Bad Dinos wants very badly to be a Flintstones game. From the opening screens of the story, a family of cartoon cavemen is working their way across a prehistoric landscape in their stone-age RV. This particular family’s relationship with dinosaurs is quite different from that of the happy citizens of Bedrock. Rather than performing domestic chores (“It’s a living!”), these dinos are, well, bad. And hungry.
In each level of Bad Dinos, the family’s RV is brought to a stop, leaving them vulnerable to approaching threats. These threats take the form of varied dino species, from “baby rexes” in bonnets to raptors and triceratops, to the big King Rex. They march toward the RV along a web of paths, leaving you to defend it by building a series of towers. (Heard this one before?) I’m not generally a huge tower defense fan, but I was very impressed with Bad Dinos’ design.
Towers are built on predefined slots, with various options for attack speed, range, and damage. Some dinosaurs have shields that can only be broken by special towers. Playing the game with towers alone would actually prove quite difficult, so Bad Dinos sweetens the deal by including character powers, each on a short cool-down that will keep you active throughout every battle. You can slow dinos with tar, bombard a small area with spears, and even capture weakened dinos in nets.
These captured dinos can then be sent out on the paths in reverse, to devour the (ideally smaller) enemy dinos. My prehistoric bacon was saved many times by a quick dino release after a few stragglers had passed the last of my towers. The powers and dino-capturing really gave me much more moment-to-moment satisfaction than most tower defense games I’ve played. Even the early levels feel tense, since your towers really need your help to succeed.
My only real gripe about the game is the presentation. While the visual style is very successful in recalling the Hanna-Barbera classics, the cutscene animation is fairly weak, more like a Flash cartoon than cel animation. The menus are strangely sparse, and the title screen looks like an afterthought. It’s a shame, because I think this game really deserves a confident presentation. I also found that most levels ran a little too long. They were action-packed enough to hold my interest, certainly, but it’s strange for a pick-up-and-play mobile game to demand almost 15 uninterrupted minutes for a single level.
The presentation issues are made all the more puzzling by the game’s pedigree. It was made by Insomniac Games, creators of Sypro, Ratchet & Clank, and more recently Sunset Overdrive. It’s easy to see where the strong cartoon style comes from, but I would’ve expected a little more pizazz. With any luck, the game will receive some attention for its gameplay merits and earn a couple polish updates from its developers. Even without, though, Bad Dinos is worth a peek back in time.
Is it Hardcore?
Strange mission-length and presentation issues can’t hold back a stellar tower defense game that’s heavy on action.