Most people know DinoCity from the hilarious JonTron episode, which is still the first link to pop up when searching for information about the game. I actually had an earlier run-in with the game myself, as I mistakingly bought it when I was actually searching for a poorly-remembered childhood game of mine: Prehistorik Man. It ended up being a game I am very much fond of, actually more so than the one I was actually looking for.
Based on a movie?
Based on the largely-forgotten 1991 movie Adventures in Dinosaur City, DinoCity is actually much more content to do its own thing entirely. It loosely adapts the concepts of the movie and the character names are the same, but appearance-wise the characters look nothing like their movie counterparts. Especially the two dinosaur characters are mangled and look pretty similar despite supposedly being wholly different species.
The game isn’t much concerned with the story anyway, featuring only cutscenes at the beginning and end of the adventure. I couldn’t find a manual for the game in pdf format, so I am unsure if there are additional plot details hidden within.
Story score: 6/10
Like having a permanent Yoshi
DinoCity gives you the option to play as one of two characters, Timmie or Jamie, who are both mounted on one of the dinosaurs. The major difference between these characters is that Timmie has close-range attacks that can turn into a combo, whereas Jamie has projectile attacks. Jamie is therefore the safer character to play, but Timmie can potentially send opponents flying, causing them to also take out whoever they hit. Both characters can also kill foes by jumping on them.
The game is a 2D sidescrolling platformer on a timer. Levels are infested with enemies and plenty of stages have fun gimmicks, such as a ride on a Loch Ness monster or a level where you need to work with enemies that act as bounce pads. The controls are fine and reliable enough for the type of platforming you need to do, it’s even pretty satisfying when you bounce from foe to foe, land tricky jumps, or utilize shortcuts.
An interesting feature is that you can dismount from the dinosaur and the kids have much higher jumps and faster controls, as well as a simple projectile attack that can freeze enemies. However, you can’t leave your dinosaur, who will remain stationary until you try to mount up again. You lose the level if it dies and won’t be allowed to exit a stage as just the human character. Still, it’s an interesting trade-off and especially useful when you need to dodge projectiles.
The stages also allow you to pick between a red and yellow door as the exit point, with the red one often requiring a tricky bit of platforming to reach. The doors lead to different stages and the red one often has a bonus level behind it where eggs can be gathered. Every 50 eggs reward the player another life, which come on top of the 3 continues and password system.
And believe me, you are going to need those. Especially the last few stages would eat through those lives quickly, with some levels feeling outright unfair. The boss fights are actually really good and not that hard, but stages like the elevator section where platforms rise and fall or the leaps of faith in the last rollercoaster stage were enough to sometimes require multiple continues. It also has to be said that DinoCity reuses its gimmicks a bit too often, featuring multiple stages where you ride a rollercoaster, speed across water, or have to jump between platforms on a spinning wheel.
Gameplay score: 7/10
No meteorite in sight
The game is heavily themed after the prehistoric era, with dinosaurs and cavemen as foes, as well as your own dinosaur mount to brave the levels with. The animations are nice and the game has a very upbeat, colorful feel to it, which is certainly improved by the stellar soundtrack and fun sound-effects. The graphics for the levels are also nice and the game has a day & night cycle in outdoor levels. However, it does recycle a lot of its content across multiple stages, which they don’t manage to hide well.
The game has 2 cutscenes, one of which is done with in-game graphics while the other uses more detailed art for the characters. However, both of these have stilted dialogue and spelling errors; clear signs of a game that was carelessly translated.
Presentation score: 8/10
DinoCity is a charming game with cute visuals and an upbeat soundtrack, which is easy to get into when you start off with its easy first levels. However, the game does rise in difficulty steadily and some levels may be especially frustrating. I had a good time with the game myself and managed to eventually finish it with the use of the password system. It’s a more easygoing platforming experience for the Super Nintendo and while it can’t match the likes of Mario or Megaman X in gameplay, it does rival these games through its charm and novelty.