It’s fair to say that Dino ‘Splode surprised me a fair bit. Taking control of the last dinosaur on Earth, and filled to the brim with dangerous chemicals which don’t mix with with heat, you’ll be pounding your way through hordes of cavemen, taking them down with your fiery breath.
The first ten minutes of Dino ‘Splode are rather awkward, due to an combination of dodgy controls, odd physics and speedy movement. Let it all fall into place, however, and you’ll find a decent platform puzzler with plenty to keep you occupied for an hour or two.
Sandwich the dinosaur can run, jump and breath fire. In fact, it’s essential that he breathes out as much fire as possible, as it’s possible for him to overheat and explode. Each level is full of shadowy and light areas, and it’s definitely not a good idea to stay in the light for too long.
Apart from staying in the shade to reduce your heat bar, Sandwich can also launch fireballs from his mouth to release the heat. Certain levels feature wide stretches of land which are constantly sun-soaked, and so players will have to hammer the fire button to eject as much heat as possible and make it across these planes. Just in case you’re not going to make it in time, there are also special pills your dino can take which reduce his heat dramatically and give you some extra time.
It’s an interesting concept, and for the most part it works well, giving what are rather simple platforming tasks a slight edge. Sometimes, however, when the screen is filled with cavemen trying to hack you to pieces, you’ll completely forget about the whole exploding-in-heat thing as you simply try to stay alive. Of course, you’ll remember it when you go boom, but by then it’s a little too late.
This would all be swell, except that the general feel of the controls coupled with the semi-physics-based play can be frustrating. Sandwich moves really quite fast, and this makes timing runs and jumps difficult at times.
This is made even more tricky due to a physics system which isn’t particularly well-designed. Sandwich will bounce slightly when he lands after a jump, thwarting any means of making a quick second jump straight afterwards. It also makes jumping off a downwards slope pretty impossible, as the game’s gravity will make sure you’re technically off the ground when you try to jump. The physics model needs a serious rethink.
Yet have no fear, puzzles are here to save the day. There is some great level design to be found, with puzzles usually involving pushing stone blocks onto buttons. It’s all fairly simple stuff, but definitely breaks the main fireballing action up nicely. Some of the tighter sections can lead to enemies getting stuck in scenery or even falling through the floor, but in fact this adds to the charm – trying to work out a way to get pursuers trapped becomes a game in its own right.
Dino ‘Splode also gets it right in many other areas: Levels feature tons of well-placed checkpoints so you’re never taken too far back when you die; There are plenty of levels and worlds to play through; There’s even a full-blown editor for creating your own levels! Content-wise, you’ll be playing this one for a good while.
The character models for both our nuclear hero and the baddies with clubs are instantly noticeable – they look great and add oodles to the game’s overall charm. The animations of the cavemen as they swing their arms about and storm after you is the kind of attention to detail that is generally lacking from the Xbox Live Indie Games store – we’d like to see more of this, please!
In comparison levels look a little blocky, but this can be forgiven as it looks as though they were all created using the game’s own level editor, which is a nice touch. The interface maybe could have been a little easier to read – I still have no idea what certain bars and circles mean in the top-left of the screen.
The game’s soundtrack is quite average, with generic samples on loop and the sound of fire every time you tap the trigger. Nothing to write home about.
Dino ‘Splode involves quite an elaborate storyline. In the land of AmpluSilicislocus, the dinosaurs and cavemen live in peace together. The cavemen, however, are not content to sit around in their tribes, and begin fighting with one another.
Soon the Nocens Vir Consortium clan has developed chemical warfare, but has no way to move it around the place. They have the ingenious idea to inject the chemicals into fast moving dinosaurs, who can then carry it around. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs’ bodies cannot accommodate the poisons and they die one by one until there is only one left.
Sandwich, the last dinosaur on Earth, is finally captured and injected. He survives, but refuses to blow up the other tribes, and so is beaten and dumped atop a mountain. Vowing to avenge his dino brothers and sisters, he sets off to exact revenge.
It’s all so silly and nonsensical that it works! Avenging the dinosaurs is a fun prospect, and getting to blow stuff up along the way is just as sweet.
Dino ‘Splode‘s main problem is that it’s slow to start, and initially feels wonky – no doubt this has led to so many bad star ratings on Xbox Live, with players trying the demo and not seeing the full amount the game has to offer.
I wager that for all its faults, you’ll enjoy Dino ‘Splode quite a lot. It’s simple in execution but generally a great deal of fun. Did I mention you get to blow dinosaurs up?