reviews\ Jun 9, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Dinotopia The Timestone Pirates - GBA - Review

Dinotopia is a game based on James Gurney’s fantasy novel series and was originally slated to coincide with the release of the ABC mini-series Dinotopia on May 12Dinotopia is a world where humans and dinosaurs live peacefully together, and fans of the series will be glad to know that Hallmark and ABC have announced that 13 more episodes are on the way.  The Timestone Pirates is about a guy named Clayton, who is an experienced treasure hunter, Skybax pilot, adventure seeker, and all around good guy.  Pirates have stolen eggs from the tyrannosaur’s nesting area in the hope that the giant meat-eaters will look for their eggs in other parts of Dinotopia.  Leading them away from their natural habitat will allow the dastardly pirates to search for the priceless Timestone without having to worry about being gobbled up by a hungry t-rex.  As Clayton you must find the stolen eggs and return them to their nests before the tyrannosaurs break into the rest of Dinotopia in search of their babys. 


Animation is smooth and fluid and resembles a cartoon.  Background graphics are bright and lush with detail, backgrounds are composed of 3 different images that utilize parallax scrolling as you progress through the level.  Graphically Dinotopia is very respectable, but doesn’t quite live up to the amazingly detailed world of Gurney’s vision.


Sound is particularly cool in this game, it uses a sort of tribal style in its music.  Every musical track fits the theme of the game perfectly and compliments the on-screen action immensely.  TDK Mediactive did a great job on the sound effects too, nearly every action in the game has an accompanying sound clip to go along with it.  There are quite a lot of digitized sound clips in this game, like the sound of a roaring t-rex and the bamboo flute sounds in some of the music.


Gameplay changes from level to level which helps to keep the action consistently fresh throughout the game, though the perspective of the game is always side-scrolling.  For the first 2 stages (each stage has 3 levels) you’ll play as Clayton, he’ll have the ability to jump, attack, pull himself up from ledges, and use the magical Sunstone Prod which he can use as a stick to fend off enemies, the Sunstone prod can also be used with various colored stones to execute devastating offensive moves.  There are 3 abilities that the Sunstone Prod is capable of; the Flashstone ability which creates a blinding flash that temporarily stuns all on-screen enemies, the Laser Sunstone which shoots a red light beam causing major damage to anything in the way, or the Quake Sunstone which eliminates all bad guys on the screen.  Of all the levels found within this game the first two seem to have received the most attention as the other levels don’t allow for the same depth of gameplay.  Objectives leave a lot to be desired and only require you to collect an egg and make it to the end of the stage without dying to progress, simply put the objectives in this game are very generic


Level 3 allows you to pilot a pterodactyl named Stratus in Canyon City.  You’ll have to maneuver Stratus through gunfire and contend with mechanized aerial enemies.  Level 4 is played underwater and you use the Remora, a submersible craft, to navigate through dangerous sea creatures and a sharp terrain.  You’ll also have to surface every so often or you’ll run out of air and die.  In level 5, you’ll control a well-armored hadrosaur to navigate the Diamond Caverns.  After each set of stages you’ll return the eggs that you’ve found to the tyrannosaur’s nesting area.  Each level is laid out so that you are able to explore the area without the added pressure of the game pushing you forward.   But without the use of a map it’s hard to know where you are or where you're supposed to go.  Throughout the game you’ll come across some mini-game-type stages.  These levels are particularly enjoyable but unfortunately are few and far between.  Various items can be picked up like the Elixir to replenish your health, Sunstones which will replenish the Sunstone Prod’s magical power, or extra lives.


I had a lot of fun playing Dinotopia simply for the fact that it offers solid platforming action with a bit of strategy mixed in.  It’ll only take around 5 hours to beat the game so I’m not going to recommend a purchase for this title but you’ll definitely want to check this one out, if only as an overnight rental. 


Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.4
Controls are simple to learn and if you’ve played any side-scrolling games before you’ll be right at home with Dinotopia.  The first two stages in the game seem somewhat out of place compared to the rest of the game due to the fact that levels 3-5 are far more basic comparatively, they feel more like mini-games than actual levels.

Graphics: 7.6
Graphics are sharp, bright, and easy to see with only minimal light.  The various dinosaurs in the game look great and some boss enemies take up almost half of the screen.  Backgrounds are lush with life and effectively purport the unique culture of the Dinotopia world.

Sound: 8.1
Music is enjoyable and varied from level to level.  TDK made good use of digitized sound clips both musically and for use as sound effects.  There is literally nothing to complain about in the sound department.

Difficulty: Easy
Even an inexperienced gamer will get through this game in under 5 hours, some of the stages (particularly the underwater levels) can be a little difficult to complete but overall Dinotopia is basically a simple side-scroller that does little to challenge the player outside of having to memorize where to go and what to do.

Concept: 7.2 
Conceptually this is a great game, Dinotopia seems like an excellent premise for an interactive adventure but unfortunately the designers didn’t spend enough time with the latter half of the game.  After the first two levels you’ll notice that the game lacks depth and strategy, luckily though, it remains a solidly entertaining game throughout. 

Overall: 7.1

Dinotopia is a perfect game to spend a few hours with but serves little purpose outside of being an entertaining jaunt that is over too quickly.  There is a lot to like with this title graphically and sound-wise but the lack of innovation relegates this title to rental-only status.


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