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Dinos in Space

Published by John Saba
Price $5.00
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

Dinos in Space features a linear progression of logic-based puzzles where the objective is to propel multi-coloured baby dinosaurs from their launch pad to their space stations. They are shot off the platforms and tumble head over claw in the vacuum of space until their vectors are changed by platforms that are either placed by the player, or exist at the start of the level. They can also be transported from point A to point B in space by entering teleporters. When the player has laid out their handful of allocated tiles and is happy with the setup, a mouse click on the launch pad sends the prescribed number of various coloured dinosaurs into the level. They follow their pre-determined path and end up in the space station(s) to complete the level. I mean, you wouldn't send them away knowing that they'd fly off the side of the matrix or crash into an asteroid now, would you? [queue evil chuckle]

Dinos on their way! The stupid, crappy level for jerks that I can't win.

The seemingly straightforward task is complicated by the fact the four different coloured dinosaurs often need to be directed to different stations. Furthermore, although all dinosaurs paths will be affected by grey platforms; red, green, blue or yellow platforms will only affect the path of matching coloured raptors.

I guess it might have been a lot easier to make the game based on an abstract design, so I really like what the dinosaurs are bringing this title, but my giant reptilian mates and the cool Atari-esque presentation don't make up for some pretty awful design decisions.

For starters, I can't get past level 3 of 41. I'm both saddened and embarrassed to say that I've been blankly looking at that level now for over an hour, plopping down tiles and rotating them in all combinations that I can but still the solution evades me. Honestly, I wonder whether I'm really that dumb? Don't answer that question. But I have to admit that the first two levels were completed in less than a minute and I skipped ahead to the fourth level and completed that (including picking up the bonus "snax") in less time than it took to write this sentence. And now I'm stuck. A silly unlocking mechanic refuses to let me try any more of the puzzles until I have completed at least one more puzzle and there's only one there. I smell an issue with the difficulty curve, but that might just be my sour grapes at sucking so hard at logic puzzles, let's move on.

I've already spent seventy minutes longer on the game than I would have had I not been reviewing it. The problem here is there's not much fun to be had for me by simply pondering. In a logic puzzle game like Spacechem or an action puzzler like World of Goo, the fun is in failing or taking a workable solution and refining it. In Dinos in Space, each puzzle is going to have only a handful of possible solutions, and I'm going to guess that many would have only one. The "Aha!" moment when the solution clicks in your brain is the only bit of satisfaction I'm getting from this game. So far I've had it three times. It's not enough to keep me playing.

There's an included level editor, but no in-game integration with a repository of any kind to upload your own creations or download user created challenges. I think it's a bit of a wasted opportunity, and seriously limits ongoing enjoyment of the game.

No hints for you if you get stuck or even any selectable difficulty levels. That leads me to believe that either players are going to be so good that they blow through the game and never pick it up again, or simply just get to a point where they don't feel like thinking about a particular puzzle anymore and never pick it up again. See where I'm going here?

I'm trying hard to think of anything that I like about the game apart from the appearance of dinosaurs. The nostalgic 8-bit presentation is let down somewhat for the lack of a chip tune or two, but the graphics and sound effects are quite flavoursome in a retro way. The game seems to scale up to fullscreen without too much drama, and the controls are simple and easily learnt.

Granted, the types of games I like to play in my leisure time are mostly sandbox, open-world, procedural content driven, strategic or simulations. They lie at the polar opposite end of the universe to Dinos in Space. I've never been a fan of locked content in games that isn't locked for a valid reason, and I really can't see what locking the levels in this game brings to the table in terms of gameplay value. I would expect that fans of hand crafted puzzle games will get more out of this title than I did, but either way, it's certainly no showstopper.

Graphics 70%
Sound 60%
Playability 35%
Longevity 20%
Overall Score 48%
No Award

Published on 14 Sep 2012
Reviewed by Steve Blanch

Keywords: dinos in space review, john saba reviews, john saba games, dinos in space scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.