When the only thing between you and extinction is your legs, you run.
Seriously, I don’t know what it is with me and this retrogaming kick that I’m on, but suffice it to say that I know i have a problem, I know I need to seek help.
Actually, I know exactly what it is. Now, I love video games that tell a good story, in fact, when you look on my shelf, and you look at a lot of the games I’ve downloaded, you instantly thing, okay good stories. I love the kinds of games that you could curl up with for a whole afternoon or longer, but the games of yesteryear didn’t have the luxury to sit and tell you an engrossing story.
That I think is where the big difference comes in. Without flashy graphics, high dollar voice acting, etc. if big old blocky video game was going to keep you riveted for an entire afternoon, it had to do it the old fashioned way (which, back then, I guess would have been the new-fashioned way, but never mind).
Solid and engrossing gameplay. That’s why games like Ginormo Sword are huge time sucks despite the fact that there simply isn’t any story; there’s just so much gameplay packed into it that it’s hard to resist.
Which brings us to our little pixelated play of the day, Dino Run. Presented by Pixel Jam Games, Dino run is classic retrogaming at it’s best. Big blocky pixels, rudimentary (yet at times very rockin’) soundtrack, and more gameplay than you can imagine.
What really makes Dino Run work is the fact that the most obvious thing to do, the thing you have to do or else you’re not going to get very far, is run. So you do that first, and anyone who knows where the right arrow key on their computer can do that. Everything else comes as a matter of discovery after that; how to jump, how to duck to eat the little creatures, the finer nuances of jumping over the bigger dinosaurs…
It’s all very sudden and frantic, which is the exact kind of mood you want when the whole goal of the game is running from Armageddon itself.
And it is that Armageddon that, if nothing else does it, sells you on the game. This is no Mario-esque when the time runs out your character just up and dies. Oh no, when the end is nigh, you know it. In fact, you’ll get several warnings in the sky turning red, and an ominous sound creeping up under the music. The edge of the screen will turn black, and, if none of these things have convinced you to high tail it out of there, the wall of onrushing black death will.
Perhaps one of the most genius things about this game is how they chose to represent “the end”, and how they chose to let you negotiate your character in the face of death. Surprisingly, you don’t just die the moment the wall of death touches you, but you can struggle and kick and even after you no longer can see your character. These moments are, rightly intense, and more often than not will end with a screen saying, “doomed”. But when you do manage to breakfree, and the sky turns blue again, you’ll realize you were holding your breath the whole time.
Of course, these situations are to be avoided mostly.
Outside of dodging death, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in Dino Run. Newcomers will see it as a fast paced frenzy of escaping action, learning the basic physics of the game and how they work while they cheat death over and over again. Veterans may see it more as a game of exploration as they seek to find super eggs and take the discovery to a new level of boulder riding and Pterodactyl gliding.
All in all this game is a pulse quickening blast that with all the trimmings.