I’m standing on the beach with my wife as we share the warmth of a fire and admire the majestic green mountains that cover the sky behind us. Being a caveman I like to imagine that I was thinking something along the lines of “I have food, warmth, an awesome beard and a woman I love. I sure am glad nothing totally ominous is lurking in the background right now that would cause my underdeveloped mind to panic.”
It turns out that those mountains were actually an angry dinosaur god who proceeded to kidnap my wife.
Man, as though I needed another reason to hate prehistoric Mondays.
Dinocide is a platforming survival adventure game by AtomicTorch with some killer retro art and music. Seriously. I played five or six hours of it and the biggest thing that kept popping up in my mind was has good the music was. I wasn’t surprised when I caught myself humming tunes from the game long after I had turned it off. Seeing as it’s a platformer, I’m not going to critique the story as there’s effectively little of it. Save your wife. Beat the bosses. Done.
The game itself calls to mind the SNES adventures of old, so my expectation was for something both vibrant and brutally hard. I’m happy to report I wasn’t let down, as the game itself is plenty colorful, with a few areas to explore and new enemies popping up on occasion when you enter a new biome.
Lets not forget the other half of the game: dinosaurs. Surprisingly, the dinosaurs were rather sparse with only a handful to pick from. However they all had special abilities and were distinct enough that they all felt useful. It’s worth noting that when riding a dino your health/timer ticks down slower, which gave the dinosaurs more purpose than just making you move faster. You gain a new appreciation for your scaly steeds due to their utility, but I had gripes with how if a dinosaur died in midair (they have a health bar independent of your own) you’d lose all momentum in your jump and plummet to your death. The boss dinosaurs were really satisfying, they’re variable attacks were interesting and their lairs were all suited to their species, even if I’d struggle to name a dinosaur that can shoot fire. If you can make it through the platforming issues the bosses are a very satisfying reward for your perseverance.
Unfortunately for the art direction the game seems uncommitted to the dinos and cavemen theme. I wasn’t more than five or six levels in when I encountered both a rocket-armed mech and a creature that looked suspiciously like a monster from Where The Wild Things Are which shot lasers (because of course it did). Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised the developers strayed so far from the theme established earlier in the game.
Now let’s talk about that other expectation: brutal difficulty. The game is quite unforgiving. When you complete a level with your dinosaur it is then added to your inventory for later, but if it dies in the next level and you fail to complete it, you’re now faced with trying to beat the level with even less room for error.
While that does offer some serious satisfaction when you finally beat it, I can’t help but wish they’d allowed us to set a difficulty level, so you wouldn’t have to spend too much time on the more trying levels. As it turns out, the game isn’t actually that long — maybe seven hours for a full play through, assuming you don’t try to explore every nook and cranny and you’re an experienced platformer player.
The game also has some noticeable collision issues in spots such as the edge of a platform. This wouldn’t be the end of the world if the game didn’t contain anything but platforming but those issues turned what may have been a fun level into a slog after you’ve played through it multiple times only to die through no fault of your own.
The other thing that made the levels a bit of a grind was an ever decreasing hunger bar that ticked down over time. In theory this would serve a function similar to the timer in most Mario games, making sure you kept moving and rewarded quick players who managed to finish the level quickly with a score bonus. In practice, it was a far too restrictive timer since it increased with your health bar, which means that after one hit you wouldn’t die instantly but mere seconds from the end of the level. This really increased my dislike of the mechanic. It’s an excellent way to spice things up but desperately needs tuning before it can be considered fair — alternatively, just give me a separate health bar so I have a little more leeway in my survival. Even Mario gives you the chance to take a hit here and there.
All in all, the game is pretty solid and I had a blast playing it — but then again, I’m one of of those guys who likes playing the XCOM series, so unless you’re a both nostalgic and a masochist you might want to brace yourself.
Either way, I heartily encourage you to give it a look and see if you might enjoy it, as the game isn’t too time-intensive and is currently a reasonable ten bucks on Steam.
Gavin Bouchard is Twitch streamer and a Contributor for AllYourBaseOnline.com; you can find his Twitch here.