Dinocide Review

Score 50

Dinocide, put simply, is not very good.  Not only does it lack the challenge of the game it’s trying to be, but it doesn’t even feel like they even tried to make a memorable game.  Dinocide lacks boss battles, exciting level design or even the challenge of losing the game due to your character having infinite lives.  The gameplay feels as stiff as the animations look, and everything just feels like an Alpha build that never got to see the light of a beta before being pushed out onto a shelf.  There were some real possibilities here to recapture the energy and excitement of a classic series- but sadly Dinocide doesn’t capture any of the charm of its inspiration.

WHAT WE LIKED
º The game has a cute setup and some decent enemy designs.
º Arrows are amazing to shoot around and make for an awesome weapon.
º Music is reminiscent of NES games like Little Nemo and other classics.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º The main character’s slow pace bogs down an already methodical experience.
º The game has a steep difficulty curve, that starts boring and ends frustrating.
º Lacks stage diversity, boss battles, or anything to set it apart from better games.
Honestly, has there ever been a game with an effective and bad-ass boomerang?

Dinocide is one of those games banking on your nostalgia for the past.  When you’re a gaming caveman like myself, the simple act of creating 8-bit ‘Nintendo Hard’ challenges is enough to make me squee.  The designers at AtomicTorch Studio have tried to capture the essence of Adventure Island, but in almost every way fallen short.  One simply has to look at the gameplay from the two, and the differences should become immediately apparent.  There will be some who get enjoyment out of this game, no doubt; so I’ll tell you my problems with the game, and let you decide if you’re willing to overlook dated and overly simplistic gameplay in the pursuit of finding that squee.

Dinocide only features a Story and Time Attack mode, providing a bone barer than one under the claws of a T-Rex.  You start out with a cute little animation, showing you on a date with a nice little cave girl before a huge monstrosity shaped like a mountain grabs her up.  This might be the coolest moment of the game.  Of course you’re in fast pursuit, ready to take on any creatures that get in your way.  A very simple story, inspired by a simpler time.

My faults don’t lie with the classic story however, it lies with the gameplay that hides behind a nostalgic mask, covering all the hallmarks of laziness.  That’s not to say there aren’t some clever ideas here, but the whole time I played it I kept wanting to pop in a copy of Hudson’s classic instead.  I never try to compare games to others when reviewing, but I’m finding it completely difficult considering they tout it.

One of the things they do differently is that your energy bar rapidly depletes, which forces you to run through the stages in a constant search of food.  While this is a decent enough design choice that encourages faster gameplay, your character moves at what I can only describe as a brisk walk.  It’s actually kind of embarrassing how sluggish the gameplay becomes, when I should be running with the speed of Sonic.  Your anger will know no bounds when you walk towards lingering food, watching as your bar quickly ticks down as you saunter over to salvation.  When you die dreaming of the food that floats inches from your face, expect to throw a controller or two.
If this boss battle looks fun- it kinda is.  Shame there’s only one in the whole game.

I might forgive how slow your character walks if there were a level of diversity to the stages.  Sadly, there isn’t.  Adventure Island has segments with skateboards, mini-games between stages, and segments where you have to bounce on springs in the sky.  These levels provided some relief to the generic platforming sections, and quickly changed the environments.  Dinocide sadly hangs around in stages for far too long, has no mini-games and offers no variety.  There are about seven different level templates in the game; beach, caves, ice caves, forest, swamp, fire mountain and underwater.  I guess I can’t fault the developer too much, given that these are the standard locations for a caveman- but I need more than just visual diversity.

 
Not only is the walking unbearable, but the jumping is headache inducing.  Because your character doesn’t build up to a run, timing jumps is crucial.  Some jumps require pixel-perfect accuracy to nail, simply because there’s no sprinting.  Of course, you have to move quickly to keep from dying from hunger, so after you play through a two minute stage, only to die for the tenth time on that narrow podium that you have to jump up to.  I guarantee you’ll be cursing the designers rather than celebrating their strategic placement of nearly impossible jumps.

When I got to my first boss battle, I was pleasantly surprised.  Playing like a typical first boss, a huge T-Rex head comes out from the foreground and shoots fireballs and a whip-like tongue out at you.  After learning the easy patterns, I was able to beat it on my first try.  Sadly, this is the only boss fight you’ll experience in the game, besides the final boss.  How is this even possible?  Joe and Mac would’ve been a chore without a boss fight every few stages, and this game gives you one in the first fifth of the game and calls it a day.  That, is without a doubt, the laziest thing I’ve seen in video games lately, especially in a game that’s begging for diversity.
 
Dinocide also features what I can only describe as the worst difficulty spike I’ve ever experienced in a game.  It goes from breezing through levels, to being unable to proceed without upgrades.  I got to one of the final stages where worms come out of some downward flowing sandpits, blocking your path.  You have to take them down to move on, but you can’t get close otherwise they bite you.  Because they’re in the sand, you have to jump continually out of the bank and high enough to lob your stones at the monsters.  This takes time, and the game doesn’t give you any fruit until halfway through the stage.  If you get hit once, you might as well curl up and let the sands take you.  I can’t tell you how many times I failed to kill the two worms and dodging heat-seeking birds, only to die inches from a pineapple waiting behind this barrage of unfairness.  Of course, I would’ve loved to travel back and resupply myself with some of the weapons in the game, but sadly the designers won’t let you do that.   
 
Certain dinosaurs have unique skills- sadly you’ll never need to strategize these talents.

One thing the game does do right is the weapons.  When you collect weapons in the stage, the previous weapon is stored in a list that you can retrieve later.  This isn’t new *cough* Adventure Island, but they do offer an excellent selection.  One thing that is different is the use of gems, which can be spent in the game’s various shops.  The arrows are without a doubt your go-to weapon.  Because you have an energy meter that prevents weapon spamming, the arrows can be thrown in rapid succession and have little impact to the meter.  There’s also an axe, which flies out with a shallow arc with a substantial amount of damage, and a boomerang which is about as good as any other game that features a boomerang.  Your dinosaur friends are also pretty useful, but mostly for their powerful secondary attacks and accompanying health bar.  There’s five of them with unique moves and abilities (like walking through fire), but they lack any charm or originality.

And that’s my final point.  While the artwork is cute- the game lacks a soul of any kind.  Your character doesn’t emote at all; even when he dies, he just kind falls over with the same vacant stare from before.  The dinosaurs are all flavorless, with each one feeling the same as the other Ambien-addicted steeds.  The enemies are boring, lacking the charm or oddities you’d expect from this type of game.  Stages are flat, lacking any clever design or visually appealing textures.  Everything just feels like a bad carbon copy of more successful games.
 
To top this all off; I couldn’t get the game to play in fullscreen, and it would only fill half the screen regardless.  I honestly can’t think of any reason to buy this game for ten dollars.  You’ll most likely breeze through the experience in two hours, and I can’t think of any reason why someone would subject themselves to trying to get the high score in Time Attack.  If the game had worked out some of the control issues, put some speed to the game, and gave the experience a limited amount of continues, I’d probably be singing praises.  Sadly, Dinocide comes across as nothing more than a cash in, one that I wouldn’t recommend to even hardcore retro fans.  
 
·      Publisher – AtomicTorch Studio
·      Developer – AtomicTorch Studio
·      Genre – Action, Adventure, Indie
·      Release Date – January 21, 2016
·      Version Reviewed – PC
·      PEGI Rating – N/A
·      Multiplayer – No
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