DinoCity (SNES)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Pixelspeech (1006)
Written on  :  May 22, 2012
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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How come nobody remembers this game?

The Good

You know a game is special when you go to the Mobygames page and there is no cover art, no accurate release date, no pictures and no reviews on it. This is however one of the first times that I am kind of confused as to why this is. The second you boot up this game, you know it's going to be special. It might have that distinctive Super Nintendo style where everything is slightly wacky, but combined with the great music, great use of sound-effects and the amusing enemies, it creates a very entertaining atmosphere that kept me in the mood to play this game, even if I died and had to restart everything, I would still play some more of it.

In Dino City you have to platform your way across the levels, something that plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of SNES games have done before and after this game. What makes this interesting though is the fact that you are riding on a dinosaur and you can separate yourself from it, just like in Super Mario World. Unlike Mario though, neither you or the dinosaur may die or you'll lose a life. As the dinosaur you can can kill enemies, but when playing as the person riding it you can jump higher and freeze enemies, something that becomes a necessity in some of the sections.

The platforming also deserves some praise because the level design and controls are great. Creativity is the word I would use to describe the levels in this game, every level has some clever mechanics and tricks and none of it feels like they are just going down a list of platforming-cliches. Very early on you will run into platforms that will start sliding downward the second you step on them, this can really save or ruin a jump. A few moments later you will have to time your jumps as water is constantly been frozen and molten as you try to cross it. I like it, it makes me feel like I am playing something that people put genuine thought and love into.

The boss-fights are also equal to the levels and I was constantly looking forward to them. You don't just spam attacks on their weak-spot until they die, you have to dodge their moves, wait for opportunities to strike and watch out for your surroundings. Even a very basic fight with a snake monster whose head was his weak-spot was made challenging because there were two of the bastards that could pop up anywhere on the field and had an unavoidable attack.

In terms of graphics this game is also one of the better titles on the Super Nintendo, featuring not only great sprites and animation, but a freaking day-to-night cycle. How many games had that in the SNES-era? Maybe four or five? It's not even scripted or anything, if you spend enough time in a level it will just happen, you will see the sky slowly changing until it's midnight.

Is it challenging? Yeah it is! At the same time however, I also found that this game was relatively fair towards the player. I never felt like dying was the fault of sadistic level-design (Super Meat Boy) or faulty controls (Ice Climbers), if I died it was because I miscalculated a jump or because I didn't pay attention to that enemy in the corner. It's not the hardest game in the Super Nintendo catalog, but it is sure to provide you a meaty challenge for both the casuals and die-hard gamers.

The Bad

One thing I always like about videogames is speed, I love going fast and a lot of games jump unto this desire. Mario runs, Sonic rolls, Link rides on horseback, Alex Mercer glides and so forth. Dino City on the other hand plays kind of slow, you move sluggish, jumping feels like I have a parachute and overall, I just don't get the satisfaction of racing through levels.

The life-system is really useless and I never grasped why developers are so persistent in putting it in their games. It made sense in the age of arcade-closets where people had to put in coins for every single life they needed, but surely the concept of a console was meant to have people pay money once for endless amounts of gameplay. Why have an arbitrary life-system that sends you back to square one every time you run out? It doesn't make the game more fun, it doesn't make it more challenging, it just makes it more frustrating.

As the girl or boy you really can't do anything worthwhile, freezing enemies is cool I guess, but it's only temporarily. Chances to incorporate this attack into gameplay and puzzles are ignored with a few exceptions, but overall I feel like this mechanic really did deserve more attention.

The Bottom Line

Like I said before, I have no idea how this game stayed under the radar. Maybe it was the fact that it was based on a movie, maybe it was because of the generic name and lack of marketing (who the heck is IREM?), but one way or another, this is a forgotten gem. The platforming functions very well, the graphics and atmosphere are breathtaking and it has a very fair difficulty, you can't ask for much more from a Super Nintendo title. Sure it doesn't have the polish and magnitude of the Mario and Sonic games, but I can't claim to know any other game from an unknown studio that has the same quality as DinoCity.

If you are a fan of classic platformers or a Super Nintendo collector, then by all means, look this game up sometime. I paid less than 10 dollars for this game and had a lot of fun with it, so I dare to make the assumption that others will as well. Perhaps it will give all you guys something to do while the Battle.net servers are dead again ;).