Monday 11 May 2020

Game review: Gigantosaurus, from Outright Games, for PS4, Xbox One, Switch & PC Digital

To Become Dad reviews... Our boy, like many young children, is dinosaur mad. Some of his favourite toys are dinosaurs. Some of his favourite shows feature dinosaurs, and some of his favourite books are about dinosaurs. Even his little brother is now becoming obsessed with them. A firm family favourite book in our household is Gigantosaurus, by Jonny Duddle.

* Gifted - game received for purposes of review

Ethan loves the story, characters and artwork, which is done in Duddles inimitable style (see also his fabulous “Pirates Next Door/Jolley-Rogers” series of books and my personal favourite, “The Pirate Cruncher”). We were all pleasantly surprised to see that Disney Junior had turned the book into a kids’ TV show, although the character names have changed or switched around from Tiny the Brachiosaur, Bill the Parasaur, Bonehead the Ankylosaur and Fin the Triceratops in the book to Tiny the Triceratops, Mazu the Ankylosaur, Bill the Brachiosaur and Rocky the Parasaur in the show.
Gigantosaurus the game, from Outright Games and Cyber Group Studios, is based on the new TV show rather than the book.

Here's what you need to know:

Explore and race across the prehistoric world of Gigantosaurus. This Disney dino tale is part saving the world, part super race, and all giant fun! Rocky, Tiny, Mazu and Bill have scary problems – like the meteor that’s blocked up Giganto’s volcano! Only you and your dino friends can dare to solve puzzles and save the day – but you might need Giganto’s powers too! And the end of each story is the start of a super rally to the next zone. Will you be the most roarsome adventurer or the fastest racer?

Key Features
§  Be a Fearless Leader- Join dino buddies Rocky, Tiny, Mazu and Bill on a daring quest to help Giganto and escape extinction

§  Dino Racing - Hop in your race kart for a super rally to reach the next adventure zone and find out who’s the fastest dinosaur

§  Team Up - You and up to 3 friends can control your favorite dino and create co-operative adventures together

As a serious gamer Dad, in my view, it’s not brilliant, but that isn't to say that Ethan feels the same; he has had a lot of fun, after home schooling, playing it over the past few weeks and it is easy for him to pick up and get back into. 

As an experienced gamer you can see it wears its many influences on its sleeve: a bit of Mario here, some Spyro there and even a kart racer thrown in for good measure. The issue is that it isn’t even close to half as good as any of these obvious points of reference. But this is clearly a game at very young children and fans of the property rather than grown-ups, so let’s try to look at it from that point of view, shall we?

The story is fairly light, mimicking the simplicity of the TV show. It starts with some naughty raptors stealing eggs and it is up to the four cute dino-children to retrieve them, which is a nice slow introduction to the world, to the controls and to the various gameplay elements. There's no real overarching plot other than to help out your fellow dinos and, occasionally, the Gigantosaurus itself.  
The game is a platformer for the most part, and you’re able to switch between each of the four main characters at will. Whilst they all control the same for the core gameplay, each has a unique skill that you need to use to progress: Tiny for example can knock down logs to make bridges over gaps, whilst Mazu can activate switches and lifts to get access to new areas. Thankfully switching between them, which you do with the R button, is instantaneous so doesn’t interrupt gameplay, although it would have been nice to be able to go back through the characters with the L button.
The levels feature every platformer cliché you can think of. Ice zone? Check! Lava level? Check! Random collectibles with no purpose! Check, check and check!
The levels are big open spaces with simple, easy to follow objectives, bring eggs back to nests and so on. As mentioned, the levels have a variety of collectibles such as eggs, books, and other zone-appropriate pickups, which encourages exploration but sometimes the game puts barriers in place to gently bounce you back towards the objective rather than let you run off and explore. I can see the benefit of this for children, to help keep them pointed in relatively the right direction, but it can be frustrating when you’re following a line of pickups only to be shoved back, unable to grab the last one or two, because the game doesn’t want you to go that way yet.
The controls are quite imprecise, with floaty jumping and the characters are never quite a responsive as you’d like, meaning lots of slipping off logs and into rivers or off ledges into gaps. For children unused to using a controller it would be particularly frustrating. Thankfully the game doesn’t punish you for this – there’s always a nearby bank to climb onto or a bouncy flower to jump on to get you back where you need to be – but it would have been nice to be able to jump whilst in the water to get back into logs of rocks instead of having to swim to the bank.
Between levels the game changes style to a racing game as your race to your next destination but again, it’s all a bit simplistic. The tracks are dull with nothing to really look at and the controls retain that imprecise feeling from the platforming sections. It’s extremely easy to win the race, there are no weapons and although you can switch between the four characters, it didn’t seem to make any difference in terms of speed or handling. Ethan’s been winning races in Mario Kart 8 since he was four and more recently has competed in every seasonal grand prix in Crash Team Racing, so the simplistic courses didn’t hold his attention for very long. If you look at the courses in those other games, there’s always something happening in the background to look at and every inch of the course is packed with visual flourishes to make it more engaging and fun, but not so in Gigantosaurus, sadly.
The game features multiplayer but unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to test it.

There are two difficulties, easy and regular, but even on regular the game holds little challenge, so should be perfect for young children. It’s a fine line between making a game too difficult and too easy, but there has to be some element of challenge to keep the child engaged and I think Gigantosaurus falls short on this. Ethan had completed Super Mario Odyssey, with relatively little help from daddy, by the time he was five so now, at seven, Gigantosaurus didn’t trouble him at all and it wasn’t long before he’d got bored and gone back to playing other things.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. The graphics aren’t particularly sharp and on a large UHD screen they look particularly rough around the edges, with low resolution textures and aliasing. The game is also very blurry when playing undocked on Switch.  
There’s not much detail or anything really going on in the levels, so it all comes across as a bit bland. Unfortunately, whilst the game keeps the essence of the show and the book upon which it is based, it doesn’t really keep Jonny Duddle’s style of rich, vibrant, detailed illustration (I was really pleasantly surprised that the show kept to his style so closely rather than going more simplistic, actually), which makes it even more of a disappointment on this front.

It is clearly a game aimed at younger children, with a simple story narrated in a pretty iffy rhyming style (“panic” doesn’t rhyme with “catch it”!) that sets out your objectives. The narration is done in that ever-so-slightly annoying for adults but perfect for children style that children’s presenters use.  The characters themselves don’t talk, just making little noises, which is a shame as it would have more closely linked to the show to have their proper voices. The sound effects are all otherwise fine and as you’d expect. There’s nothing particularly stand out about them.

The music suits the game, it’s catchy although it’s not particularly memorable and I doubt you’ll find yourself humming it once you’ve closed the game. I could swear I’ve heard the music in the first zone somewhere before, it reminds me of a track from another game, I’m sure of it, but can’t quite place it.

Overall, Gigantosaurus is a bit of a let-down. Whilst it could serve as a nice gateway into the joys of gaming for very young children, it’s mostly an unengaging and dull by-the-numbers mish-mash of genres. Although there are some interesting elements, it’s unlikely to hold a child’s attention for very long, especially if they’ve played better platformers or kart racers.
A good intro to the gaming world for young, dino-mad players!!

* This game was gifted to us in return for an honest review - all opinions are our own.


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