Repetition’s a killer, especially when you’re repeating something that was never that brilliant in the first place. Just ask Assassin’s Creed; its visuals and character control were near perfect yet the gameplay suffered because of how repetitive things became. Unfortunately, Dinosaur King comes across the same amount of problems and more, which stop it from being a worthy title for anyone other than dinosaur enthusiasts, or fans of the popular ‘Dinosaur King’ card game and TV show.
Acting almost exactly like the Pokémon games, Dinosaur King is an adventure with RPG elements. The main gameplay takes a top down view, while combat goes into battle mode with a 3D representation of your Dinosaurs. The gameplay consists of mostly fetch quests, random battles, and fossil hunting. That’s pretty much the whole shebang. While you’ll be quite happy at the beginning of the game with what you’re offered, everything becomes quite stale very quickly, with the simple storyline the only thing keeping you going.
And what a simple storyline it is. The narrative involves an invention called the ‘DinoShot’, which can bring back the mighty dinosaurs of our past. This contraption gets taken by the twisted group that is the ‘Alpha Gang’, who plan to dominate the world with this newly stolen power. Two young boys (Max and Rex) are given their own DinoShots, and so they journey through many lands in an attempt to end the Alpha Gang’s evil schemes. The game is divided into continents that need to be visited in order to seek out stone fragments that have been taken by the Alpha Gang. Once you complete one area, you’ve pretty much seen all the game has to offer, and from then on the random battles especially start to drag.
It’s not a bad game by any means. There is certainly a reasonable amount of good ideas, and nothing is done badly, it’s simply dull. Areas in which the game impresses include searching for fossils and the wealth of locations on offer. Early on in the game you’re given some tools to help you discover new fossils. You’re given a radar and a drill, and wherever you are you can check on the radar to see if there are any fossils (or valuables) nearby that can be dug up. If you find and successfully dig up a fossil you can take it to be restored into a specific dinosaur. Restoration involves a mini-game that utilises the stylus and microphone, as you’re required to etch away at the fossil and blow away the dust that piles up. Your pick will eventually break, so you need to be careful what you uncover. It’s a simple mini-game that works surprisingly well, and is one of the better parts of the game.
Another area of the game that stands out is the diversity and charm of the locations. The game takes place in five continents, including Europe, North America and Asia. The graphics take a stylistic change in each, and it’s refreshing to see all the different characters and buildings that populate the specific areas.
Combat makes up about half of the game, so you’d expect it to be polished and enjoyable. Sadly, it’s simply competent, and at times frustrating and taxing. Combat works like the Pokémon titles, however instead of being turn based it uses the popular game of ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ and makes it the central mechanic. The novelty wears off fairly quickly, and you’ll soon realise the shallow nature of it all. At first you’ll be given tips on what move to pull, so every battle will be won without your dinosaur taking a scratch, but later the tips start to become easy to misread, and there are times where you’ll be given no tips at all, so everything is down to luck. It’s a shame that this system is used, as something turn based would have worked so much better. Sure it would’ve been almost a carbon copy of the Pokémon games then, but at least it would have been a whole lot more fun. On the top screen there is a 3D view of your dinosaurs and next to the 2D sprites of the main game it’s a startlingly different affair, but the dinosaurs are realised fantastically well, and the moves that are executed look brilliant thanks to some good animation. There is a substantial amount of dinosaurs to collect and moves to unlock, and in this respect the lifespan is impressive; it’s just a case of whether you can muster enough spirit to plough through the repetition.
The main gameplay is most often a case of ‘find this’, ‘battle these’, ‘go back here’, ‘talk to this man’, which is disappointing and feels outdated. The game doesn’t have any flaws in the literal sense of the word, it just doesn’t do much to a particularly good standard, and that is where Dinosaur King trips up. The visuals, too, are merely average; the 2D graphics look pedestrian, like a lesser version of the Pokémon games, and the anime-inspired dialogue scenes are pretty but not outstanding. The 3D graphics that accompany the combat are impressive, but this is a rare part of the game that shines.
Overall, Dinosaur King is a game that just sort of ‘exists’. Dinosaur enthusiasts and fans of the card game and TV show are sure to love the cartoon shenanigans, but for everyone else, it’s most likely not worth your time or your dinosaurs.