Baby Dino Adventures
Played on: Mac, via itch.io
A highly-promising bundle of classic platforming fun
Baby Dino Adventures may be ‘just another platformer’, but it’s clear from the outset that care and attention has gone into its creation so far. From the attractive itch.io page to the in-game graphics, everything looks clean and inviting. And, wherever you stand on the nature of ‘cute’ in video games, it’s hard to deny just how charming the little dino fella is, with his underbite and ‘snoozing’ animation.
Anyway, I mustn’t fixate on that — there’s gameplay to be had! BDA is seeped in familiarity: simple controls, enemies to jump on, meat to collect instead of coins, boxes that contain more of the same, sometimes hearts. Everything here is straightforward, and introduced at a leisurely pace in the first 5 or so levels. The key mechanic to note at this point is the completion condition: most levels require you to ‘kill’ (neutralise? they seem to just turn into statues) all enemies.
This requirement, in conjunction with a number of tempting ‘secret areas’, leads to some backtracking and exploration from around level 6 onwards — I consider this no bad thing, particularly when it’s as well-balanced as it is here. Super Mario Bros was a great game, but we all want to try a bit of right-to-left action from time-to-time! BDA hints at the potential of bigger, more-complicated level maps in a full version.
As a free-to-play “early playable prototype”, it’s unsurprising that there are some rough edges. I found the help signs — which pull up some dialog — a bit annoying since they couldn’t easily be avoided or dismissed early. Mercy Invincibility is present when hit, but you can’t move until you’re vulnerable again, which can cause some double-hits. Sometimes the spin jump animation got stuck, playing endlessly. Most importantly, on later levels (espcailly level 10) I seemed to succumb to a bug which inexplicably reset me to the beginning of the level at a certain point.
However, for the most part, the game feels well-polished, in fact more so than some released titles. I’m a big fan of the simple, but incredibly effective, reuse of ‘active’ platforms, in a darkened style, to represent ‘inactive’ backgrounds. It’s a small point, but here it’s done as close to perfection as I think I’ve seen. The level-design, as far as one can tell from ~11 levels, is very well paced — this is clearly a game that will appeal to children, but it’s still enjoyable enough to play for this big kid!
I’ll be interested to see if the creator feels the need to make any significant additions for a full release, in order to make this title stand out, but I’m not convinced it really needs that, particularly if the bugs are ironed out, if the quality of level design can be maintained, and if the difficulty ramps up appropriately. It might genuinely just need a full set of levels to turn this into a really enjoyable, classic platformer.