Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 04/30/02 | Genre: Platform
The Dinotopia idea started out as a book by James Gurney. In Gurney's book, he detailed a lost civilization where dinosaurs and humans work together. While the concept defies everything that Jurassic Park taught us about dino-human relations, the idea did catch on with many readers. In light of the book's popularity, Dinotopia has been turned into a TV series, a feature-length film, and even a Smithsonian art exhibit. Amongst this flurry of Dinotopia merchandise, TDK Mediactive has released Dinotopia: The Timestone Pirates. Though the game isn't as bad as some of the other Dinotopia cash-ins, it's not without its flaws.
Dinotopia's story is simple, some jerk has stolen a bunch of dino eggs and you have to go retrieve them. This basic premise leads you to the game's 2-D platforming levels. While there's nothing of Super Mario quality, the levels are still very enjoyable. The enemies you will fight are varied, attacking you in a myriad of ways. The obstacles you will face are also very different from one another, always keeping you on your toes. The only flaw you can really find in the 2-D levels is that they can be confusing at times. Such is the case with the level objectives, as many times during the game you will not know what you're supposed to do within a certain level. Still though, the 2-D levels, thanks to a nice balance between unique obstacles and varied enemies, stay interesting and fun throughout the game.
In order to break up the action, TDK has inserted little derivative side-levels. These levels have you doing everything from flying a dinosaur to manning a submarine. While not as refined as the rest of the game, the levels are still fun and unique. Unfortunately, these levels are confusing as well, suffering from the same level objective issues that the rest of the game suffers from.
One of the game's high points lies within it's level design. Doing away with linear-style levels, Dinotopia has you traveling in all directions in order to reach your goal. While the non-linear aspect is overdone in many games, Dinotopia manages to find a good balance between linear and non-linear play styles. This makes it so it will be a very rare occurrence if you ever do get lost, but it will be an even rarer occurrence if you ever find getting to the end of the level was too easy. The eggs you will have to retrieve within the levels are also very well hidden, but not too the point where they're impossible to find.
The level design isn't the only above-average category in Dinotopia, as the audio also displays such qualities. The music fits within the situation perfectly, as the unique sounds utilized in the game's music really pushes the GBA too it's limits. The sound effects unfortunately aren't as good. While the sound effects that are there are quality, there simply is a lack of them. No cool noises from dinosaurs, no screams of agony as you beat up an enemy pirate, nothing. Still, this is a relatively small problem, and doesn't leave to great an impact on the overall quality of the game.
Keeping on par with the rest of the game, the graphics are also very well done. Character animations are silky smooth, making everything to a stick-attack to a jump look good. The real jewel in the graphics department though, is the background animations. Time and time again you will be awed by how good things like the waterfalls and passing by dinosaurs look in the background. Even cooler though, is how the backgrounds will shift as you go higher and higher, showing buildings in the background at the bottom levels, but passing by birds when you're at the topmost levels. The only real flaw with the graphics is how sometimes it's hard to define what can be walked on and what can't. This leads to many accidental deaths, and can get really frustrating at times. Fortunately, this problem isn't too frequent, and only hampers the rest of the game slightly.
In the end, Dinotopia is a fun 2-D platforming game. While the game has it's problems, it's combination of traditional 2-D platforming levels along with the lighter, and more fun-oriented side-levels, make for a very enjoyable experience. If you're a fan of Dinotopia, or you just need a 2-D platforming fix till Super Mario Advance 3 comes out, you've found your game.