Review: 'Go Home Dinosaurs'
Gophers VS. Dinosaurs... erhm, excuse me, Go Home Dinosaurs is a tower defense game; yes, another one. These things seem to continually pop out of the landscape, each presenting their own spin on the game type. With the simplicity of design, tower defense is definitely a good place for a smaller or more independent company to start. Gamers also seem to enjoy tower defense games - but I’m not really one of them. I’ve played a few of them, and they all start to seem like the same game with a different coat of paint.
When this title was added to Steam [there's also a beta on Chrome], I was hesitant to buy. However, seeing as it was anthropomorphic I figured, "well if it's terrible, I’ll at least be able to make a nice scathing review on Flayrah. Or it may also be very good; then I’ll get my money’s worth and post a review as well."
The problem is that it was neither, leaving me in the precarious position of reviewing a game in that muddled area of "just okay", which is the hardest kind to write about.
The premise is that you play as a gopher who's having a BBQ with their friends, when suddenly hungry dinosaurs come to raid your steaks. You have to stop the progression of the dinos from their cave to your grill. The first levels start you off easy, only throwing a few triceratops--
That’s when one’s brain goes goes into a bit of a stall. Why are herbivores so interested in steak anyway? Okay, so the description of the triceratops character is that she likes to take things that aren’t hers. So kleptomania would explain her story, but what about the gophers? It’s certain that they are interested in eating the slabs of meat by the victory screens which your character hovers over the food on the grill with a smile on their face and a fork and knife in hand.
Alright, so it’s a videogame I suppose, but it certainly won’t help you pass any biology exams. Back to the gameplay: you stop the dinosaurs by “sending them home”, which I guess is a euphemism for making them extinct since that technically is their current residence. Each level you start out alone. You are the only mobile unit and can move around the outsides of the path by clicking on a square. You can throw stones at dinosaurs for moderate damage, however it’s also your job to collect coconuts to pay for further units. Sort of like suns in Plants vs. Zombies. I thought this was their way of making you constantly on the move; however, the coconuts never disappear once they appear; you can let gather until you have enough to buy a new item and collect them all at once. There is no sense of urgency when it comes to concentrating on resource gathering.
Eventually the connection had to be made. The game clearly was going for that Plants vs. Zombies vibe. The graphic style and the way you put units onto the field via a cards system – I’d say it was inspired by PvZ, but that is probably the game’s biggest blunder. The game is good, but if I’m thinking of PvZ, all the lost potential just blooms, for lack of a better word.
Where PvZ had a pretty open layout where the player felt they were creating strategies that may be different to those of other players, Go Home Dinosaurs felt limited in the options you have given the particular shapes of the units and fields. The Zombies and Plants complemented each other making particular units more effective against certain zombies; while in GHD the dinosaurs are either tankers or swarmers, and once you have things set up that can deal with both swarming and tanking situations, you’ll win. The shop in PvZ had items that were useful; the shop in this game are all cosmetic or ‘instants’ which basically waste coconuts. Of the two instants I did buy, I only found the fireball useful for taking out the heavy tanking stegosaurus or bosses. Even the shop owners themselves; I found the PvZ shop owner more funny, even though he talked in garble and this one has actual spoken lines. I don’t care that the mustache wax isn’t for sale, I wasn’t interested in it anyway – say something new please.
The units themselves are cute, from a gopher that can use a freeze ray who has the persona of Arnold Schwarzenegger's rendition of Mr. Freeze to a DJ who speaks in autotune; two units which I found were effective together in many situations. There were many cheesy lines, but my favorite one came from my own avatar. When I was clicking about rabidly to get coconuts and return to the point to do damage to the dinos, he said in a relatively normal voice “I’m alright, nobody worry about me”; a line most known for it’s connection with the movie Caddyshack, whose troublesome gopher caused Bill Murray’s eccentric groundskeeper character many a headache. I liked it because of how plain its tone was – it took me a moment to make the reference. Subtlety isn’t abundant in this game, so it caught me off-guard.
Difficulty is odd, because it does get harder, but there are times when it spikes on some levels; my first loss came on 2-13, then it got easier and I didn’t die again until the mid-level of world 3. Mainly it was the worlds where dinos (particularly fast ones) would come out immediately and coconuts were scarce that caused loss more often. Once there are units on the field, the game is much easier to manage. I felt that overall world 2 was harder than world 3, as I didn’t have snowballs to help roll the waves back.
Before you know it, you’ll have beaten all three worlds; many competent gamers will finish it in a few hours. Once again, in PvZ there were many challenges and activities that promoted pushing your skills or putting new spins on how you could play the game. After you beat the campaign in GHD, all you can do is go back to previous levels with access to all units. They make the levels boring and really easy, so the replayability is not really there. The only saving grace here is there are challenges in the form of "achievements" which say "complete X level only doing Y". I suppose if you can't program them in, that's definitely a good way to direct players to additional challenges they can try on their own.
For an indie company they did a good job creating a property with a lot of potential and a good way to kill some time, particularly for a younger audience to get into the tower defense genre. It may be good if you’re an old PvZ fan jonesing for something similar to the game. However, it falls short of its inspiration, and it's too easy for any competent tower defense player. So in the end it gets a meh. I’d say its gaming “value” is around $5, since I spent five hours playing it. I typically value video games at a dollar an hour, so I slightly overpaid at $9, which is not too bad.
The game was at least fun enough to play that I finished it, which is getting harder these days. Just ended too soon. I hope this company keeps up with the quality they showed here. Someday it may be able to pop a cap in PopCap – just not today.