surviving. But this isn't a steather, there’s realism and there’s realistic, and games have to give you a bit of a hand, or at least one that works. Any time I face off with a dino, I’m dead. And when I’m not, I’m wandering aimlessly until I do get eaten. I get two or three levels in, but it’s just broken, which is really annoying because I keep seeing flashes of awesome. Everything about it, conceptually, I love. But it can’t actually be played. I really, really tried. For a bit. It is just me and the dinos, surviving on my wits and my arm. Just a shame neither is up to the task.
I at least got to see my fave, the Stegosaurus (unlike all other boys who loved the Triceratops) but not the T-Rex – but I really wanted to. It’s well established that Trespasser was rush released, resulting in a buggy, unfinished game – it’s another of those late nineties games where developers made quantum leaps but didn’t land them, and eventually the publisher cut their losses and released what they had; which was a loss for all of us. It does almost work, and Trespasser was way ahead of its time but, no pun intended, its reach exceeded its grasp. Trespasser deserves its reputation but there’s a truly amazing game under those boobs.
Trespasser will always be known as one of the worst games ever, but it’s so damn close to being one of the best. And like all well-intentioned failures, it has its fans. The web is full with mods, patches and hacks – even now, twenty years later there’s fan projects to recreate it; how they’ll make the arm work I don’t know, but I’ll (try to) grab it when it comes out. If you’re a gamer you need to play it, just to see where so many innovations came from; it would have made an extraordinary VR game.