Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dino Stalker

Exactly what I wanted it to be.
Review By Traderwes

When my wife and I go to the arcades with the kids, our hands-down, favorite game is the Jurassic Park: The Lost World shooting game where you ride in the jeep and blast dinosaurs. So when I saw the advertisement for Dino Stalker, I knew I would have to have it. It was exactly the game that I wanted it to be when my wife gave it to me for Christmas. (Actually, I gave her a choice of Dino Stalker or The Two Towers, but I knew which one she would pick after I described them to her.)

GAMEPLAY: The control scheme is the worst part of the game. The GunCon2 light gun control setup is less than optimal. That is not the fault of the game so much as the fault of the GunCon2 itself. The player’s movement is controlled by a joy knob on the rear of the gun, but the knob’s position is difficult to reach with the thumb of one hand (especially for my nine year old son) and we ended up controlling it with the non-shooting hand. When you beat the game on the Normal setting, you can control your movement using a regular PS2 controller with the off hand and that is easier. It would have been the best setup scheme and probably should have been used as the default setup instead of the GunCon2’s method, just because it is easier on the hands. 

I read somewhere that one guy wanted to use his Dance Pad to control movement but he was going to have to rewire it to make it work. That would be a very good product improvement and really push the envelope toward a virtual reality, but I digress.

I use the Mad Katz GunCon2 light gun, as it is the only one sold in the local stores. I did have some problems keeping it zeroed during game play and had to return it for another one, which had the same problem. I do not, however, think there was anything wrong with the gun itself, but rather with my wife’s habit of pointing off-screen and shooting to reload, like in the arcade, rather than use the reload buttons. I believe that this caused the problem and once I used the buttons to reload, especially the auto-reload button, i.e. unlimited ammo, the gun stayed aimed in and the problem went away. Again, I feel this was the fault more of the gun’s design than of the game itself (the buttons are poorly positioned for easy manipulation), with the possible exception of why I have to reload at all in a video game. But that is what the auto-reload button is for. 

Having said all of those bad things, let’s get to the good stuff. The game plays fast. Dinosaurs pop up out of the sand, from behind trees and out of the long grass (“Stay out of the long grass!” cried Ajay in The Lost World, with good reason) and they don’t waste any time coming at you. You have to be quick on the trigger to get them before they get you. With the larger dinosaurs, you have to be accurate as well to forestall an attack. You can prevent Carnotaurs and Tyrannosaurs from attacking you with a series of well-placed shots to the mouth while Plesiosaurs require shots to their long, thin and always moving necks to take them out. A Triceratops knocks barrels at you, some dinosaurs spit at you, and one even jumps at you from a pillar, spinning like Mary Lou Retton dismounting from the uneven parallel bars. Even in the levels where you are on rails, cruising down river in a boat, hanging from a parachute or being driven in a jeep, you have to look up, left and right to spot and shoot all the dinosaurs coming after you. I found it to be every bit as exciting as the shooting game we played in the arcades. My wife even makes the same yips, yells and groans when hordes of raptors come racing into view as she does at the arcade.

STORY: The story starts with you, WWII pilot, Mike Wired, drifting down into the North Atlantic in your parachute when suddenly, there is a tropical island below you, a futuristic weapon in your hand, some sort of communication device on your wrist and Pterodactyls flying around. A man’s voice comes over the wrist radio and says something about a catastrophe. None of this ever makes any sense, nor does it really need to, as this is a game about a bunch of dinosaurs that need killing. But it would have been nice if there were a more coherent plot that attempted to explain who caused this experiment gone wrong, why are there advanced weapons lying around all over the place and does the girl in the hot pants have a boyfriend? 

The story does affect game play in that you are not allowed the opportunity to spend a lot of time exploring the world because you have to act quickly to prevent a catastrophe. This means you have to move through the levels where you are not on rails at a rapid pace. This is a nuisance as I would have liked to look around more when playing the game and adversely affects replay value. With the GunCon2 giving me the ability to move at will, I want the option to walk around and look at things at my leisure; I guess Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has spoiled me.

GRAPHICS & SOUND: The graphics were excellent. I had no trouble spotting dinosaurs when they began to attack and in some levels you can see them far enough away to use your sniper rifle and zoom in on them. The colors were bright and enhanced the game, enabling me to keep track of what type of raptor I was facing. The sound was equally good, with dinosaurs roaring loud enough to make the ground shake. When poison hits you, everything begins to get all blurry, affecting your vision, until the antidote kicks in. Dinosaurs look and move like their real life counterparts, jumping at you from the water and swooping out of the sky. Each of the levels gives a good feel for what it is supposed to represent; jungles, deserts, destroyed lab complex, volcanoes and so forth. 

FUN FACTOR & REPLAY: This game is short and very fun to play. It took my wife, my son and me about two and a half days to beat this game the first time. For us, that was just about perfect. When my friends come over, and my friends are adults in their late thirties or early forties, many with US Marine Corps experience, this is the game they want to see and play. Unfortunately, the replay value is somewhat low due to the time limit constraints and the repetitious nature of a light gun shooting game. But if you save at the end of Level 4, you can always play through Level 5, the Pitch Black Tyrannosaurus, which gives you a quick on-rails experience that lets you fight all of the major dinosaurs (except the water ones) from the back of a moving jeep in the course of about five to ten minutes for a fun little gaming experience.

I realize that I have spent too much time in this review dwelling on the negatives but this really is a fun game that turned out to be exactly the game I wanted it to be. I understand that most gamers are more discriminating than I am and want everything about a game to be perfect and this game is not that, thus the 7/10 rating. It can be had now for about $20 and the GunCon2 runs $30, which may be a little bit steep for such a seemingly flawed game. But hey, I wanted to shoot some dinosaurs and this game lets me do it. Nuff said! 

NAME: DINO STALKER
SYSTEM: PlayStation 2

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