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Dino Island

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Monte Cristo
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

Imagine Jurassic Park through the eyes of a grade schooler. Now that you are thinking, throw in some visually stimulating cinematic cut scenes and that just about sums up the graphical element of Dino Island. The 'cartoon' atmosphere presented in the appearance of island visitors and theme park buildings and architecture definitely let you know what you are playing is not real, but the graphics are still believable enough to be intriguing and entertaining. Since Dino Island is in essence a sim game, the ability to zoom as close as ground level is quite stunning. Navigation through a nicely animated world where dinosaurs play and guests roam to and fro puts you straight into the action. Similarly, the game looks equally as stunning from its maximum viewpoint, keeping terrain detail and some ground level motion intact. Everything is three-dimensional, so you can take full advantage of every viewpoint imaginable.

From tiny, uninterpretable customer comments to full tribal rhythmic background music, the audio in Dino Island adds realism to its cartoon-like, yet pleasing visuals. Depending on your viewpoint and location the audible effects might be significant or limited. Stand at a far back, bird's-eye-view and you will likely here only the Islandic score mixed with sparse chirps of tropical island creatures such as birds. However, pull into the action and the effects come to life with sounds ranging from visitors talking to your dinosaurs' grunts, squabbles, and yelps.

Fully animated cinematics appear sporadically throughout the game. These images are rendered nearly to great 3D-like quality. Watching these reminded me a PIXAR animated short. Also, the content of these shorts is witty and relevant to the concept of Dino Island.


Gameplay:

By now the basic premise of Dino Island should be easy to render. The objective is to create and succeed at running a theme park operation with one special factor; your major attractions are dinosaurs. Is this simply a rip-off of the popular Sim Theme Park and Zoo Tycoon games? Probably... But the dinosaur concept comes over nicely and is a welcomed, unique qualifier for Dino Island. Two game modes, Campaign and Free, are available. The Campaign mode contains a list of objectives that increase in difficulty. Completion of each campaign sequentially unlocks future campaigns and open access to special cinematic sketches involving the T-Rex and hilarious bloopers.

The Free mode allows for more open, unrestricted development. Parks can be created on any of the island layouts, each with ample space for creation and maintenance. Throughout both the Campaign and Free modes, you'll need to keep track of visitor ratings. To ensure the guests stay happy, several rides and attractions as well as various shops and restaurants are at your disposal. The rides do not really relate to any dinosaur activities, ranging from a Ferris wheel to a haunted house, however they are necessary to your parks success.

The most necessary aspect of a Dino Island park, however, are the dinosaurs. With a total of twenty species, including Stegosaurus and T-Rex, the possibilities for dinosaur interactions are intriguing, especially with Dino Island's special 'Lab' features. In the lab, you can cross attributes from two different dinosaurs to create unique dinosaurs. In the Campaign mode, you will need to utilize these specific types of dinosaurs or 'create' a dinosaur with a certain attribute. In the Free mode, these abilities should keep you mesmerized for hours creating interesting dinosaurs and watching them in their enclosures.

Just make sure you feed them. Different dinosaurs require different types of foods ranging from flowers to pigs. Feeding the dinosaurs is taken care of by farms and employees with designated 'feeding times.'

To further add to the dinosaurs' personalities, each dinosaur can be placed in 'shows' to showcase its talents to the parks visitors. Shows include races, fights, and obstacle courses among others. Customization is available however, various pre-made shows are supplied.


Difficulty:

Campaigns range in difficulty from easy to downright hard. For the most part they follow a linear progression, although some segments in a campaign may be tougher than others due to poor planning and procedures. Pay careful attention to the satisfaction ratings of dinosaurs and visitors, and keep an eye on your spending. Getting into debt could prove traumatic if satisfaction ratings are low. Ultimately, the ability to multitask should prove worthy in Dino Island.

Game Mechanics:

A simple point and click interface makes Dino Island viable for all types of sim gamers. The first few campaigns are set up as introductory sets to help get used to these controls. These sets show the steps for all basic operations needed for theme park survival like building enclosures and dinosaur maintenance.

Once you understand the layout and use of the interface, Dino Island can be enjoyed without much struggle. Like many other titles in its category, to fully appreciate the game you have to spend a fair amount of time getting to grips with the controls and all the game has to offer. With its fun content, Dino Island should be a hit with all types. I recommend it especially for family gamers, including parents who intend to play along with their kids. Dino Island can honestly help develop multitasking management skills while providing fun, imaginative gaming.


-==Boy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Kyle Prestenback

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/me/2000/xp, Pentium II 300 Mhz, 400MB HD space, 64 MB RAM, 16MB 3d video card, Sound card, 4x CD-ROM
 

Test System:



Windows 2000, AMD Athlon XP 1800+, 128MB RAM, 75GB HD, nVidia Vanta 16MB TNT2 video card, on-board sound, 40x CD-ROM

Windows Chessmaster 9000 Windows FIFA World Cup 2002

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated