dinorikiAdventures of Dino-Riki is a NES game similar to nearly every other NES game. It’s a top-down shooter set in prehistoric times that has you killing dinosaurs. How come nobody ever tweaks the formula? Is there a game where you have a stack of adrenaline hypos, and you bring dead monsters back to life by shooting them?

This game is hard. 80s hard. You can only have so much game on a NES cart, so developers compensated by designing games that killed you like their name is Inigo Montoya. Die, restart, die, restart. That’s how you stretch out half an hour of gameplay.

The game’s punishing difficulty is exacerbated by various lovely design decisions. You lose all your weapons and powerups when you die. And the screen scrolls upwards at a constant rate, so timing a jump requires you to carefully calculate your forward momentum plus the scroll rate. I’m pretty sure the Iraqi Royal Guard used this game to train soldiers to aim Scud missiles.

My enthusiasm for The Adventures of Dino-Riki is just flowing off the page, so the question remains: why did I play it? And why do I remember it?

Well, it has some positive qualities. For one (and this is huge) it’s not set in space. Instead of boring starry backgrounds you get actual things to look at. Trees. Bushes. Grass. It’s wonderful.

And the “real life” setting means you can apply logic to it in a way that you usually can’t for. If you fall down a hole, you die. You aren’t getting attacked by random phallic shapes but by recognisable creatures. Certain things make immediate logical sense. If you fall into a hole, you die. To compare, it was never clear to me why some objects in Star Force killed me while others didn’t. The controls in Dino-Riki feel tight and responsive (mostly, fuck you if you’re trying to fly). Some things take getting used to, such as the screen scrolling forward at a certain rate, but get used to it you will. The boss fights are awesome. Laying down an extinction level event on a T-rex is fun no matter the game, whether it’s Turok or Tomb Raider or this one.

In short, Adventures is a typical Hudson Soft game. Screamingly unoriginal, and it charms and frustrates in equal measure. There’s moments where the game comes together and it becomes fun, then there’s all these moronic, inexplicable ideas that serve no purpose other than to cultivate in you a deep dislike of the game industry. How come your shots are blocked by vegetation, while enemies can shoot you through anything? How come you have to hold down the X button constantly to fly (even though you might be in the air for as long as five minutes?) How come your character has the faggiest death animation in documented history? He looks like he’s having a seizure.

Oh yeah, and can we talk about death animations.

Nintendo game developers. How do you depict death, given

  1. Nintendo’s famous censorship
  2. Terrible graphics

Platform games just have you fall off the screen. Vertical scrollers just have you blow up. But Dino Riki. They end up .

You could never call Dino Rikki a classic, and as far as I’m concerned it barely makes it to “decent game” status. Despite this, I can’t bash it too much. The NES catalogue is a refuse bin of horrible games and this one is actually fairly decent.

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