Version Tested: PC (Steam)
Available On: Windows, Mac, Linux
Developer: AtomicTorch Studio
Publishers: AtomicTorch Studio
Genre: 8-bit Inspired 2d Platformer
Release Date: January 21st, 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
Dinocide. It’s a cool name, right? Unfortunately, the game it is attached to doesn’t nearly measure up to the expectations most players would have for something with such a title. Dinocide is a 2d platformer modeled in almost every aspect off of the bygone classics of the 8-bit era. In particular, the developers claim a vast amount of inspiration came from the classic games of the Adventure Island series.
From my own research I would say that, frankly, Dinocide is more a clone of the Adventure Island games than its own intellectually property, regardless of whatever the developers original intentions may have been. Below is a screen cap from one of the Adventure Island games for comparison.
Dinocide does feature a few things distinctly its own, although in my playthroughs of this game I found both of the things that were unique to this title to be incessantly frustrating, and made my time with this game worse overall.
There are two ways to attack in Dinocide: you have weapons you can throw, and you can use whatever attack your dinosaur has. I will talk more about the dinosaurs in a minute. Both of these are dependent upon your attack meter, with more powerful attacks draining your meter more. The meter automatically begins to refill once it becomes even somewhat depleted. This sounds like it could be an interesting addition to the standard platforming formula, it the sort of thing that could potentially cause the game to become a bit more strategic. There are at least a few enemies that require more than your entire attack gauge worth of damage to be killed so when put into practice, especially when combined with the other major issue I have with this game, having a finite number of attacks and being able to become unable to attack temporarily quickly becomes infuriating quickly.
The second thing that is particularly unique about this game is the player’s health bar. You can take damage from enemies, but in addition, to this Dincocide includes a starvation mechanic. With the exception of some Boss encounters, your health is constantly decreasing. The way to restore it is to eat food, which has been scattered throughout the game’s stages. This, more than anything else, rapidly becomes problematic. By adding in this starvation mechanic the game gets a speed boost, as you can no longer dilly dally and try to do much of anything or you will starve and die.
In my initial playthrough of the game I got stuck on a lava level for several days (I had quite a bit of trouble with this same level on my third play through as well). In this level, you are inside a volcanic cave or mountain, and it is necessary for you to ride floating platforms up to the second floor. Due to the nature of the starvation mechanic and the fact that there was no food available on my ride up to the second floor I found that if I did not make it to the platforms as fast as possible, whilst they happened to be in a position where I could jump onto them, with nearly a full health bar, between taking damage from enemies and the long ride up I would starve to death before I reached the top. Part of this is due to me being bad at platformers, but the rest is due to poor and overly simplistic level design combined with the dual annoyance of the starvation and attack gauge mechanics.
I was actually hoping that I could state in this review that Dinocide was the first platformer that I ever successfully completed, but, unfortunately, I can’t and not because I was too bad at the game to complete it, but because I encountered a save ruining glitch. I’ve searched around the internet to see if anyone else might have experienced this issue and it seems that I may be alone, so I reached out to one of the main developers of the game but received no response. This glitch is what ended two of my three playthroughs of the game.
Every time that I get to a certain water level, when I try to load it up the game will glitch up and I lose all control over it. The screen is slightly darker than average but the game appears to still be going, as my health will slowly decrease. The screen will slowly get brighter never quite reaching the regular level until my health eventually runs out. Even after my avatar dies, the game is still frozen and all I can do is hard exit the program. This glitch prevents any further progress on that save file since due to the linear way you progress through the games overworld you cannot go back and play another level, and are just stuck attempting to get the one level to load indefinitely. Again, I have not been able to find any reports of this happening to anyone else, but since this will effectively prevent any further progress on a single save file I thought it necessary to include in my review.
The lava level that I was talking about is indicative of another problem I have with this game: unpredictable and cheap difficulty spikes. I had to start my third playthrough of Dinocide because no matter what I did I could not beat a Boss. On my third play through I managed to play with extreme frugality and patience, and by the time I got to this Boss I had saved most of the powerful weapons and dinosaurs I saw throughout the game. This time, the Boss was not a major issue, but he was impossible, at least for me, to beat without weapon upgrades.
And speaking of the dinosaurs, while they are neat eventually they become quite scant. During the second half of the game, I was able to recruit significantly fewer dinosaurs to my cause. For a game called Dinocide, there are precious few dinos, either on your side or as enemies.
There are several good things Dinocide has going for it. While the games textures and art direction might resemble those of the Adventure Island games, too closely for some, it does look decent, not incredible, but they are a decent modern take on old school graphics. Additionally, the music, while nothing to write home about, is pleasant and it is always good to hear that old school chip sounds again.
The game offers varying paths occasionally which is nice (and also how I got past that dreaded lava level the first time) and the developers are putting in a lot of hard work to make the game better and have already released two patches since the game’s January release. In addition to bug fixes, the developers have been adding extra biomes (read: levels) and additional Bosses to the game through these patches, and I must say it is refreshing to see a platformer receiving post-release content.
But none of that makes up for Dinocide’s shortcomings, which can ultimately be summed up as over simplicity, cheap deaths, and frustrating, unnecessary mechanics. In trying to directly emulate the games of old, the developers took it a step too far and managed to slip some of the unfair disadvantages typical of older games into Dinocide. Dinocide is not terrible, and in fact, if it could be made more fun and less frustrating it would surely be better received, but as of now the games that it was based on seem to be a better option to get your fix of old school dinosaur action.
- Gameplay: Standard 2d platforming old school action with a few unwanted additions that make the game more annoying than is worthwhile overall.
- Graphics: A pleasant if simple take on the 8-bit style of yesteryear. The textures and sprites are extremely similar to those of the Adventure Island series of games.
- Sound: The old school inspired chiptune soundtrack is nice, if uninspired. The sound effects are pleasant as well.
- Presentation: Dinocide is a little too much like the ancient games it tries to emulate and is generally more frustrating than fun, but does succeed in feeling old school, it just goes too far.
- Does well in emulating old school platformers, and may be a treat for fans of the Adventure Island series of games.
- The 8-bit music is pleasant.
- Riding dinosaurs is cool.
- There aren't nearly enough dinosaurs. With a name like Dinocide I really expected to be murdering dinosaurs exclusively.
- Cheap difficulty due to unnecessary mechanics and overly simple old school design.
- Could be considered an Adventure Island clone.