Dino King-DS

At first glance, Dino King from Sega on the DS appears to fall into the same trappings as Fossil Torunament and the battling sections of Dino Master for the same platform. That is trying to be Pokemon but failing in terms of execution, depth, playability and a lot of thought and some nice extra touches.

Fossil tournament fails purely because even until late in the game, moves consistently miss so even in battles where levels and numbers mean the odds are vastly stacked in the player's favour it is still possible to lose because you just can't hit the oponent for no clear reason. The battling sections in Dino Master (largely an after thought and completely uneccessary considering the Qix and collect section of the game is so addictive) fail because combat is a little too random. On top of mechanics, neither of these games serve up a good storyline and the niche appeal of these titles means you can scour the earth and the internet and you'll never find someone to fight against over wi-fi or DS to DS play.

So it was with some trepedation that Dino King went into the DS. After a couple of hours of play though it appears to actually be quite engaging. The top down view is completely stolen from pokemon and the gameboy link games and the storyline won't be winning any awards anytime soon (the game literally starts off with a device for bringing dinosaurs back to life being invented and two seconds later stolen by the bad guys).

Instead of complex movesets a la Pokemon or the random attacks of Dino Master, combat is actually paper, scissors, stone. This image on the back of the box put me off buying this title simply because I still have Fossil Tournament to beat and I didn't fancy more random battling from start to finish. However, what appears to be a very simple way of deciding combat is actually more complex and all the more engaging for it. Firstly different species of dinosaurs have different critical moves so my Triceratops has a critical move on scissors. But rather than simply guessing your attack, enemies give off clues as to which moves they will be using. This starts off simple enemies telling you: "I'm going to go for my critical attack" to which the correct response would be to look at the enemy critical sign e.g. paper and choose scissors. Later on in the game, characters give you more complex cues like "Critical moves are a no no" meaning they won't use their critical move (e.g. Rock) so you have to choose one of the remaining symbols that beats the other remaining symbol (in this case scissors would be the correct choice).

Maybe it doesn't sound so great but after numerous battles your head starts to overthink the moves and you end up making some silly mistakes but this beats totally random battles or battles that would otherwise be too easy. The moves look good and are animated in 3D and unlike Fossil Tournament the moves aren't exactly copied (names and all; tail swipe, bite etc.) from pokemon red/blue. A black mark on scientific accuracy though as some moves make the dinosaurs perform physics defying, back breaking moves. One move, 'boomerang attack', sees the dinosaur jump into the air, tuck it's tail under it's chin and do a spin attack. From the opening FMV it looks like fire breathing may feature down the line too :(

As is standard for DS dinosaur games the collect 'em up part involves collecting and excavating fossils. This is done by using a radar and a drill and although isn't quite as fun as the cave excavation in Pokemon it's okay. You then have to clean the fossils in order to be able to turn them into cards, to summon, to use in battles. The cleaning section seems broken as your pick (the stylus) seems to break well before you could ever completely expose a fossil but you get the dinosaur anyway. Maybe I'm missing something though.

It'll be interesting to see how Combat of Giants (see yesterday's post for the trailer) compares but until then Dino King is a good title with an unusual amount of effort put in, considering it could have been a very shallow agme. I'm only two hours in but I'll post up more details when I have em.

Dinosauriness: Over 70 dinosaur species according to the back of the box but the species list seems to be quite comprehensive, somewhere between Fossil Tournament and the impressive Dino Master in terms of taxonomic coverage. Tyrannosaurs rex makes an early appearence as the nemesis and Triceratops or Ceratosaurus? are the squirtle and bulbasaur you have to choose from at the start. The first level (Euro Town) has such dinosaurs as Dacenturus, Gorgosaurus, Iguanaodon, Irritator and Wuerhosaurus . So it's clear we're not just dealing with the Hollywood stars.

Scientific Accuracy: The usual bringing dinosaurs back problems as well as biodynamically impossible moves and stratigraphically puzzling sequences are all correct and present. There appears to be some minor scale inaccuracies too. No feathers either but hey that's pretty much every dinosaur game right?

Buzz Bonus: The receptionist or assistant at the D-site is called Minmi which is a cool name for a person and used to be the shortest dinosaur genus until Mei was named.

Super Smash Brothers Brawl-Wii

It did get a mention a while back but SSBB does have something of the dinosaur about it. On the Pokemon Stadium 2 level you can find fossils of Kabutops and Omastar. You want proof? Okay.

Kabutops fossilHere is the Kabutops fossil complete with palaeontological tools and field map.

Omastar fossilHere is the spiral shell of an Omastar awaiting excavation. It's Tricky
Tricky the Triceratops from Starfox Adventures also features as one of the trophies.

Dinosauriness: Ammonites, Trilobites and a Triceratops.

Scientific Accuracy: In a universe where plumbers fight pink blobs who can swallow other people ummmmm? 2/10?

Buzz Bonus: The trophy Diorama mode in SSBB is simply brilliant. That is a truth.

Off Road Velociraptor Safari- PC

Velociraptor Safari from Flashbang studios is yet another great and free dinosaur game. Play it in your browser now you crazy boyos.

The aim of the game is to drive around in a jeep as a monocled Velociraptor and using ramps, speed boosts and a genius spiked ball that comes out the back of your jeep you need to take down some wild Velociraptors, with panache and style. Although it looks simple it can be tricksy but judging from the highest scores you can get a knack from running down your feathered kin.

Dinosauriness: Velociraptor galor, a Triceratops skull sits in the back of your jeep and an unidentified pterosaur flies around in the sky.

Scientific accuracy: Major kudos to the inclusion of feathers (which some gamers questioned). 8.5/10.

Buzz Bonus: The achievements are truly great. This whole game shows more polish and attention to detail than many other current releases. Sad really :(

Doritos Dash of Destruction- Xbox, Xbox 360

A solidly great game. TrulyIs now free to download on Xbox live. Despite being a free game and one that is corporate sponsored it is probably one of the best single screen co-op games in the world. Much better than the new Battlefront:Lord of the Rings edition by a long shot.

The premise of the game, if that is the right phrase, is that you have to deliver doritos around town but a number of Tyrannosaurus rex and other delivery drivers try to stop you. Pretty straight forward really but very very playable. In multuiplayer if you get stomped by a T.rex you then become a T.rex. First to 20 odd number of deliveries is the winner!

Now for the breakdown.

Dinosauriness: Just T.rex yet again. But it comes in a range of neon colours which some consider a measure of awesomeness.

Scientific Accuracy: No feathers, unlikely colours but scale is okay. Umm 4/10 for this one.

Buzz Bonus: This game is allegedly the easiest XBLA game to earn all the achievments for so now you have four reasons to get hold of it*

*Because it is great. Because it is free. Because you can get easy cheevos and because it has dinosaurs in it.

Happy 2009!

Happy new year all. It's 2009, year of the dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in games. That may not be true but there is plenty of dinosauriness in games stuff going on. First up, a game that slipped under my radar is Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs, a DS game you won't find in stores because it doesn't have a 'z' on the end. Here's the trailer:

Which I think you'll agree looks kind of cool. The problem is that it is probably yet another wannabe pokemon game. Along with Dino Master, Dino King and Fossil Tournament, both extensions of dig/catch, train and battle games these games suffer from trying to be Pokemon but despite the richer (and realer) source material they often lack the depth and playability of the pokemon games. However, I'll reserve final judgement for when I've played what looks to be the best dinosaur game on the DS so far.