Did you like dinosaurs as a kid? I did. I was the go-to-kid for dinosaur information in the second grade. Did you wish you could go back in time and actually see and interact with these fascinating creatures? Well, you can get a chance to see how that all would play out in Irem’s Dino City. Is this a game worth playing? Read on to find out!
Back to the Past
The story is about two friends, Timmy and Jamie. Both of them are dinosaur fans. The two are at Timmy’s house and decide to watch TV on the “big screen” in the laboratory room. What? You didn’t have a laboratory room in your house as a kid? Timmy’s parents are both famous scientists, so it stands to reason they need a lab at home to facilitate their “experiments.” Anyway, the kids are trying to get the “big screen” turned on and it magically transports them to another day and time. They are sent to the Stone Age, where dinosaurs and cavemen reign supreme. They meet with two friendly dinosaurs named Rex and Tops. To get back home you must help Rex and Tops retrieve a powerful fuse from Neanderthals called “Rockys.” If our heroes don’t get the fuse, the Rockys will use it to destroy all the dinosaurs.
Controls and Gameplay
The first thing I would like to point out is that this game has a definite Mario feel. The music, graphics, and music remind me of Super Mario World. The developers no doubt received a lot of inspiration from that game. Even the characters that you play as have an unmistakable Mario/Yoshi type of dynamic to them. Timmy and Rex act as one unit as does Jamie and Tops. The kids ride their dinosaur friends throughout the game. The kids can jump off of their dinos at anytime, and this is necessary at times to progress in the game. However, the human/dino team is one unit. If one dies, the other does also. You can’t leave the other behind either. This starkly differs from Mario World where using Yoshi was optional.
Control setup is simple enough. The X or Y button is used to attack. Rex punches and does a tail spin attack, while Tops throws projectiles. When the kids are off the dinos, they both can throw projectiles that temporarily freeze the targeted bad guy. The A or B button is used to jump. The R shoulder button releases you from your dinosaur. Pressing R again will put you back on. An issue with the controls I have is the jump button. Sometimes it seems it’s not as responsive as I want it to be, especially during the heat of battle. There are moments in the game where you have to move fairly quickly to survive. I found myself often trying to jump, yet instead of jumping, I end up falling into the abyss below. This is the only negative I have for the controls.
The game doesn’t have a difficulty setting per se, but which team you choose to play as changes the difficulty. This game is easier if you choose the Jamie and Tops tandem. It’s more difficult if you choose Timmy and Rex. The sole difference between the two is that Tops attacks with projectiles, which is great for long distance attacks. This certainly comes in handy because certain adversaries throw their own projectiles. Rex can only attack up close and personal. What becomes frustrating with Rex is when you attack, the enemy often plows past your assault and hits you anyway. Another difficulty for team Rex is when there is an enemy that needs dispatching from afar. Rex can’t reach because he lacks a long distance attack.
No matter which team you choose, the game is very challenging. This game is much more difficult than Super Mario World. Your foes keep coming non-stop. Platforms fall into a pit if you stand on them too long. You find yourself riding on fast roller coasters with Rockies in hot pursuit! There’s a giant spinning wheel that you must stay on while dodging birds, bees, and creatures that resemble spikey from the Mario games! Enemies can come from the left or right, sometimes at the same time! However, the boss battles are extremely predictable and easy because of the blatant patterns they use.The only caveat to this is the final boss. He is a bit more challenging than the others. The piece of cake boss battles might be there to off-set the highly challenging stages!
This game is entirely memory based. If you memorize the patterns, it is possible (but not probable) never to take a hit throughout the entire game! There is slowdown in this game. Thank goodness it isn’t in every stage, but it’s there in the roller coaster and spinning wheel stages. It’s very noticeable, but doesn’t really deter the fun factor or cause frustration.
There are 6 stages in the game that are broken up into sub-stages. At the end of each sub-stage there are two doors to choose from. More often than the not, one of the doors is harder to reach than the other. Sometimes both doors lead to different sub-stages. Sometimes one door leads to a bonus stage. Apparently this happens randomly. At the end of every stage there is a boss battle. As already stated, the boss battles are the only easy part about this game, excluding the final boss.
Graphics and Sound
As an old-school video game geek, bright, cartoony graphics really turn me on, so to speak. I really like the visuals in Dino City. The colors are plentiful and vibrant. The sprites are detailed and easily distinguishable from each other. The backgrounds display castles, mountains, clouds etc. when you are in outside stages. You’ll also notice detailing in the backgrounds during indoor stages like light posts and bricks in caves. The only flaw in the graphics in my opinion is in the Timmy and Jamie sprites. They look so unimpressive when compared to the other characters.
The music is good for this kind of game. Upbeat, quirky tunes can heard in the majority of the game. Spooky tunes are heard in cavern stages. Tunes repeat themselves in later stages. The tunes can be best described as decidedly Saturday morning cartoonish. I have no problem with that and feel it adequately suits the game. None of the tunes are memorable, but they sound fun and don’t detract from the game. There is a sound test option on the title screen so you can enjoy your favorite tunes and sounds in the game over and over again.
This looks and sounds like a kiddie game. It’s not. With only three hits before you sing a swan song, this game will test advanced gamers. The programmers graciously included 3 continues and a password system. I like the game. It reminds me of a more challenging Super Mario World. I have issues with the jump button, there’s some slowdown, and it has a steep difficulty curve. However setting aside those minor annoyances, it’s a good effort and I recommend it to old-school gamers craving a super challenge. Four stars out of five.
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