Ankylosaurus. That terrible lizard with the armored plates and whomping tail that I just knew could hold its own against any other beast of the Cretaceous. It was and is my favorite dinosaur. I think every boy in my 2nd grade class had a favorite (as well as, for that matter a certain group of the girls... the ones who, not-coincidentally, I had puppy-love crushes for). Ankly made only a cameo appearance in the original Dino Run, but once I spotted it hanging around the rocky landscape as my velociraptor avatar tried to outrun the scary wall of doom, I was completely sold. Three years have passed since the release of that Pixeljam racing platformer, and I find myself returning to its charms again and again. However, with time comes change, modification, upgrading, evolution. So is the potent rationale for the release of Dino Run SE... And from what I've seen so far, it won't be going extinct from my hard drive any time soon.
Gameplay functions much the same as the original, which is a good thing. As before, you are a small but quick dinosaur, hoping to escape extinction by outrunning the wall of destruction created by an errant meteor, racing against yourself or other online players. Using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move jump and attack, and the [shift] key for an occasional extra burst of speed (a clicking noise will signal the recharge), you make your way across fields, rocks, hills, valleys and volcanoes, avoiding pitfalls, lava, and other dinos. Along the way you can catch a ride on a friendly pterodactyl, as well as collect eggs (some secret!) and chomp on critters for DNA points (used to upgrade your abilities). Don't take too long to explore though... the Cenozoic is right around the corner, and it won't be too friendly.
Analysis: Reviewing special editions can be difficult. It's sometimes hard to separate the appreciation of the near-perfect Dino Run from that of the changes made to the content. Perhaps I, as an unabashed fanboy of the original will be unable to be objective. Then again, I like Star Wars, but know enough to say that Greedo's speed on the blaster didn't make that edition more special. In any case, I'll try to focus on what is new is this edition: Those who have never heard of Dino Run should read our own excellent review, hit Play Dino Run, and be prepared to lose hours smiling.
So... now that you're aware of its charm, how does the special edition compare? In short: excellence has somehow become even more excellent. It's. Just. Better. Movement is faster and smoother, jump timing is easier, the musical additions truly fit the soundtrack an extinction event should have, the dedicated multiplayer server is (so far...) filled with people there to chat and play, not to troll, and the [esc] key finally lets you pause!... I can't overstate the importance of that last one. The mechanics have taken a small but effective leap up the evolutionary ladder, and that's not even scratching the surface of the new gameplay modes and features.
Dino Run SE gets the small things right. Case in point: the hats. I'm a little ashamed to say that I never kicked in the couple of dollars that would have unlocked the hats in the original. It's not that I didn't like the game... it's just I didn't really see how throwing a top-hat on my creature would make it all that better. However, if you had told me that "hats" meant the ability to play as Dino-Boba Fett, racing against Dino-Batman, Dino-Dream, and Dino-Yorgle, I think that would have been a much greater invocation of hard-sell. That said, while I do enjoy playing around with the different costumes (indeed, it's almost a mini-pixelated dressup game), I find myself constantly reverting to Dino-Flash... When you have to outrun an apocalyptic wall of doom, it's good to have the right attitude.
Then there's new content. One might not be surprised to learn there are new Time Trial and Multiplayer maps to conquer, but as so many are based around new gimmicks that it hardly feels like a mere level pack. Most of them center around the mysterious Planet D: a world where meteors become low-gravity balloons, where dino are imbued with the power to rampage through enemies, or eggs hurt when you touch them. Previously, these kinds of things were only available in cheat modes, so I'm happy to see that they've become available for "official" competition.
There are a number more things to gush about: the plethora of secrets, unlockables and Easter Eggs, the cinematic quality of the full-screen mode, the included soundtrack, the fact that buying it directly supports the creation of Gamma Bros. 2... But you'd be a fossil by the time I finished. Needless to say, I highly recommend Dino Run SE: the modest price you pay is a great value, consider how the content is, in a word, Dino-mite!
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