In the stone-age town of Bedrock, there's nothing more common than dinosaurs. We use the huge stegosaurus as a bus for public transportation. The rock quarries are full of brontosauruses, moving huge stones from one end of the quarry to the other, and back again. Some people even keep some of the smaller dinos as pets. Is it any surprise that we also use dinosaurs for military actions? Strap a cannon to the back of a triceratops and you've got a jurassic tank bent on domination. Dinowaurs from Intuition Games shows us that those stone-aged humans were well-versed in the art of strapping large implements onto the backs of dinosaurs for their own advancement.
Dinowaurs is, at its core, a projectile game in the vein of Team 17's classic Worms series. You control a dino of your choosing, be it ankylosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, or brontosaurus, equipped with various armor and weapons. The goal is not only to destroy your opponent's dinosaur, but also to take over their villages. Once you have managed to destroy and/or capture all three opposing villages, you win the match. These villages are not only important from a territorial standpoint, they are also the means by which you collect gold to buy weapons and ammo, and also where you go to equip weapons and heal your injured dino warrior.
Villages have three levels of support. The closest to your enemy's territory is the lowest level of support. Weapons and ammo cost more if equipped here. The village in the middle of your territory has the second highest support rating, and consequently, weapons and ammo are a bit cheaper. The village furthest back in your territory retains the highest level of support. Weapons and ammo bought and equipped here will be the cheapest. The trade off, of course, is that in order to equip at the highest level of support, you leave most of your territory open to enemy attack.
Analysis: One of the first things you will notice when playing Dinowaurs is the art style. The backgrounds for each of the battlefields are lovely to look at. An artistic backdrop for the carnage that is happening in the foreground to be sure. The dinos have a much different look, a fun art style that may remind you of a certain animated cartoon on Comedy Central. Strap a meteor-seeking radar dish on the back of an ankylosaurus and you can't help but flash back to Cartman with a huge alien probe coming out of his… umm… back-side. The surrealistic graphics are part of the charm that is Dinowaurs. It doesn't matter what weapon you use, they all are designed to look like Atlas carrying an alien spacecraft on his mighty shoulders.
One of the more bizarre has to be the U.S.S. Iowa weapon. We'll forgive the fact that the U.S.S. Iowa was a lead-class battleship and not an aircraft carrier, because the weapon is required to be an aircraft carrier for the gag to work. Once equipped, your poor dino will find itself hauling an actual aircraft carrier around on its back. When fired, the carrier sends out a squadron of bombers that drop their ordinance where you choose. The entire scenario is completely preposterous, which is what makes it so much fun!
Along with the variety of weapons, you can also customize your dinosaur with various clothing items, tattoos, and armor. These can be purchased either by winning ranked matches (more on that) and earning DNA points, or by earning Kreds, Kongregates' own "currency." Once purchased, these "boost" items will change the stats of your dino, making it faster, more resistant to enemy fire, etc. This is one of the neatest features of the game, but it is also one of its most limiting factors. Let me explain…
There are two types of matches that a player can join. Unranked matches are fights against other players that act as skirmishes or practice matches. No points are earned, and the outcome does not affect your statistics in any way. This is a good way to get your feet wet and try out the features of the game against a human opponent. Ranked matches, however, are played for points. You earn DNA points by killing the enemy dino, destroying and capturing enemy villages and, ultimately, winning the match.
Now, of course, this should become easier the longer you play the game. And, as you earn DNA points, you will be able to slowly upgrade your dino with better boosts. The system would have been nicely balanced had that been the way of things. But Kongregate, whose goal as a portal is to direct traffic to other portions of their site, allows players to earn Kreds by doing other things on their site that have nothing to do with Dinowaurs. So, in essence, the battles eventually come down to whoever has enough Kreds to buy the maximum upgrades for their dinosaur. Ranked matches have basically taken the use of boost items out of the equation, since the player with the maximum upgrades will have a marked advantage over any lesser dino. Luckily, a fairly advanced matching system will help keep you from walking in on a veteran while you are at noob status, but it's still not a perfect solution. I won't judge the game on this aspect, but it does factor into the fun.
The politics of portals aside, Dinowaurs is a blast to play. The art style is fun and care-free, the music is catchy, and the weapons are weird. If you're looking for an escape from the ordinary projectile game, and a chance to interact with actual human beings, give Dinowaurs a go.