Dinotopia is No Utopia

Dinotopia: Timestone Pirates
Reviewed On
GameBoy Advance
Available For

As its name suggests, Dinotopia is a dinosaur romp. In my opinion, there are too many dinosaur games and not enough of them are any good. Before your heart swells with expectation, Dinotopia is by no means the saviour of the dinosaur theme. Nor will it lead to the hasty demise of the dinosaur genre, and I can’t quite decide if this is a good or a bad thing.

Dinotopia is teamed-up with what has been heralded as an exciting, new fantasy series of the same name, showing on the Hallmark channel. The fact that there is such a thing as a Hallmark channel sickens me to the pit of my stomach. Since when did Hallmark become anything other than the purveyor of crappy birthday cards, which open up to reveal saccharine sweet rhyming couplets? I had the misfortune of catching the first episode of Dinotopia this weekend and words cannot express the new lows to which this show has stooped – you have been warned.

Anyway, I digress. All hell is breaking loose in Dinotopia. Pirates have stolen eggs from the tyrannosaurs’ nesting area to lure them out into the rest of Dinotopia. Don’t ya just hate when that happens? Fortunately, Clayton, an experienced treasure-hunter, skybax pilot (always handy) and general heroic type is on hand to save the day. Jeez, I was getting worried then.

Playing as Clayton, you must find the stolen eggs and return them to the nest before the tyrannosaurs’ get really mad and trample Dinotopia. Watch out for those pesky pirates who want to rid the nests of tyrannosaurs so they can get their grubby paws on the mythical treasure, the timestone. I never said it was going to be easy.

The first thing to say about Dinotopia is it looks gorgeous. You will be struck by the fantasy cities that take their cue from the hanging gardens of Babylon. Jumping over pretty streams and up craggy outcrops is the order of the day, but your efforts are rewarded with a view of Waterfall City.

Dinotopia is a side-scrolling platform adventure that takes you on a fairly linear quest. Enroute, Clayton collects colored spheres that endow your weapon with different magical properties. You can equip different colors depending on which enemy you’re trying to defeat. I worked on a trial and error basis – if it killed them, I used it.

The action is simple, but remains mildly compelling because it’s just so darned pretty. Jump, climb and leap your way through each level until you find all the hidden eggs. Your reward is a mini-game featuring the dinosaurs themselves. The first one I encountered had me returning eggs to a Tyrannosaurus nest, whilst avoiding being trampled by the huge beast. The mini-games are fairly simple and just provide a little distraction from the main mission.

So far so good, until you have to save the game. This proved a little tricky because you can’t save it at the end of each level! Yes you did read me right; there is no save option. Now, call me Miss Picky of Picksville County, but I’d really like it if I could save the game and avoid having to repeat all the levels every time I want to play further. This isn’t some kind of endurance test it’s a game people! Why do developers do this?

Developer guy #1: Wow, this game is really something…they’re gonna love it.

Developer guy #2: Hmm, I think it needs an extra something special.

Developer guy #1: Hey I know, let’s make it so they can’t save. That way they’ll have to play it through all in one go and it’ll really enhance the gaming experience!

Developer guy#2: That’s such a great idea…this is gonna be great. Oh did you order a 2-litre bottle of Coke with the pizza?

I mean, do they really think inconvenience makes an average game better? Answers on a postcard please. Consequently, Dinotopia lost its appeal when I wasn’t prepared to set aside half a day to playing it from beginning to end. Frankly, my time would be better spent on a quality shoot-em-up, which is why Dinotopia gets 2 GiN gems. But if, unlike me, you do persist you can expect to fly beasts and wondrous machines in your quest for those pesky eggs. If you need me, I’ll be the one playing Gradius.

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