Ah, Dino City. Although I never played it as a kid, it holds something of a special spot in my gaming heart. I remember seeing the ads and previews in magazines and wanting to play it so badly. Alas, I never did. My SNES resurgence in early January 2006 allowed me a chance at gaming redemption.
Did you know Dino City is based off the 1991 made for TV film, Adventures in Dinosaur City? That was news to me not too long ago. So technically, Dino City is a licensed game. And a pretty good one at that (in an era where licensed games were often times more bad than good).
Dinosaurs have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, dating back to when I was but a wee four year old child. It started with Godzilla in 1987. Followed by Dino Riders in 1988. Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs sitcom (TGIF!) in 1991. And of course Jurassic Park in 1993.
In addition, there was a dinosaur game quietly released on the SNES in late 1992 that always caught my eye. Sadly for me, I never got to play it back in the day and so it became one of countless childhood curiosities. I still remember EGM’s preview of Dino City…
REDEMPTION AT THE FLEA MARKET
After returning to the SNES scene on January 17, 2006, I decided to hit the flea market on an innocent chilly Saturday morning of February 4, 2006. It was my first trip to the flea market in four years. Ironically, before heading out that day I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “I have a funky feeling I’ll run into a copy of Dino City.” Sure enough, it was meant to be. It was just one of those mornings! Click here for more.
HAPPY 27TH BIRTHDAY!
Yesterday was November 21, 2017. That meant the Super Famicom, and Super Mario World, turned 27 years old. Dino City clearly borrows a bit from Super Mario World — it even incorporates riding on a dinosaur.
THE STORY GOES…
There’s no difficulty option but Timmy is definitely the “hard mode” due to his dino buddy’s short range attack.
Nobody’s surprised when this goes haywire.
Reason all you want — it’s not going to save you from being sucked into an interdimensional warp!
Flexing those beautiful Mode 7 muscles!
Cavemen are no match for your darts. Jump on the Trampos for an added boost, but don’t do it while they show off their spikes.
Princess Peach this ain’t! Meet Crazy Cindy. Shout out to my girlfriend Cindy who thankfully isn’t crazy.
That sounds kinky… Cindy has a problem indeed
Levels end with two doors. Sometimes they lead to a bonus stage. Regardless of which door you select, you still have to go through all the stages. I appreciate Irem giving us a choice, though.
Transitions in video games are one of my favorite small details, and Dino City does it extremely well.
Sometimes you can’t go any farther while riding your dinosaur. In such cases, hop off to solve whatever obstacle blocks your way.
Moments like this make playing Dino City a blast.
Tossing darts at cavemen never gets old. Reappearing tiny ledges are well represented here.
There’s something ultra satisfying about these sliding stone slabs.
Although not mind-blowing or anything, the visuals in Dino City are lush and vibrant. It just screams “late 1992 SNES” era. In fact, when I think of SNES graphics from that era, Dino City is always the first game my mind thinks of.
Watch out for those damn Dino Traps. They’ll swallow you up and spit you out if you get too close, costing you a precious heart.
Rather clever and fun this is.
Shooting or stomping on baby seals is almost too heart-wrenching to do, but it’s your ass if you don’t!
Disable the Skull Munchers by jumping on top of them. This is where you’ll push their jaws down into the frozen ice for good, rendering them harmless. I love the sweet sound effect they make as they buckle under your weight.
Stages that start out a bit unconventional or unique are always pet favorites of mine. Take the opening of this stage f’rinstance. I just love how weird and different it is.
ProTip: Avoid the falling rock.
Another nice transition. It’s the small stuff!
Springer said it best: “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die.” Jamie and Tops couldn’t agree more! The first boss is a weirdo by the name of Crasher.
Crasher operates a block throwing contraption. Nail the blocks to break them apart. The pieces will crash into Crasher, damaging him to the point where his spectacles will momentarily fly off his face. Funny detail. Dino City isn’t a long game but thankfully offers you a password at the end of each stage.
Teamwork, baby! It’s a thing of beauty
Barrel-tossing Rockys and spiny hedgehogs try to put a damper on your day. Don’t get crushed by that moving platform. The Super Mario World influences are clearly evident.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
You’ll occasionally run into the random odd bonus stage. I’m a sucker for whenever a platformer displays an arrow in the form of collectibles. It’s exactly the kind of stuff I would program too if I were in control.
Cutting it awfully close there!
Speaking of cutting it close! Yo Tops, let’s not try to kill Jamie, OK?
Monster Moles look like double trouble, but they’re actually quite a cake walk.
Prepare for the roller coaster ride of your life as Stage 3 opens up with a bang.
Knock off the Rockys and ride into your station.
Slightly reminiscent of the huge swinging chandeliers from Super Castlevania IV, no? The Careless Circus as this level is known is arguably the most infuriating level in the game. Those bees are a bitch!
There are many more levels in Stage 3 not shown here; you’ll have to discover those for yourself. The boss of this stage is the Trampo Bird.
Things get hectic here in a hurry. Thankfully, you’re safe now. Right?
Technically, yes, but only if you keep moving. Crazy Cindy and Retarded Rocky actually go leaping to their doom. Seeing Cindy’s grin as she plummets to her death is a bit disturbing!
There’s no time to waste as a bald beefy barbarian attempts to crush you alive. Survive the terrifying ordeal and you come to a block that is just out of your dinosaur’s reach. Dismount and hop onto the block to activate it so it can move closer to your dino friend. Nice.
Leaps that see you barely landing on the next platform is so damn satisfying.
Influences to Super Mario World are readily apparent.
This is easily the game’s most bizarre boss.
Usually you’re riding your dino but here you have to go at it alone for a bit. Freeze the fish to use them as makeshift platforms.
Sometimes you’re required to jump off of two fish which makes it far dicier.
Nasty enemies are out to get you, sans dinosaur, if you make it this far.
Thankfully you can freeze their asses. Come to the end where your dino buddy is back in play and pick from the two doors.
There are so many levels awaiting you. Play Dino City to discover the rest.
Watch out for the Fire Birds guarding Stage Five. If you can make it all the way to the very end of Stage Six, you’ll face off with the movie villain himself, Mr. Big (no relation to Mr. Big from Art of Fighting fame).
Defeat Mr. Big and get treated to a rather cute, almost anime-esque ending.
PSST, WHAT’S THE PASSWORD?
Password systems (or lack thereof) have plagued a many Super Nintendo games. The last two games I reviewed (Jurassic Park and its sequel, Jurassic Park Part 2: The Chaos Continues) could sorely have used a save or password feature. Thankfully, Dino City gives you a password at the end of each level. The 12 character passwords are fairly reasonable and easy enough to decipher; the same can’t be said for some other SNES games with a password system. Way to do it (reasonably) right, Irem!
NOT YOUR TYPICAL KIDDY SNES GAME
Although Dino City upon first glance appears to be a “kiddy” game thanks to its bright and bold graphics not to mention the overall aesthetics, it’s anything but. The game is surprisingly far more difficult than you might first assume. It’s not impossible or anything, but it’ll take some practice and persistence. I also like how you get two different characters to play as. Timmy and Rex make beating the game far more difficult since Rex punches whereas Tops (Jamie’s dinosaur) throws darts. The difference between the two increases slightly the game’s longevity, not to mention it serves as sort of a “normal” and “hard” mode for a game that is already moderately difficult to begin with. So don’t walk into Dino City thinking it’ll be a walk in the park. Some stages start out easy but they can get tough in a hurry!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Dino City fared pretty well with the critics. It was considered a great looking game that played pretty well. EGM gave it scores of 6, 7, 7 and 8. Super Play rated it 83%. It’s not often talked about in retro gaming circles but when it does come up, most people seem to vouch for Dino City. While it isn’t good enough to be considered a full blown hidden gem, it’s a quietly solid and underrated little game.
I remember thinking back in the day that Dino City looked like it would be a pretty good game. I never got to play it then but just based off the previews, it looked like a fun platformer. After returning to the SNES scene in early 2006, I found a copy at the local flea market for $5. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you finally fire a game up years and years later only to discover your gut was right on the mark. Dino City is pretty much everything I expected it to be. It’s far from perfect but there’s this sort of charming and whimsical quality backing it. The visuals are lush and scream “Late 1992 SNES Era” if that makes any sense. I love the small details like day to night transitions (even if it only happens once) and the sprites (not to mention the levels themselves) all look pretty great. The music is fairly charming as well — the intro piece actually reminds me a lot of a tune that would have fit perfectly in the Mega Man universe! The game controls pretty well and I rarely found myself blaming the control whenever I died (which happened a lot by the way — your typical easy SNES kiddy game this ain’t). It’s not a long game but Irem was kind enough to give us a password system to deflect possible player fatigue. I will never fault a 16-bit game (especially platformers) for having a (reasonable) password system, and this one thankfully does.
But now for some things that could have been improved. First of all, I loved the idea of dismounting from your dinosaur and playing solely as the child protagonist. I feel this feature was slightly underutilized and could have been further expanded upon and explored. The few instances where you are required to dismount are pretty effective, so it’s a case of there should have been a little more. Secondly, the levels are far too short for their own good. They feel more like bite-sized action zones than actual levels. Although there are a good deal of levels overall in the game, most of them are disappointingly short. Just when you’re beginning to sink your teeth into them, they suddenly end. It kind of takes away from the game and kept it from going to that next level. But all in all, Dino City is a pretty good little platformer that kind of has been forgotten to time. Riding a dinosaur also helps to differentiate it a bit from the rest of the me too pack of which there were plenty on the SNES. I appreciate this game for what it is. Even little things like most stages having two different exits made me smile. Maybe it’s not quite good enough to attain that ever attractive title of “hidden gem,” but it’s certainly an underrated little game that’s well worth playing and can easily occupy you for a weekend or two.