Interview: Project Crynosaurs

It's been a while, fans of dinosaurs in games, most of it spent enjoying the wonderful weather getting through all those greyed out games on the left there. Today I've got something a bit different for you. I heard about Project Crynosaur a bold mission to bring dinosaurs (and other prehistoric creatures PLUS BONUS FLORA) into CryENGINE 3. Normally, I weigh up the pros, the cons and scientific blunders of dinosaur (etc.) based video games after they've been pressed, wrapped and launched into the world but the heroes at Project Crynosaur have taken some time out of the project to give us insight into the minds of legends who seek to put dinosaurs into video games. Here's what tech lead Jon, developer Erin, 3D artist Jake, game designer Nick and level lead/designer Tom, had to say about the game, currently in development.

1)First up and most importantly, what drove you to make a game around dinosaurs?

Nick: I’ve always been interested in dinosaurs. I think what makes me a bit different from other people who have developed dinosaur games is that my mental image of dinosaurs didn’t begin with or stop with Jurassic Park.  I grew up on the original The Land Before Time and PBS’ The Dinosaurs and have continued to learn everything I can about them since.  I think my catalyst for wanting to create a game around dinosaurs was actually Spore. I enjoyed the cellular and creature stage, but they could have been so much more, especially looking back on the 2005 demo. Who hasn’t had a dream of a game like Spore with a focus on dinosaurs? One of the other things that drives me to make this game is wanting to share with people just how cool REAL dinosaurs might have been. Virtually every other media is still referencing Jurassic Park when it comes to their interpretation of dinosaurs. I want gamers to play this game and gain a new perspective on these animals and have fun doing it.

Jon: Simply put, I've been disappointed with almost all the games which have featured dinosaurs over the last 10 years, not only from a fun factor perspective, but also in the way in which they’ve been portrayed. I think the world has waited long enough for a great dinosaur game.

2) Before we talk fauna, the team is committed to representing the correct flora in a great deal of detail. To my mind this is probably a first as most DiGs projects just populate their environs with generic scenery. Apart from pleasing pedants like me and palaeobotanist gamers is this accuracy important for the team?

Nick: Well we are a bunch of pedants (no palaeobotanists yet, but our researcher/level designer, Tom, comes close) so yeah, this part of game development is very important to us. You really can’t understand an animal without understanding its habitat. All of us on the development team have been watching dinosaur documentaries or creating dinosaur art for a long time, and as far as we can tell, almost no one captures the actual environment of the Hell Creek Formation, the world of Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops*. We know more about these two dinosaurs than almost any other, and yet most of the time they get slapped against a generic background.

Jake: Accuracy is very important to us as a team. And I personally hope that the screenshots and videos released lately have shown that. Too many projects have marketed themselves as accurate, but it's really ever only in the loosest sense of the word. I want to leave no stone un-turned, and no detail left unrepresented. This will hopefully be the most accurate recreation of a prehistoric environment ever made, in a way I personally believe is only possible in this medium.

3) Let's talk dinosaurs. Recent games have explored the weird and wonderful species rarely seen, will you be including some of the off the beaten track taxa or will it be more JP standard cast- pterosaur (flyer), Compsognathus (weenie) unspecified 'raptor' (standard grunt) and Tyrannosaurs rex ('boss')?

Nick: Our dinosaurs are dictated by our setting: The Hell Creek Formation around 66 million years ago. Hell Creek is home to some of the most famous dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus and Triceratops. We didn’t choose them because they are “stock”; we chose them because they actually lived together. Beyond the big names however, there are a lot of unusual and poorly understood animals that lived in the same time and place, and I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised at just how vibrant an ecosystem it was.

4) You've been meeting with biodynamic academics, how important will scientific accuracy of how your critters move be to the feel of the game? I assume you won't be having any Jurassic Park: Warpath dinosaur ninjitsu antics.

Nick: As previously stated, accuracy is important to every aspect. We try to consult with field experts at every available opportunity, and animation is no exception. Hopefully how our animals move, based on the input of people like John Hutchinson, may surprise some people. But no, you won’t see anything gravity or anatomy defying in our game.

5) Any other non-dinosaurian animals going to make it into the game?

Nick: One of the great things about the Hell Creek Formation is just how much of the entire ecosystem is preserved. Players can look forward to seeing all sorts of unusual and unique animals, and many of them WON’T be dinosaurs. We released the concept art of our Champsosaurus a while ago via our Facebook as the first example of such, there will be plenty more to come.

6) Will the dinosaur AI include interactions with each other? Will it be possible to perch in a tree and just watch how the ecosystem interacts?

Jon: Yes, AI to AI interaction is a very important aspect to the game and we recognize that it’s also going to be a major development challenge for us. Getting autonomous characters of potentially different shapes and sizes to interact in a dynamic world is no easy task but we’re going to do our best to make it happen.

7) Even more most importantly, feathers or no feathers?

Nick: Our goal with creature design was to have the most accurate and unique look for each of the animals we develop as possible. So in a nutshell, yes, there will be feathers, where it is appropriate.

Jake: It is important to understand that this is no longer a creative decision for many a groups of dinosaur, they had them and this is indisputable. If we want to portray said animals in our game then they must have them too.

8) Next up, if you can say, what's the premise lost island? time travel? zombie space dinosaurs? 

Tom: As we conduct this interview, this question is definitely subject to change, but I can promise you that it will not be “zombie space dinosaurs” or the extremely cliché “lost island”. The ideas we’ve currently been throwing around most closely resemble a mixture of the “It’s all about the timing” and “time travel/bending” examples from your article.

Jake: We certainly have our ideas, but story isn't very central to this game. We are still very busy setting up the groundwork for the ecosystem and the animals inside it. It will be a while before you start seeing any story details emerge, if we even have a story. I think pure survival in itself creates more dynamic and interesting storylines than any scripted narrative.

9) The game didn't hit it's kickstarter target. Firstly, what's wrong with people and secondly how hard is it for the team to work on a project of passion because real life has a habit of getting in the way of volunteer effort?

Jon: The kickstarter was done far too early in development. Although it was a failure, we learned a great deal from the experience and also met some like minded individuals because of it. Since then, the team has completely transformed and the pieces are really starting to come together. When you are running a volunteer game development effort like this one, it’s definitely a balancing act and can be hard at times. However, everyone on the team is very passionate about this project, more so than any project I’ve been a part of before. I think that says a lot about the game and also the people involved.

10) There haven't been that many great dinosaur themed FPS, how limiting is the genre in getting the most out of them?

Jake: I think the core problem behind a lot of these games is that dinosaurs are not central to them. Jurassic: The Hunted for example could have been about anything and the game would be no different. The survival mode it offered was very similar to many a hoard mode you see in games that feature zombies or aliens. But the thing is, we don't want our dinosaurs to be interchangeable with zombies or aliens, or mutants or whatever else. We want them to offer an experience that only dinosaurs can offer.

Nick: I was marginally involved with the development and testing of Primal Carnage, and while I think that game has come together nicely, playing as a dinosaur pitted against humans in a deathmatch setting doesn’t really convey that feeling everybody wants of being a dinosaur. And I think that’s the biggest thing I want people who play this game to feel; you are a dinosaur, not just a class with a sweet gimmick racing around to rack up as many points/kills/whatever as possible in a timed game.

11) You'll be able to play as the dinosaurs in this game. Did you ever think about excluding the option of playing humans completely?

Jake: We have definitely considered excluding it. There is a question as to how much human game play can add that we haven't seen before. But there are many people who want to experience this world as a human, so we are going to explore the option for sure.

Erin: The thing with human gameplay is that it can be easily related to because we are human and we easily put ourselves into the shoes of a character that is also portrayed as a human. A player won’t relate to a dinosaur in the same way as a human, and vice versa. These factors are neither negative nor positive, but it does directly affect how a player will feel playing a game depending on what their avatar is in addition to variable gameplay elements. It is definitely important that we take this aesthetic into consideration.

Jon: There are a lot of people, myself included, who want to dive into a prehistoric world as a human and not solely as a dinosaur. There are a variety of reasons for this but the point is, human gameplay could be a very fun, exciting  experience if done right and not at least considering it,  I feel would be a mistake.

12) The team seem to be a passionate bunch of gamers as well as developers, do you have any other dinosaur games as spiritual touchstones to inspire you whilst working on this?

Nick: We look at all kinds of other games for inspiration, because ultimately no matter how gorgeous or accurate it winds up, this game needs to be fun for people to play. That’s our number one goal. One of games that really inspired us in development though was actually developed for a museum exhibit: Be The Dinosaur. Other games that have been influential in our development process include Minecraft, DayZ, Far Cry 3, Spore, Trespasser, Jaws: Unleashed, Skyrim, and even some classics like JPOG and Savage Quest. 

Thanks to the Crynosaurs team for taking the time to speak to me. You can follow the development of the game, including regular asset updates and tech demos over at the Project Crynosaurs website.

* Mega kudos to the team for italicising genus and species names in their reply.

The Stomping Land

Spotted over at Rock Paper Shotgun, The Stomping Land looks to be that rare species of Dinosaur (and other prehistoric creatures) video game, one that isn't just shooting dinosaurs in the face. Here's a video you should definitely check out.

Hopefully, this early stage isn't representative of the diversity of dinos that'll make the final cut, the roster looking very Jurassic Parky.

The Monster Hunter-esque gameplay should add an interesting element to the game and I can cross "Make Monster Hunter but with Dinosaurs" off my to-do list if all goes well! There's a rather perfunctory website up for the game at the moment and trivial details such as an ETA and supported platforms don't seem to be available as yet but either way I wish the dev team good luck!* 

*Hint, hint you'll probably get a great review from me if you mix up your dinosaur roster a bit and add some feathers.

Revisited: Dino Crisis

First, an explanation. Way back in the Eifelian I featured Dino Crisis in this super packed roundup here. Now I know that it's a bit rich to be revisiting games I've covered before but have you tried playing all the way through Combat of Giants Dinosaurs? It's tough and not even the inclusion of dinosaurs can hide the fact that it is a dull and repetitive game. Or how about the Lost World: Jurassic Park? That's one platformer that I wish time would forget. Oh and look there's now four dyed in the wool mediocre film tie in Ice Age games to play. Great. It's not easy you know running a self imposed blog about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in video games when half the games are awful and the other half have dropped off the face of the Earth. I'd love to play Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life, Lost Eden and Dino Stalker but many didn't come out here or can only be found through less than reliable sources. My hopes were raised by the promise of platforms like OnLive but then, they don't have a single dinosaur game in their library. So to heck with it. Why not take some time out (that implies I spend some time in) from those run of the mill games and those unobtainable experiences and revisit some of the games I didn't spend that much time on the first time around? Good rhetorical question.

Soooo Dino Crisis. What a difference 13 years make. Maybe it is the warm comforting hand-holding bosom (hand-holding bosom?) of modern games with their hand holding, immersion breaking HUDs, usable maps and file sections of the inventory screens that have tainted playing games from yesteryear that were... let's say less than helpful in some respects.

Billed as Resident Evil with dinosaurs, the most striking thing about replaying Dino Crisis is how bland it is. The whole game takes place inside a futuristic science installation which very much feels like the inevitable lab sections at the end of Resident Evil games with the exception that there's no Spencer Mansion to suck you in in the first place. From the first loading screen you're thrown into a generic laboratory and corridor installation, so unmemorable that if it wasn't for my memory card telling me I'd cleared the game three times I honestly wouldn't have believed I had.

Graphics have come a long way since 1999 haven't they? Oddly Dino Crisis hasn't aged as well as the original Resident Evil. The pre-rendered dark, worn and faded corridors of the Spencer mansion aren't nearly as primitive looking as the bright neon lab spaces of Ibis Island. Robotic human models and Capcom rubber faces aside the CGI has fared a little bit better.

Remember backtracking? That was a fun part of video games wasn't it? Find a locked door, find the relevant key card to get you to the next locked door until you find another key card. There's so much of this in Dino Crisis and because the map isn't as useful as it could be and amazingly you don't collect files in your inventory I was both happy and dismayed to have to start sketching annotated maps and writing down codes in order to remember which door needed which key MacGuffin and where the ammo boxes were. 

It isn't all bad. The so called 'puzzles' familiar to survival horror games come in three flavours here. There's the DDK code cracking, circuit board rearranging and then a mini game moving red and blue blocks around to magnetically rewrite ID cards, obviously. It's inoffensive stuff but with the DDK code keys there's a need to keep jotting down the changing encryption rules which I just ended up FAQing rather than running around to relocate the correct notebook to crack the new codes.   

On to the stars of the show. Weirdly for a game called Dino Crisis, there's not a great deal of fighting dinosaurs. I remember that door opening 'raptors' were an exciting antithesis to the usual cadence of safe space, set piece, in survival horror games. However, rather than feel that there's no safe space to hide it becomes obvious relatively early on that the raptors will only open some doors which ruins the whole illusion. As ever our pal, in Dino Crisis a rather yellow, Tyrannosaurus rex plays the role of big bad guy but many of the encounters with it in the build up to finale are just frustrating ending in death a couple of times until you work out which pixel is the safe one to stand on in the set pieces. It seems that resuscitation packs, which give you a mini continue, were included purely to make these harrowing encounters a little more palatable but in true Capcom style many of the run-ins with T.rex are on the wrong side of cutscenes. As ever Pteranodon is the perpetual annoyer of the sky. When will game developers ever learn? Therizinosaurus sort of makes an appearance although it looks like Therizinosaurus and Godzilla had a late night rendez-vous and Capcom employed the love children. Okay, so the year after commercial release of Dino Crisis a key fossil discovery helped to complete the palaeontological picture of this dinosaur but even before this is was unlikely that the dinosaur was going to turn out to be a squat angry stomper shown in this tiny picture here.
There's not a great deal  to remember from Dino Crisis. There's a few interesting bits and pieces and ideas here and there but for the most part it's running up and down-samey looking corridors inching nearer to the end with every key card and DDK code key. After the credits roll there's a few nice little touches that marginally increase the re-playability. A range of costumes for Regina (pantsu visible in two of them) add cosmetic variability but the more inspired design choice is that if you choose the Cave woman look, the weapons and upgrades change too. Want to upgrade the flinstone bone handgun and shotgun? Naturally you need to find a ummm frog bit and a snake bit respectively. Also waiting for you after the credit roll is Operation Wipeout a nice little trio of kill the dinosaurs and Therizillas mini game for fun and giggles.

Dino Crisis is probably best remembered with rose tinted glasses rather than replayed and the sequel game was a significant improvement on it. There was dual wielding, Regina could run and fire, underwater sections added some much needed sauropterygians and the boring laboratory environments were (largely) ditched. The third game is by all accounts a bit pants but thanks to the lack of backward compatibility of some Xbox titles on the Xbox 360 no one will ever be able to play it again. Not even me.

Tyrannosaurus Run

No sooner do I bemoan the lack of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games when I discover the excellent Tyrannosaurus run, free to play in your browser right now right here.

Remember that bit from Jurassic Park when the T.rex runs after the little JP jeep thing, Goldblum mutters his "must go faster" line, then there's a bit with the mirror and "objects may appear larger". We all know that scene right? Well it turns out that 10 second scene is enough to inspire this lovely little Shockwave Game reconstructed from fossils by Silent Bay Studios. The game is fairly straightforward. You are a land rover. There's a T.rex behind you. GO! The game has a nice little twist however, playing homage perhaps to the mirror in Jurassic Park as you can see your rear view mirror and I won't spoil it but you actually need to use it unlike 99.89% of all rear view mirrors in video games. Hey, perhaps I should start a new blog about rear view mirrors in games? Also like the movie, which spawned a million average or worse video games, you have to collect gems for points.

Dinosauriness: There's a single dinosaur in this game. There's no cash prizes for guessing which one and in the blurb for the game it is actually speciated it is our old buddy Tyrannosaurus rex. 

Scientific Accuracy: Since Henry Fairfield Osborn first described Tyrannosaurus rex in 1905, amazing discoveries of related dinosaurs, revolutions in the technology available to palaeontologists striving to unravel the mysteries of the rock record and paradigm shifts in the understanding of dinosaur anatomy and physiology have painted a vivid picture of how Tyrannosaurus rex may have lived, moved and how it would have looked. Unfortunately, a great deal of this knowledge has been overlooked by practically everybody who ever made a video game with a dinosaur in it.

Buzz Bonus: Scraping the barrel for a buzz bonus today but Silent Bay Studios seem to specialise in games about things going forward. Not just land rovers; rally cars, horses, bikes, spy cars, snow cars and even soccer mum wagons. Check 'em all out here.

Where are the Dinosaur Video Games?

We all know what makes video games such a special and powerful medium and that is the fact that they have the potential to feature dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in them. Who can look at this cold hard scientific fact and be sad? Nobody that's who.

So where are all the games? It seems that whilst the consoles sort their next generations out dinosaurs (and other prehistoric creatures) are off the cards for a while. Recently the modding community gave us hope in the form of Dino D-Day and there was a gleam of hope for the two confusing Orion games, Orion Beatdown and Orion Prelude. Primal Carnage was also in the mix. Dino D-Day has some of the best dinosaurs in games but the gameplay didn't quite set hearts alight, whichever one of the Orion games was so-so, the other Orion game still hasn't come out, despite being the first one of the two to be announced and Primal Carnage is shaping up to look like some good but shallow fun. 

Don't get me wrong, the above paragraph looks like I might be taking dinosaurs (AOPC) in games for granted. I'm not but it's the wide rainbow of dinosaurs (etc.) in games of different genres that stokes the fires of passion in our heart. Dare I say it, too many dinosaur shootan' games may damage the whole dinosaurs (&&&) in games movement.

In the meantime I stumbled upon this ol' article from IGN the (ahem) the complete history of dinosaur video games.Deary me. At least they acknowledge it isn't the be all and end all of dinosaurs in video games.

Also whilst excavating new of upcoming exciting digital dinosaurs (kipple) I found this paper about...drum roll please... dinosaurs in video games in the newsletter of the Palaeontological Association (the article is on page 82)! . Looks like I'm not alone in the Universe.

Not extinct merely 'Lazarus'

This crazy weather had me in a state of torpor and hibernation. But even with most of my senses dulled or off I still heard about Orion: Dino Beatdown and I still played way too much Dino Run.

I got excited about the trailer for still not released Orion Prelude and as I was breathing slowly to keep calm until it was out they ONLY WENT AND RELEASED A WHOLE OTHER GAME.

It's called Orion: Dino Beatdown, it's out now and well, here's the trailer

Of course I'm above the lazy technique of describing games in terms of XXX meets XXX but it looks like Halo meets DINOSAURS. There's nothing not to like apart from the fact that it isn't out yet and won't be  until the 20th of April for Steam or On Live.In the meantime DINO RUN.

Dino Strike- Nintendo Wii

As promised I've now played through Dino Strike (not to be confused with Battle of Giants Dinosaur Strike) on the Wii. Sadly it was the bog standard version not the one with the green 20" blaster because we've got enough orifices that Wiimote will fit in without yet another piece of plastic for the pile. 

Dino Strike is an on rails shooter in the same vein as House of the Dead, Resident Evil Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction with the distinct difference in that aside from featuring dinosaurs (and one other prehistoric creature), isn't very good at all. Until that is you play through all the levels dual wielding, in which case the game is almost passable. 

Where to start? You can probably guess the following details. You see there's an island (there is always an island). You crash your boat there. There's dinosaurs on the island. You have to navigate your way through a volcano and along a river and through a temple whilst shooting all kinds of dinosaurs in the face. What you were expecting something different? We don't normally care about how much graphics games have but this doesn't have many at all. The art of shooting, so key in a game all about shooting, is excuse the pun, hit-and-miss and the game liberally sprinkles you with continues acknowledging that sometimes a raptor will just ignore the shotgun shells to the face and maul you anyway. 

Dinosauriness: The cast is like THE gold standard for what you do with dinosaurs in video games. Jurassic Park raptors make up your typical goons. Spitting Jurassic Park Dilophosaurus attack you from a distance. Annoying Pteranodon fill in for annoying flying things that should be banned in all video games. Ankylosaurs are the beefy fat guys and then Tyrannosaurus is the boss. STANDARD FARE. 

Scientific Accuracy: Look at the creatures in that box art. Think about islands and cryptic dinosaurs and miss-sized dinosaurs and spitting Dilophosaurus. STANDARD ERRORS. 

Buzz Bonus: We were really really looking forward to Jurassic: The Hunted.

Dinosaurs in Video Games 2012

Not dead. Just coming out of a winter torpor but what is this? It hasn't been a proper winter. Ut ohs. This will cause problems for the circle of life.

Raving Rabbids Travels in Time added to list! Also why didn't you guys tell me about GameBoy Advance game A Sound of Thunder, DS game Digging for Dinosaurs or Dinosaurs Vs Alamo? Are we keeping secrets from each other now?
But enough about the warming globe. How is 2012 shaping up for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in video games? Well the last issue of EDGE has confirmed that a popular racing game series will feature a roadside Tyrannosaurus rex. I got a copy of Dino Strike and have played it (review pending) and I'll be keeping my unblinking eyes out for more dinosaurs in games whilst trying to play through Syberia 2.

Wii Play Motion

Wonderfully, over Christmas I found myself with some surprise Christmas money giving me the unusual opportunity for some guilt-free video game purchasing. Normally, splashing out on a video game means taking money away from some other serious and always more important budget (savings, food for the kids, new shoes etc.). Christmas money is guilt free, indeed it is given with the express intent to be spent on something fun, plus the kids could do with losing some weight. So I found myself in a fine Belgian video game vending establishment with euros to spend. 

Oh my lordy! Shop bought video games are expensive. Dreams of a purchase of two or possibly three games with the aforementioned Christmas credits were realistically adjusted to possibly one. My options were either Metroid: Other M (I read mixed reviews but wanted to see for myself), Super Mario Galaxy and some change (I know, I know why don't I own this already), Super Mario Galaxy 2 minus some extra money (why do Nintendo games stay so expensive?) or Sin and Punishment 2. Or it turns out Wii Play Motion

You may have gathered I opted for Wii Play Motion. WHY? You might cry. Well yes all those other games are good or very good and belong in any discerning gamer's library but I figured it was time to get on the Wii Motion Train. Plus the Wiimote that comes bundled with it is sexy red to match my sexy red classic controller that came with Xenoblade Chronicles. Also, the swing factor was I spotted this on the back of the box:

What do you mean What the hell is that? That is an unmistakable* screenshot of the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus rex with targets on it probably from a light-gun shooting game. See that marketeers? Nintendo would have missed a sale if it wasn't for the box art. Who says you should never judge a game by its box art? Much to my joy, Tyrannosaurus rex with targets on it probably from a light-gun shooting game is exactly what it turned out to be. New Year Dinosaur gaming in motion plus extravaganza! Also, another nice benefit of buying this game (I mentioned sexy red wiimote already right?) is that some of the mini games are quite good. Like my GOTY 2011 good.

For those of you not au fait with Wii Play or Wii Play Motion, these two games are essentially tech demos for what the Wii and more recently what Wii Motion Plus can achieve. The mini games on offer in both games are a mixed bunch but sadly, it seems other game developers don't take more inspiration from the Wii Play gamelets. There's some tantalising uses of motion controls and ideas in the rather shallow games that others could have taken and run with. Could have run with is operative here, or you know, instead they could make buggy shovelware, poor Wii Sports clones and light gun shooters. Sigh. Tanks!, for example, in the first game is amazing even as a mini game and significantly better than most full price games. Wii Play Motion has some corkers (and some stinkers) on it. I've already mentioned Star Shuttle but completing level 30 of Teeter Targets was tough, emotionally draining and spine tinglingly good in the way that games used to and should be. Human and controller needing to become one in order to master what on the surface looks like an unchallenging premise. 

 Anyway, it also has Dinosaurs in it. Specifically, one of the levels of Trigger Twist a sequel, if you like, to Wii Play's Shooting Range sees your Mii dressed in Safari Khakis and sporting a musket tasked with helping a bunch of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures on their way to extinction. Right about now I'd post an image from the game but can you believe there isn't a single decent screenshot within a quick google? There's plenty of videos on YouTube but I don't want to ruin it for those of you as 'purist' as myself. No wonder the game hasn't flown of the shelves. Rule number one of video game marketing, if your game has dinosaurs in it, put out screenies of dinosaurs and the sales (at least one guaranteed) will explode. You'll have to make-do with this image, again from the box art (IMAGE NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF IN GAME DINOSAURS):

The Trigger Twist game itself isn't particularly innovative. It is a fairly standard light gun shooter except Wii Motion Plus allows you to look around 720 degrees (?) by moving the controller around you. However, this concept is limited in that it is pretty hard to aim when you've got the Wiimote pointed over your shoulder and this is acknowledged by the game makers as targets rarely appear beyond 180 degrees of vision. Still a nice idea that another developer might run with....  So what do we have?

Dinosauriness: There's no 'Dinopedia' but I'm going to hedge my bets with the IDs here. For example I'm going to assume that the iguanodont you grease isn't intended to be Mantellisaurus or Muttaburrasaurus but is in fact a vanilla Iguanadon but if a developer interview comes out that states otherwise I'll be more than happy to change the details here. We appear to have a very typical assemblage: BrachiosaurusIguandon, an ornithomimosaur, a Plesiosaur, Pteranodon, Blue, Red and Gold 'Raptors', Stegosaurus, Triceratops and drum roll please....... Tyrannosaurus rex.

Scientific Accuracy: All the usual bum notes- temporally distributed genera appearing together (Stegosaurus I'm looking at you), a classic example of a freshwater plesiosaur is also a highlight. Scale is hard to determine from a first person perspective but as ever it feels a bit off. There's not a feather to be seen either. Lastly, unless a new discovery confirms that dinosaurs were neon coloured, the skin colour seems a bit too 90s rave scene. Did I expect anything different? No. God forbid fun be scientifically accurate. GOD FORBIDS IT.

Buzz Bonus: I've really nothing to say here except I also received a copy of Dino Strike for the Wii over Christmas. Don't worry it wasn't a present I bought it myself. Otherwise I'd never tell you that it is awful. Awful and less fun than Trigger Twist. Expect a full review soon.....!

*Well I do have my eye in for spotting this kind of thing. Endless trawling the internet for smidgens of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in video games means I can spot a virtual dinosaur in a screenshot from at least 50 paces in a mild fog.

More Joy From Endless Ocean 2

Endless Ocean 2 is the game that just keeps giving for the fan of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games. Here's how I called it a mere 70 hours in. Put another twenty or so hours into it and there's still plenty of new stuff to see.
But for my purposes the most important new discoveries in this game are the Cambrian predator/poster organism Anomalocaris, pictured above and the Ordovician giant nautiloid Cameroceras. Both of these creatures can be found bobbing around and require a double take before realising that they are creatures out of time. Prehistoric marine life often doesn't get much of a look-in in many video games as most games are terrestrially based. I'm chuffed to bits that Arika really ran with their imagination in this game and found a way to sneak these two prehistoric animals in as cryptids.


After what seems like forever, I finally got around to finishing Syberia. It may seem stupid for a game that's nine years old but I'm gonna put a SPOILER warning up here. If you like Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games then Syberia is definitely worth a play. Then come back here. Okay? I don't know if it is just because I'm a jaded old gamer or because I haven't played a solid point and click adventure for a longtime but I really enjoyed Syberia. Probably more so than normal because it's a dinosaurs game that isn't a Pokemon clone or FPS. It's pretty standard fare really. Point here, click there, pick up this item, give it to this person who'll give you another item to give to someone else. It isn't free of the frustrations particular to the genre and if you played it like I did over a space of months rather than hours you'll need a number of trips to the excellent Universal Hint System for some of the (subtle) clues you end up forgetting between plays.
The game takes you on a fantastical journey in the shoes of lawyer Kate Walker, sent to a weird French town to settle the estate of an eccentric woman whose automaton factory is due to be bought by a big toy company. Unsurprisingly, things don't go as planned and Kate ends up tracking down the deceased woman's brother, a curious savant obsessed with mammoths. The game takes you to some really amazing places and I found myself forgiving the linear nature of the game (item A to place B to get to item C etc..) because the environments you visit are so fantastic, the writing and characters are compelling and solving the puzzles to progress are normally just the right side of head scratching. There's also a snazzy little gimmick in that Kate has a mobile phone and occasionally gets phoned by her boyfriend, mother and best friend. LIKE HOW MOBILE PHONES WORK IN THE REAL WORLD! The phone does a good job of giving an insight into who Kate is beyond the person you mercilessly puppet about the place as well as being key to progressing at times. I've said too much already just go and grab it. Sure, it's dated but it's less than a tenner on Steam,just under 12 for both Syberia and Syberia 2. As a fan of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games I really like that this game is palaeontologically themed rather than just a palaeontologically skinned generic game as so many DiGs are. Mammoths, biology and palaeontology run through the game and kept me playing. It's just refreshing still, even from a nine year old game, to see that the Syberia team actually did a bit of research rather than just pick up My First Book Of Scary Dinosaurs, bung in the usual suspects and then copy and paste the "facts" in the ubiquitous dinopedia. Anywho, down to the regular bitness...
Dinosauriness: Remember that spoiler warning? Well you don't actually see any real virtual mammoths in the game, the three screenshots in this post is as near as you get. Early on you find a prehistoric mammoth doll and make a mammoth rubbing (pictured above). At the Barrockstadt University the skeletons of Megaloceros, Mammuthus primigenius, Platybelodon and some other extinct mammals that are hard to identify (speculatively equid and elephantid) can be found. In addition to the amazing statues you can see above there's a pair of sabre-toothed tiger statues although I wouldn't like to guess exactly which 'sabre-toothed tigers' they are (sabre-toothery in mammals is an amazing example of convergent evolution).

Scientific Accuracy: So far so good. You don't see any real mammoths although the game foreshadows an encounter in Syberia 2, apparently there's a cryptic population of mammoths possibly alive on an island called Syberia. More outlandish is the automatons, wind up robots, you meet throughout the game. But this is Dinosaurs in Games NOT Robots in Games.
Buzz Bonus: There's so much to say, there's a sequel that's on my to play list and the sort of announcement of a third one to be released for PS3 and PC with the demand that Sony stop their Syberia PS2 denial.. This game was also released on the DS in 2008 and was the version I originally wanted to pick up but the handful of sites that reviewed it all recommended picking up the 2002 PC version. My last buzz bonus is that in the Barrockstadt University library you can see Aristotle's principle 'Natura non facit saltus'- nature does not make leaps a famous proposition invoked by a number of the brightest luminaries in science throughout time and just one of the biology geek references that endeared this game to me even more.

Dino Strike and Zoo Entertainment

Sad news about Zoo Entertainment. Let's hope it doesn't affect our preorder of Dino Strike which has already been delayed by a bit. I was expecting it sometime next week. Theit website still ists it as avialable "February 2011".

Ahh, gotta love game companies and their bad websites...

Dinosaur Games on Android

I've been desperately trying to breathe some life back into the ol' PC in order to finish Syberia. Whilst I was waiting for loading and installing bars to go up and down I thought I'd hit the Android market to see if there was any Dinosaur Goodness to be had. Over 700 hits for "dino"! This could truly be the future of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games?

Of course, I'm not going to pay for any of them! Why risk paying for something that might be awful? So I downloaded a couple of free ones. The first game I tried  was called Dino Attack Hunt (screenie above). The "game" involves prodding the dinosaur pictures as they scroll down the screen. If you correctly prod them you are rewarded with a shotgun noise and the dinosaur's heads pop off. The game is fun for a little bit less than it takes to download. It was a really really quick download too. Annoying too is that the background is clearly a well looked after park. Is this really the future of games? There may have been a point where something other than prodding the three dinosaurs shown above happened but I just couldn't bear to see it through. Life is too short.

Next up is a game/app simple called Dinosaurs!. I was excited about this one. Somebody had undertaken some serious research into the ways that dinosaurs could possibly make different noises by looking at laryngology as well as a comparative analysis of vocalisation in reptiles from throat rumbles, specialised resonating chambers through to beak clacking. From this academic research they were then able to upload authentic sounds of 45 dinosaur (and other prehistoric creature) genera including relatively obscure genera like Herrasaurus (an apparently new genus to science, the first to be described in an app and surely definitely not a typo of Herrerasaurus), 'Parsaurlophus'Monolophosaurus and everyone's favourite Chirstenote(?!). Of course, I am being facetious here. Somebody has simply uploaded 45 random roary noises and attached them to 45 misspelled and poorly researched dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. Accuracy alarm bells started to ring when the picture for Ankylosaurus, one of the most recognisable dinosaurs after Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, 'Brontosaurs' and Stegosaurus, instead depicts the sauropod Amargosaurus. The image below shows some of the errors on the first page. There are more, believe me. 
So there we have it. I'm not going to make a habit of looking at every single dinosaur (and/or other prehistoric creatures) app/game because most of them will be a pile of rubbish like these two but when I do there's a new section on the left here where they will be listed.

Disney's Dinosaur

Disney's Dinosaur was a game that was released on virtually every single platform at the time, Game Boy Colour, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast and Windows. I've been meaning to pick up a copy of this game for a long long time.

It's a Ubisoft game, when Ubi wasn't so fussy about not for making awful games before the days of Assasin's Creed. That being said, this game (the PS2 version at least) isn't as bad as I expected. It isn't as good as it could have been either. The game plays like a bit like Baldur's Gate is as much as it an isometric 'dungeon crawler', although the water isn't as good as in Baldur's Gate. A nice twist on the dungeon crawling is that you need to combine the specific skills of Aladar the Iguanodon, Flia a Pteranodon and Zini a lemur to make it through levels that roughly follow the plot of the film. There's a neat little squad organising mechanic that makes it easy to split your team of three or to combine them all together. Aladar can give out and take a lot of damage, Zini can climb up ladders and hurl stones at enemies and to create walkways and Flia, who has been created specifically for the game, can act as a scout, access areas the land dwellers can't as well as being able to pick up and carry objects. The game occasionally falters in that unintuitive and cryptic mechanics are sometimes introduced in order to progress through levels requiring a number of frustrating failures in order to work out what you're supposed to do. Some sections also suffer from the classic problem in that bridges and ledges require a careful navigation that simply isn't possibly with the unrefined controls. I had to restart a couple of the escort missions because I'd fall off a ledge and respawn to find my escortees blocking the way through. As you can see below, the game isn't exactly a looker but it deserves some credit for not being a Pokemon clone, RTS or light gun game as so many of these Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creature games are.

Dinosauriness: The game departs slightly from the film including some dinos that didn't make the cut. Creatures featured are: Albertoaurus, Ankylosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Carnotaurus, Champsosaurus, Dryptosaurus, the bat Icaronycteris, Iguanodon, Oviraptor, Parasaurolophus, Pteranodon, Quetzalcoatlus (misspelled Quetzelcoatlus in the game), a' raptor', Spinosaurus, Styracosaurus (misspelled Styrachosaur in the game) Talarurus and of course a Lemur. A number of other genera appear in cutscenes including Pachyrhinosaurus, Struthiomimus, Stygimoloch and possibly Ichthyornis.

Scientific Accuracy: Where to begin? First off talking animals loses some accuracy points. Secondly, a lot of the dinosaurs have been found continents apart, Carnotaurus remains have only been found in Argentina, Styracosaurus is only known from Canada, Oviraptorin Mongolia and possibly China. This is not to say that they couldn't have met but current evidence doesn't suggest they did. Also many of the creatures represented weren't coeval. Champsosaurus resembles a giant lizard and is found roaming the desert rather unlike a Choristoderan really. Lastly, the lemurs (and similarly Icaryonecteris) really throw a spanner in the works. Not only are lemur fossils only known from Madagascar, Asia and continental Africa conflicting with the Dinosaurs from the Americas but even the most immoderate estimates for the appearance of lemurs don't go as far back as 75 Ma. However, most irritatingly in the game is that Zini sounds like some kinda New York wise-guy. Having been forced to watch the film again for fact checking, bizarrely this accent has been added specifically for the game. Thanks guys. Someone should really publish a paper on the independent evolution of NY wise guy accents in sidekicks.

Buzz Bonus: It seems almost obligatory for dinosaur games to have a 'dinopedia' and this game is no exception albeit with a shocking number of typos. This makes my life a lot easier because I don't have to keep quite so many notes. The dinopedia in the PS2 version is a nice little three-dimensional diorama that you can whizz around and discover various dinosaur (and other prehistoric creature) facts.

What no Turok?

My little gaggle of followers may have noticed a recent spate of posting. Unfortunately, I seem to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to covering all the games listed under "THE GAMES" over there on the left because as soon as I get round to playing through one of them another three pop up. Not that I'm complaining. We all know there aren't enough dinosaurs in games. The more the merrier! To infinity!

However, eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that the Turok series remains greyed out for the time being. Can't be fussed checking, here's the proof:

So what's the deal? Shirley, Turok is an obvious place to start when it comes to dinosaurs in games? Well I'm inclined to agree but I want to play through them all in order to get a better sense of the " "Storyline" ". At the moment I've been playing them in reverse order. I played the Xbox 360 one then Turok: Evolution. I want to start playing from the beginning but you know what it is like. Finding all the cables and setting up the N64 is such a pain... I was secretly hoping that they'd appear on the virtual console but alas that doesn't seem to be something that is planned to happen.

Tl:dr the short story is, I'm getting around to it, I'm not ignoring the series or anything jeez!

Planet Dinosaur

Planet Dinosaur was oh so briefly on the TV recently and as with Walking with Dinosaurs, an accompanying game has been made. You can go and play it right now, right here.

It's a fun little browser game. You can breed a number of species from the television series then let them loose in your own little panorama. It won't be breaking any records for looks. Or playability. But hey, it's free. Oh and it has achievements if you like that kind of thing. It is quite slow and if I was being cynical I'd say it was a cheap way to get people to keep coming back to the website. In fact, there are achievements for logging in every single day.... Here's my panorama so far:
Nuffin but a couple of Spinosaurus at the moment. They don't get up to much. They stomp around. There's a little sawfish catching mini game you can play for in game credits to buy more dinosaurs, food to help your babies grow to adulthood and extra bits of scenery to enrich your panorama. I'll hold off the final judgement when I've unlocked more of the dinosaurs and mini-games. If you decide to give it a go, let me know what you think in these comments.