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Color a Dinosaur (NES) artwork

Color a Dinosaur (NES) review


"So here we are on the day known 'round the world as April Fools Day, and what game is considered a bigger joke among denizens of the gaming world than Color a Dinosaur? I believe I could bet that at some point in their childhoods everyone involved in the development of this game either ate rusty nails and paint chips, jumped off into a ravine because they thought they could fly, put plastic bags over their heads and had to be saved from asphyxiation by their parents, or did something that involv..."



So here we are on the day known 'round the world as April Fools Day, and what game is considered a bigger joke among denizens of the gaming world than Color a Dinosaur? I believe I could bet that at some point in their childhoods everyone involved in the development of this game either ate rusty nails and paint chips, jumped off into a ravine because they thought they could fly, put plastic bags over their heads and had to be saved from asphyxiation by their parents, or did something that involved a combination of the three. I also believe I would collect on such a wager.

I use the phrase ''everyone involved'', but that really bothers me because this game shouldn't have required more than one person to create. Instead, during the ironically monochromatic title sequence we are treated to the names of nine people who foolishly chose not to remain anonymous - one of them a doctor! Common sense dictates that if you have a Ph.D. and your greatest achievement in life is executive-producing Color a Dinosaur, then your degree is clearly nothing more than a skillful forgery. If these people's stupidity is to be condemned, however, then their bravery is surely to be rewarded, for if I were involved in such a dead-end project, I would either push to remain unbilled or garrote myself.

''Color a Dinosaur'' allows any impressionable child or utterly bored adult who should know better to do just that, color any one dinosaur out of a possible field of sixteen selections. There is music to accompany the title screen and the page where you pick which lumbering leviathan you want to color, but once you select the reptile of your choice, the music drops out. Silence. It is an ominous, wordless warning that whatever feelings of joy and entertainment the game wanted to emote, it was lying. CAD yanks them away from you in a split-second as a cruel dog owner would from its hyperactively anticipating puppy. This sudden muting stands the whole concept of coloring on its head, turning it in one grisly instant from a fun and whimsical children's activity to a dreadful chore that must be done or otherwise there will be severe repercussions.

Alone in your iron cell to fill in stenciled designs that lack heart, you notice a palette to your left. The dearth of colors it possesses is astounding; you see a shock of burnt orange, some pale blue that could almost be lilac, and various patterns that wouldn't be out of place on guest bathroom wallpaper. Pressing Select runs the palette through a series of inversions that range from in ugliness from ''cringeworthy'' to ''fatally fugly.'' For reasons unbeknownst to scholars even today, as you keep pushing Select you'll watch the screen turn entirely blue, open up palette designs with no change whatsoever except that the colors fade from light to dark rapidly, and discover a totally black screen that resembles the kind of notebook paper that only gel pen ink is visible on - the kind 10-year-old girls really dig. If graphic design could be measured in terms of land elevation, Color a Dinosaur would be the Marianas Trench by the standards of all except the colorblind.

Watching the various closed fields become awash with the tepid hues of a watercolor set sold in a yard sale is an even more torturous act. Not only do the colors look terrible, but the cursor tool fills them at the pace of a garden snail with a triple hernia. Gone are the subtle touches that go along with designing a prehistoric masterpiece on plain paper. There's no thrill be to found in choosing exactly the right colors to contrast each other on a Stegosaurus' skin; no facets of art theory are to be found here. The dinosaurs are even laughable in their very design. It is interesting to note that in the year that CAD was released, so was Jurassic Park. Try watching the fearsome thunder lizards in that movie and then coming to sit in front of the NES and coloring the webbed folds of a Pterodactyl's wings black with green stripes. The contrast will make you soil your pants at both ends. It's nothing short of inane; an actual coloring book that allowed you to shade in dinosaurs would have sold better.

If you manage to get through an entire painting session without clawing your brain out with your toenails, you find that images can't be preserved. There is no way to print or save the best of any works of art you create. Who knows what irreparable damage Virgin is causing by inhibiting the creativity of the Picassos, Monets, and Van Goghs of the future? When you're done coloring, you press Start and move on to other artistic dino endeavors. The game is all about the disposability of the experience, and not being able to save a drawing after completing it is the final insult; the plastic bride and groom atop the shoddily baked, dangerously wobbly wedding cake of disaster. It's akin to spending eight hours on every small nuance of a drawing only to rip it to shreds the moment you complete it.

If you play this game, you're not just an April fool; you're a fool no matter what month it is.

Rating: 1/10

snowdragon's avatar
Community review by snowdragon (April 03, 2004)

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