“ An action hunting game developed by Action Forms Ltd. and published by WizardWorks. „
"Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark" - so sang Weird Al Yankovic in his spoof song, and there's no denying that the film was slightly scary in places, especially if you happened to be of a sensitive disposition. Granted, it would have been scarier if every TV channel in the world hadn't kept showing that same film clip with the T-Rex's foot and the glass of water, but it was a decent and entertaining (if not particularly deep) film. The same could not be said of Trespasser, the official Jurassic Park game which took place on the very same island where the events of Jurassic Park: The Lost World occurred.
Unfortunately, especially for all the punters who bought it on the strength of the game's name and all the pre-release hype, the game was an absolute waste of hard disk space. Not only did it feature a sluggishly slow heroine with an inability to carry more than one object at a time, but it was hopelessly unoptimised, running, even on the fastest processor, like a dead sloth in syrup. Add to that the fact that it was buggy as hell and had a host of other flaws, which even a whopper 25mb patch couldn't fix, nothing could save it from sinking into a tar pit of its own cackiness.
So it was somewhat fortuitous for dino-fans that Action Forms released, shortly after Trespasser crashed and burned, a rather good and scary dino game by the name of Carnivores. And guess what? It didn't receive a fifth fraction of the amount of advertising Trespasser - despite being a million times better. It just goes to show, even in a Jurassic world, there's just no justice.
Carnivores 2 is, as the name suggests, a Bust-a-Groove style dance simulator in which you groove along with the cast of the nauseatingly cutesy-pie dino-cartoon, Land Before Time. Actually, that's a complete lie - the game is of course the sequel to the aforementioned dinosaur hunt-em-up, Carnivores. As in the previous game, you play a big game hunter who, presumably being rich enough to afford to do so, goes hunting across a variety of islands, hunting down assorted animals of a distinctly dinosaurian nature. The catch is that because the creatures you're hunting include a variety of carnivorous dinosaurs, you could very well end up being the hunted as well as the hunter. It can be kind of hard to stay alive when you've used up your last bullet taking down a Chasmosaurus and suddenly hear the roar of a velociraptor you didn't even know was on your tail. Still, it makes for an exciting game, and if you've only previously ever gone Deer Hunting, you're in for a big surprise.
Fortunately, your character's gory death at the claws of an Allosaurus or similar nasty isn't the end of things. Should your character die mid-hunt you do lose the points you accrued in that hunt, points gained by blowing away assorted dinos, but you keep all the points you've earned in other hunts. It's these points that you use to tool yourself up before actually embarking on a hunt. It costs points to hunt on an island, and it also costs you points for each dinosaur species you decide to hunt. Also, you can use your points to buy various bits and bats of dinosaur hunting equipment and a weapon to actually take down the dinosaurs. You can use points to buy camouflage to hide yourself from the dinosaurs, cover scent to make it harder for them to smell you, radar to make it easier to track the dinosaurs down, and double ammo to give you, er, double ammo. The catch is that these items, barring the double ammo, will, when used in the hunt, knock anywhere between 15% and 30% off your points for reach kill. Your points aren't actually used up, merely allocated to these items, so you won't find yourself in the position of not being able to afford to hunt, although you do need to gather a fair amount of points to gain access to the better weapons and bigger dinos in the game. Trouble is, if you go hunting for them, they can go hunting for you. Be afraid.. be pant-browningly afraid.
Once you're out in the field, things start to get really scary - especially if you decide to hunt down carnivores. You can choose to hunt as many dinosaurs as you can afford to allocate points to. For each species you choose to hunt, you're given a dinosaur-call which, when blown in range of an appropriate dinosaur's hearing, will have them responding and, in some cases, heading over to your location. You can switch between these calls at will, unlike Carnivores 1 in which you could only select one call. Also critical to your hunting success is the range of weaponry you brought with you. You can switch between weapons at will, starting the game with a meagre pistol, and using your points to buy between levels a shotgun, a double shotgun, a crossbow, an automatic rifle, and a sniper rifle.
Of course, you can't go back and buy more weapons mid hunt, and given that certain weapons are best used against certain dinosaurs, you're better off choosing carefully. The last thing you want to do is be fiddling with a sniper scope when you've got a three horned Triceratops look-a-like charging straight at you. Though having said that, you can't be completely prepared for what you'll encounter. One of the factors that makes Carnivores 2 entertaining and often scary to play is that dinosaurs will wander around each island of their own accord, and that includes dinosaurs that aren't on your hunting list - should a carnivorous dinosaur pick up your scent, it'll try to hunt you down - while you can try prevent this happening by walking downwind, you can never guarantee there isn't a nasty surprise closing in fast on you. But then again, you did remember to keep shotgun shells spare for such a situation.. didn't you?
One major difference between Carnivores 2 and its predecessor is that whereas previously you had to hit dinosaurs in a specific target area to kill them (the head in many cases), you can now kill them by blasting any part of their body, although many areas require multiple shots before they die. If you manage to sneak up on a herbivore, and get in a hit without them sensing you, then when they flee, they leave small dots of blood on the ground, so you can track them down and kill them till they're deader than spam.
Or should you be feeling humane or guilty about killing non-existent computer dinosaurs, you can turn on the tranquilliser option in the pre-hunt screen, meaning the dinosaurs end up not dead, but sleeping. Awwww. You don't get their corpses for your walk-around trophy room, but you do get extra points - although I'm not quite sure how it is that you can end up tranquillising a dinosaur with a double barrelled shotgun. If, however, you land a hit on a carnivore, the hunter soon becomes the hunted because while they bleed like herbivores, they'll suddenly develop an interest in hunting you down for a bout of bloody-clawed revenge. The one exception to this is the T-Rex - who may well bleed, but can only be killed by being shot in the eye - you don't have the equipment to take him down any other way, and if you miss and he hears you, you're in big trouble - you just don't stand a chance against him, which is why stealth is especially important in this case. If you go in guns blazing against any of the carnivores, you'll find yourself flat on your back with certain parts of your body ripped out - think Thief: The Dark Project in terms of tactics and you'll have a decent chance of survival.
Graphically and sonically, Carnivores 2 is pretty good, especially given it's a few years old. Disappointingly, there's been no remake as yet. The dinosaurs are convincingly animated and the tree-bedecked levels look superb. The sound effects are spot on too, with just the right amount of ambient sound, chirps and squawks and the sound of nearby water adding to the atmosphere of the game. Carnivores 2 also supports EAX and A3D and DirectSound3D multiple speaker support - hook up four speakers to a card supporting these standards and you can hear exactly where your prey and predators are coming from.
On the down side, Carnivores 2 isn't perfect - there are a couple of flaws that stop it being an absolute smash. First of all, there are some levels with huts and buildings in them - good places to hide from dinosaurs, you might think - but you'd be wrong. The dinos can walk straight through them, so it's disappointing that you'll never find yourself in the frightening situation of being backed up against the wall of a hut with a T-Rex snapping through the doorway, unable to reach you. Secondly, the dinosaurs never attack each other - it would make for a more interesting game if they actually did hunt each other down. Perhaps the dinosaurs could be given some sort of internal hunger-meter which, when empty would cause them to go and look for food, so you could perhaps come across a T-Rex and a Chasmosaurus fighting, and use the opportunity to take down the Rex while they're distracted.
Despite the above faults, Carnivores 2 is still a very playable game, especially since, given the roaming nature of the dinos, each game is different. The feeling of stalking a dinosaur, knowing you too may be being stalked is something very suspenseful indeed. Even if you hate the likes of Deer Hunter - which is fair enough given that the deer don't fight back - Carnivores 2 is well worth picking up. And if you own the original, then this may still be a decent purchase, since it adds many significant improvements to that title. The bottom line is, given the bargain price of $19.99, you really can't go wrong with Carnivores 2.
(review written by me, and originally posted on GamesDomain)
Carnivores 2 is the second of a series of three games centred around the theme of hunting extinct animals in exotic 3D settings. If, like me, you're not particularly attracted by the concept of hunting, don't let that put you off - it's an extraordinary experience even if you leave the guns behind. The first game, Carnivores, which I don't have, is generally reckoned to be an inferior version - everything done in there is surpassed by Carnivores 2, in particular, an improved graphics engine. That game and Carnivores 2 feature a range of dinosaurs, some passive and cud-chewing herbivores, and some aggressive and dangerous, well, carnivores. The third in the series, "Carnivores: Ice Age", released in early 2001, moves forward to the age of mammals, and is reviewed elsewhere here. The story-line is so flimsy it's not worth bothering with - nor is it necessary. Let's just say you're transported to a time and place (well, several places) where you're able to roam around beautiful scenery, which you share with a range of dinosaurs, some of which will want to eat you - unless you set "observer mode", in which case you can move around undisturbed. The creatures you'll see are: Moschops - a proto-dinosaur like a squat pig - slow, dense and perfectly harmless Galimimus - a chicken-like theropod (two-legged dinosaur) that grazes around Dimetredon - a sail-backed herbivore Pteranadon - a flying reptile that soars around the sky Dimorphedon - another flying reptile Brachiosaurus - immense, impassive browser Parasaurolophus - a swift-moving herbivorous theropod Ankylosaurus - an armoured herbivore Stegasaurus - a huge tank of a herbivore; the easiest to hunt Allosaurus - a dangerous carnivore Chasmosaurus - a triceratops clone that charges when disturbed Velociraptor - star of Jurassic Park, very dangerous Spinosaurus - a large, sail-backed
proto-theropod with big teeth Ceratasaurus - a huge, aggressive carnivore T Rex - an express train of a vicious killer The first six are not there to be hunted - you can shoot them for practice, but you won't earn points. The others can be selected if you have enough points, so you have an element of choice about which creatures you'll meet. A few of these will lurk around somewhere, so you can be surprised by a sudden sighting of a carnivore during a hunt for a meek vegetarian. A range of six weapons is available, again depending on points: a pistol, crossbow, a couple of shotguns, a rifle and a sniper rifle. Some are more powerful than others, some have a more rapid rate of fire, and some are loud enough to attract the interest of hungry carnivores for miles around. But the real stars of the show are the locations. As you build up points, you can choose from five maps, giving you access to a range of amazing locations, including temperate forests, deserts, jungles, rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, beaches, rivers, lakes, oceans, caves - in fact, any type of natural environment you'd find on Earth. You could lose yourself for hours, wandering around these places, exploring. And here lies the key to the whole game. The feeling of being outdoors, having a virtual hike, is totally absorbing. You'll find yourself gazing around in awe, forgetting the whole huntin' and shootin' business as you go - well, walkin' and exporin'. You're free to move anywhere, and the scale of the maps is stunning. You can literally lose yourself for hours. Don't think you need a high-end graphics card on the latest 1.2GHz machine, either. My cheap little 8MB card handles the scenery adequately on a PII/350MHz box, and you can tune the graphics to suit your setup. One of the key features of this game is its use of sound. As well as the footfalls, grunts and roars of the anim
als you can see, there are distant wails and howlings, all adding to the atmosphere of the game. Sounds are in 3D too, and you can often tell where and what an animal is by the direction and nature of its noises. I've never met a game so compelling. I still wander around these scenes, stopping occasionally to pot a dino, many months after I purchased the game. OK, I'm hooked - I hope you will be too.