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DINOTOPIA

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill & Lela


Box Cover, showing riding on a SkybaxWe love Dinotopia. The whole concept and philosophy that the story is based on, that it is possible (and advantageous!) for man to live in non-violent harmony with animals and nature, is one that gladdens our heart. So when we found this game several years ago, packaged in a great box decorated with the author's own fantastic art, we simply had to have it. We've been meaning to play it ever since, often wondering if it was really anything like the book (or the movie), but until recently when someone asked us for help in solving one of the puzzles, it had stayed on the shelf. We are so glad that she prodded us to play it!

And yes, the game is based on author and artist James Gurney's wonderful books for children: 'Dinotopia' and 'The World Beneath'. It's an old DOS adventure game that was published back in 1995, so unfortunately it's very difficult to find now. But if you do happen to spot it somewhere, be sure to get it. It's a great game for children (all kids love dinosaurs!), and this is one that adults will enjoy sharing. We played it on a Win 98 system, under the DOS prompt, and had no real problems with it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Dinotopia is located on a lost island somewhere and it's 'the land apart from time': one that the rest of the world doesn't even know exists. It is a large island, with mountains and deserts, cities and towns, that is populated and run primarily by highly evolved, intelligent, educated, and speaking dinosaurs! Theirs is a productive and peaceful society, based on the non-violent philosophy of their 'Commandments', and they coexist in harmony with their world and other species.

Lee CrabbThe only humans there are the unfortunate victims (or their descendants) of shipwrecks caused by the treacherous ocean currents that surround the island. For once they are there, they are marooned forever: those same dangerous currents make it impossible to leave. The humans have been teasingly nicknamed 'Dolphinbacks' by the dinosaurs (because they were rescued and brought to shore by dolphins), and over the years the two species have become fast friends.

In this game, yet another shipwreck has just occurred, separating and stranding 17-year-old Nathan and his twin sister Constance on the shores of Dinotopia. Neither is sure that the other one has survived, and they are desperate to find one another. As the game begins, we join Nathan who has just washed ashore, and the quest of course is to find his sister.

Waterfall CityThis is a 3rd person, point & click game that is played from the 'God' perspective (that is, looking down on the game from about a 45-degree angle), with periodic wonderful live-action videos interspersed which feature excellent actors and delightful dinosaur 'puppets', similar to the Muppets. The interface is simply designed and easy to use, with the top 2/3 of the screen devoted to the gaming world, and all the controls that you need across the bottom. On the left are your inventory and a picture of your sister (which you use to ask everyone if they've seen her, since Nathan himself never speaks). In the middle is a map of Dinotopia to click on where you want to go next. And on the right are your icons for Walk, Take, and (later) Look, along with a key icon, which when clicked on lets you Save, Quit, or adjust the sound.

Of course when you first arrive, you discover that everyone is speaking a foreign language, so your first problem is finding an elementary Dinotopian dictionary so that you can understand what they're saying (they have a great little alphabet consisting of variously positioned dinosaur footprints!). But once you do that, the rest of the game is spent searching the island for your sister, along with any useful items you may find. Inside Submarine You ask anyone and everyone you meet if they've seen her, while doing good deeds for others along the way (like leading an old blind dinosaur back home), and playing games or trading with the natives (just make sure that you don't trade away something that you may need!). A deck of cards is included in the box for the Dinotopian matching game 'Treble', in case the kids want to play it again later.

The puzzles are not difficult (although there is one simple musical puzzle), and early in the game you meet a funny little purple dinosaur named Atrik who will thenceforth follow you around to describe and offer clues about any unfamiliar objects (an 'Eye' icon for that purpose is added to your available tools at that time). There are 11 different habitats to explore, including one very large mountain that we kept sliding back down, and our own personal favorite place: Treetown. And there are over 130 different characters that you can interact with ..... all of them walking around doing their own thing until you stop them to ask a question.

You get to ride in both a Dinocart and on the back of a flying dinosaur called a 'Skybax', as well as pilot a mini submarine. Add to all that the delightful music, and of course some examples of Gurney's wonderful art, and you have a great little adventure game that can be enjoyed by both children and their parents or grandparents alike. We loved it!

Brokehorn, Magistrate of Dinotopia
Full View Screenshot

Developed (1995) by Dreamers Guild and published by Turner Interactive.

Minimum System Requirements: PC Only!

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough" available here!


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