November 30, 2000
As Disney's first in-house CGI movie (Toy Story and A Bugs Life were created by Pixar Studios) Dinosaur became famous not only for it's lavish visuals, but also its exorbitant price tag. Rumored to have cost almost $300 million to make the movie did fairly well at the box office, although not anywhere near enough that Disney will be rushing out an expensive sequel. While the movie arrived in May here in Australia the game is only now hitting the Playstation 2, most likely because the movie is only now hitting Europe where the game has been developed by Ubisoft.
The story of Dinosaur begins at the end of the Mesozoic era where dinosaurs roam the earth and gigantic winged creatures soar over miles of raging seas. When an egg is snatched and dropped from an Iguanodon's nest, it tumbles into a tree on an isolated island and is found by a family of friendly lemurs. Life is peaceful for Aladar, the Iguanodon, and his lemur family until a meteor collides with Earth and the island is destroyed by fire. Aladar and his family are forced to move to the mainland - life as they knew it is over. Velociraptors and Carnotaurs stalk the family, food and water are scarce and their future appears bleak. Join Aladar, Zini, and Flia as they confront the unleashed forces of nature while fighting massive dinosaurs in order to protect their friends and lead them to the safety of the nesting grounds.
Set across 14 levels Dinosaur isn't the longest game you'll play this year, but the levels are pretty big and include many secret areas that will take some time to discover. The game opens with a small training level, which only takes a few minutes to complete, but it is invaluable to learn how to control the three characters. Unlike many other games however each characters special functions are very useful throughout the game. Aladar, for example, can crush rocks and knock over trees while Zini can climb walls and crawl through narrow gaps. Flia has the ability to fly over all terrain, except high mountain ranges.
One of the most used functions is grouping the three characters together so they walk alongside each other. This means you don't have to walk each dinosaur to a location separately, but some tasks can only be completed when together. For instance, other dinosaurs will only follow you when you are grouped together. One of the great things about Dinosaur is the number of hidden areas. Every level contains secret areas which can usually only be accessed by one member of the party, so a bit of extra thought is usually required. Controlling the dinosaurs is fairly straightforward and there are no major problems, although it can become a little annoying when Zini jumps off Aladar and straight over a cliff edge.
It's hard to tell from the surrounding screenshots, but the graphics in this game are pretty good. The dinosaurs are well animated and the backgrounds are detailed. Unfortunately because the game (and movie) followed the destruction of the land there is a lot of red and brownish backgrounds and little in the way of vegetation. Dinosaur does suffer from some very occasional frame rate problems, especially when walking through water, but the overall presentation is impressive. The levels are separated by short clips straight from the movie, some of which can be up to a minute long. The video quality is surprisingly good with few compression artifacts. The sound throughout the game is quite impressive with atmospheric music and sound effects, which suit the action well. Unfortunately, switching between characters results in the same annoying phrase from each character.
Disney's Dinosaur has surprised me for a couple of reasons. Firstly the game is better then I thought it would be. I was expecting a very rushed game to cash in on the movie, but once again Ubisoft have proven that they know how to make quality games. While not up to the standards set by Rayman Revolution it's definitely one of the better games based on a film in recent years. If you like the movie and/or you have young children then Dinosaur is definitely worth a look.