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Dinocide (PC) artwork

Dinocide (PC) review

"Misadventure Island"

Dinocide (PC) image

Dinocide's introductory cutscene returns to the early '90s, stylistically speaking. A pair of 8-bit cave folk cuddle in a lush, prehistoric environment while charming, dated melodies play. Unfortunately, their cuteness angers a dinosaur god, who nabs the cavewoman and stomps off into the distance. Our enraged hero, who is not named Master Higgins this time, leaps into action.

The mighty bearded protagonist bashes his way through jungles, poison marshes, beaches, parched deserts and ice caves in an effort to rescue his love. Along the way, he throws rocks, stone axes and boomerangs at ancient reptiles and peculiar creatures. Occasionally, he also mounts a newly hatched dino with a unique talent. For instance, red theropods don tough, fire-resistant scales, while Stegosaurus-like critters are immune to the poisonous water of the swamps.

Does this game sound familiar yet? Well, how about this? the game also features a hunger meter that drains over time. You can refill it by nabbing fruit. Throw in a skateboard and a ball cap and Dinocide would be indistinguishable from Adventure Island II. The notion of playing a modern clone of the NES classic might excite you, but I'd ask you to still your quivering heart. Sadly, though Dinocide offers a fitting visual homage to Hudson Soft's dino-killing romp, the indie platformer biffs it in the interactive categories.

Dinocide (PC) image

For one thing, Dinocide's stages are bland and repetitive. Many of them are straightforward affairs that consist of running to the right, leaping over pitfalls and slaying basic monsters. I expect simplicity and ho-hum design from a platformer's early stages, but Dinocide never fully transitions into the engaging, addictive sidescroller it could be. Granted, stages do eventually branch into alternate routes and sport hidden nooks, but the rewards for exploration are nothing special. Mostly, you earn gems that function as currency, but that doesn't matter much. Shops are few and far between, and they only offer weapons and mounts you can easily locate during the natural progression of your quest.

I will admit there are some neat hidden goodies, though. During one excursion, I found a mech equipped with rapid-fire missiles. Sadly, you don't see that guy often enough.

It would be lazy of me to merely dismiss Dinocide as "too easy." Its difficulty rating is not the problem. Rather, part of the issue lies in enemy and obstacle placement. Whenever you meet a foe, dealing with it requires little more than basic attacks and rudimentary dodging. You also won't run afoul of a variety of traps or unique dangers besides enemies and standard pits until late in the campaign, when the game showcases a brief segment where you must outrun rising lava. Outside of that tense moment, every section is forgettable and no particular situation stands out from the pack.

Even boss encounters are nothing special. On one hand, it's cool to square off against massive, ancient creatures like a prehistoric fish or a fire-breathing dinosaur bathing in lava. On the other hand, these pests are pushovers. Aside from solid old school visuals and decent boss music, there's nothing about these confrontations that stands out in any way. You lob some stones, dodge a few bullets and call it a day.

Dinocide (PC) image

Variety could have saved Dinocide from mediocrity. Since the game already eschews Adventure Island's slippery mechanics (a wise choice, to be sure), it could have shown off more creative and exciting segments that fully utilize its impressive bestiary without presenting a face-breaking challenge factor. If that was the developer's aim, to craft a more accessible platformer, the team could have done so without limiting the experience to simple, mindless side-scrolling where the primary goal is to run to the exit. I'm thinking of scenes dedicated to riding one of your reptilian allies against hordes of opposing dinos, auto-scrolling segments, mini-games or even non-linear stages with multiple objectives.

Dinocide tries to offer some replay value by presenting you with alternate levels. There are a few areas where you receive a choice between two different locales through which to battle. Unfortunately, since the game's stage designs are yawn-inducing, there isn't much incentive to return and play any areas you missed. You can't exactly call it "replay value" if it doesn't inspire you to replay the game.

For the most part, Dinocide is functional and dry. However, its last few stages twitch with a few ounces of life, as they present more complex level layouts and a few slightly tough sections. Sadly, these just-above-par moments culminate in a sloppy final boss battle that boils down to luck. For once, the game decides to put you to the ultimate test by pitting you against a massive monster with megatons of hit points. The beast also uses a mean ground pound attack that drops boulders on random parts of the arena. However, you receive no warning as to where these rocks will land, and they plummet at a dizzying speed. If you're lucky, you might happen to be standing in enough safe spaces to survive the whole fight. Each blow from a boulder, though, shaves off a fair chunk of your health, and it doesn't take many shots to dispatch you.

Dinocide (PC) image

Perhaps the team that designed Dinocide was too focused on trying to remember Adventure Island II. The game's design tries to dazzle you with nostalgia, when it should wow you with breezy, amusing content. If my seven years on Steam have taught me anything, it's that "me toos" are most effective when they're finding ways to a) separate themselves from their inspirations; and b) present memorable, entertaining experiences. Axiom Verge may as well have been a copy and paste of Super Metroid, and Odallus: The Dark Call could've passed as an 8-bit Demon's Crest mod. However, both of those indie titles showed their developers' passions by standing on their own and presenting players with fresh material while making use of aged concepts. Dinocide fails to take that route and instead offers you Adventure Island trappings, second-rate platforming and a shrug.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (December 12, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Masters posted December 12, 2017:

Nice review, especially the final paragraph. Too bad about the game though, as I was thinking about adding it to my wishlist.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 12, 2017:

Thank you! I've yet to find a good caveman-themed game on Steam. This one and There Was a Caveman proved to be just meh. Caveman World will probably be the next one I check out.
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Masters posted December 12, 2017:

I have a review of an Adventure Island type game coming out in a day or so... you might like this game, and it's dirt cheap on Steam so it's probably worth a look.

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