Nothing gets me into a state of zen more than a pixelized, 2D platformer. Growing up on Nintendo classics such as Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, anything even remotely similar to the two leaves me feeling homely. The retro renaissance unearthed by the indie crowd is one I can wholly appreciate, even if some suffer from a lack of originality. When it comes to Baby Dino Adventures, a preview into the world of old comes from the titular character himself.
Like Super Mario Bros. 3 meets Crash Bandicoot, this title features lots of jumping, item collecting, and smashing crates for the sake of it. The objective is clear: go from one end to the other, reaping the level of goodies along the way. With such a simple premise, one could either accept the simplicity typically attached to those of the genre or question how Baby Dino Adventures hopes to establish itself individually. It remains to be seen as of now, as the current build is fairly bare on content. But could there be hope upon the horizon for another addition to an already crammed selection of platformers? So long as a comet doesn’t smash the earth, it’s certainly possible.
Baby Dino Adventures is available in Early Access on Steam for your regional pricing.
Gameplay – Dino Go Bop
In a typical review/preview for this site, “Story” is typically the first aspect of a game covered. However, Baby Dino Adventures, in its current state, is rather scarce on details. Booting up the game will simply transport the player into the world—no questions asked. Whatever details can be surmised from the gameplay comes in the form of dialogue from NPC’s, though even they reveal very little. Even on the game’s Steam page, not much is said about any motivation one may have playing as this “little one.” It’s a cute and “lovely” adventure inspired by the classics, not much else to it.
To reach into muck surrounding this little title without further filibuster, my first real issue with it doesn’t even concern any internal details. The game’s price is pretty steep, with the appropriate context. As it is now, Baby Dino Adventures (without the discount) runs at $11.99 in my region (US). “That doesn’t sound too bad,” you may be thinking. This is where context is important. Assuming you purchase the game tomorrow, it can be beaten in 30 minutes. Not even a particularly complex or detailed game, to ask for that much for 30 minutes is very gutsy. It shows a lot of confidence from the developer that their game will eventually be something special… assuming they don’t boost the price when/if the full game releases. To add to this, Undertale is a similar-aesthetic title, has far more complexity to it, and will generally take 4-6 hours to complete. It costs $9.99. To reiterate: gutsy.
Now, as for the game itself, there is certainly potential to be had with it. A very vibrant aesthetic, a catchy world tune, and easy-to-digest instructions make this a very accessible gateway into the platformer genre. Veterans, admittedly, will not find much here, as each level is confined to basic genre trappings that won’t provide much hassle. A very casual experience—which the advertising does not shy away from—it serves its purpose as a cute, standard platformer. Unfortunately, the most I can praise the game for is said potential. This could be a great game with enough polish, care, and creativity. Currently, it’s nowhere near worth the asking price; I’m not sure I’d even recommend it for half that.
Perhaps the curse of playing too many 2D platformers is that I come to expect too much from the genre. Despite how Baby Dino Adventures tries to insinuate its cozy atmosphere, I found myself with a passive irritation towards its simplicity. A large portion of the adventure (thus far) simply involves jumping from surface to surface and collecting meat and secret eggs… for the sake of doing so. There is no sign of any secrets or goodies to unlock, which makes it all seem misleading. And when all was said and done, I was left feeling pretty unfulfilled. Granted, 30 minutes will not satisfy most—nor does a short runtime make for a bad game (A Robot Named Fight!, Kamiko)—but the features currently available, as well as the very limited motivation, don’t make for prime entertainment.
Core mechanics aside, the game is also in need of some additional polish. An error-free journey across the first overworld, this was not. Specific issues that plagued me included some finicky spinning platforms that did not always register that I was landing on them. Even worse, it was a recurring issue; repeated attempts yielded similar results, with the foundation registering seemingly at random. Some slowdown also bogged down the latter stages, particularly ones with water down below or with a lot occurring onscreen. The most bizarre? I took damage after jumping off a short ledge… with no enemies or hazards around whatsoever. That only occurred once, but the fact that it occurred at all is troubling. A little tinkering with coding and such would do the game a lot of good.
Graphics & Audio – A Big Dino Feat
One thing Baby Dino Adventures absolutely does right is the retro aesthetic. Such a great blend of complimentary colors and detail that roars nostalgia. Shades of orange, green, and brown make up a pretty forest-y (for now) overworld for the baby dino to run around in. It reminds me greatly of Eagle Island, only on a much smaller scale. Character (creature?) models aren’t quite as appealing, but the main munchkin has a cutesy, simple design that’s easy to distinguish. Environmental and item detail will be what the artistically conscious will be pleased by. Only thing is that, with the short length of the game, these forest-like levels will be most of what one sees. Outside the overworld map, which has far more of a blue vibe, one must get used to seeing greens and browns.
Similar can be said for the game’s soundtrack… albeit on a much more limited capacity. Now, it’s not like the game only has a single track. It just has 3… I think. One for the overworld map, one for levels, and a third for the title screen, if I’m remembering correctly. To its credit, the level theme is pretty upbeat and extravagant, and I found myself nodding along while playing. To others who may not be keen on it, be prepared to listen to it with every level. There is very little in terms of soundtrack here, which, again, only makes the asking price really suspect.
One other note about the sound design involves the use of explosives. Throughout the game, one will come across TNT and Nitro crates, which are quite loud when activated. A large collection of these crates exploding at once is much too loud. Wearing headphones, they were a thunderous crunch to my ears that sounded unfiltered and grainy. It almost made me neglect activating said explosive crates, even against the game’s subtle urge to do so. This, along with most else mentioned, is among the things in need of some fine-tuning.
Baby Dino Adventures was played on PC, with a review key provided by Sleeping Panda Games.