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Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter (iPhone Game)

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1 Review

Developer: Tatem Games / Type: iPhone Game / Platform: iPhoneOS

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      02.09.2011 17:50
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      Could have been so much fun - a major let down

      Ever fancied taking part in a real Jurassic Park style safari where you can hunt dinosaurs? If so, then this is the app for you! Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter is a First Person Shooter/hunting simulation that puts you in the role of a hunter let loose in a dinosaur infested area. Points are accrued for killing selected dinosaurs, with more aggressive dinosaurs (such as Velociraptors) being worth more than docile herbivores. Of course, there's also the very real risk that you will end up being dino dinner, so you'd better keep your wits about you.

      The graphics proudly proclaim themselves to be "console quality" and there's some justification to these claims. OK, the consoles in question may be last generation models, rather than the PS3/X-Box 360, but they still look pretty impressive. Certainly, they are far better than some of the FPS games that appeared on the original Playstation or even the PS2. The graphics might be mostly restricted to dull browns and greys - the colours of the landscape - but this helps to create a highly convincing setting for your exotic safari. The dinosaurs all look very lifelike and move in a realistic and distinctive way. It's usually easy to tell different species of dinosaurs apart, even from a distance - something which is critical on those levels where you can only score points by shooting breeds.

      The main game is accompanied by little more than preternatural sounds of dinosaurs squeaking, roaring and the rustle of the undergrowth as they move around. The sound might be minimalistic, but it's highly effective. As well as keeping your eyes open, you also need to keep your ears open too, as the sound can give you clues as to whether any dinosaurs are nearby, and warn you of approaching predators. At times, the eerie calm creates a genuinely tense atmosphere, as you wander round this highly dangerous landscape.

      Controls too are reasonably well laid out, although they are not particularly intuitive. A virtual joystick controls the movement, whilst dragging the screen with your fingers allows you to look around. This was slightly tricky to get the hang of, because in my first few games, I kept forgetting and trying to use the movement keys to look around. After a while though, you do start to get used to this slightly odd combination of controls.

      A further series of buttons allow you to perform specific actions (such as look through binoculars to spot your prey or call out to try and attract it to you). These are much simpler to use as you don't have to access them on as regular a basis and they are easily and quickly identifiable when you do need them. Controls are generally well-spaced and laid out so that they are easy to access without getting in the way of each other or taking up too much screen space. Although there initially appear to be quite a lot of controls to master, for the most part, they are qui

      The most important control is the option to draw your weapon, and it was here I came across more serious issues. There is one button to draw your gun and, once drawn, a Fire button appears on the left of the screen (the opposite side from the Draw Weapon button). This is not particularly intuitive and my natural inclination was to hit the Draw Weapon button again when I wanted to fire - which simply results in you putting your weapon away again! By the time you have realised your error and re-drawn your weapon and used the correct button to fire, the prey you have often spent a long time stalking has been alerted to your presence and run off, sending you back to square one.

      Which leads neatly onto the game's major downside and the reason for its low score. Although this is a free-roaming game, and features a massive array of different dinosaurs to hunt, there are restrictions. At the start of each level, you have to select which type(s) of dinosaurs you want to hunt, based on the amount of points you have accumulated to date. This means that on the early levels, you can only afford to hunt one species. You can find and kill other species, but you won't be rewarded for this, only for killing a specific type. If you don't kill the right creatures, you don't score any points; if you don't score any points, you can't upgrade your weaponry to more powerful items or select the higher value/more dangerous dinosaurs to hunt. This means that you spend an awful lot of time having to wander around the landscape tracking down exactly the right creature. Given that your ammo is limited (on the earliest levels the only available weapon is a weedy pistol with just 16 rounds), you can't afford to go around taking pot-shots at other creatures for fun.

      Let's be honest, most people when presented with a dinosaur hunting game are just going to want to get out there and start shooting dinosaurs. We don't want artificial restrictions about which ones which can shoot that will actually score us points; we just want to start blasting away, regardless of species. Surely the fun in this game should come from just wandering around the free-roaming landscape, hunting any creature that comes close to you. If you choose to take on a T-Rex as an inexperienced hunter armed just with a pistol, then you deserve everything you get!
      It's true that the game play is very deep if you are prepared to put in the hours. As a hunting simulation, a lot of effort has clearly gone into getting the game engine and the artificial intelligence absolutely spot-on. For example, you need to be conscious of wind direction - if you approach your prey from upwind, it will smell you coming and run away; predators might be attracted to the noise of your gun firing, or the smell of blood when you have killed a dinosaur. This is a good way of attracting some of the more dangerous creatures to you so that you can shoot them, but they might also surprise you by suddenly charging out from a bush! There is a really strong strategic element to the game and, if you have the patience, then it's likely to be a title you are still going to be playing several months down the line, but you have to be prepared to put in the hours learning exactly how it works - and that's not something that will appeal to many people.

      You can also tweak the game to your heart's content and there is an impressive array of options, each of which will affect the way the game plays. For example, you can choose to hunt at dawn (when predators are less active), at midday or at night (when predators are very active); you can add some helpful equipment to your arsenal (such as a potion that disguises your smell making it easier to approach dinosaurs - although these reduce the points scored for each successful kill). Virtually every aspect of the game is customisable, and, for those who get over the hurdle of the sharp learning curve, this is a very deep, realistic game.

      If (like me) you don't have the patience for the main game, Survival Mode sees increasing numbers of dinosaurs attacking you, with you having to shoot them before they reach you and eat you. This is good fun for a few games, but it doesn't offer much in the way of long term playability as the basic gameplay soon becomes repetitive.

      At the end of the day, this one really depends on how much patience you have and how much time you are prepared to invest in the game. As a hunting simulation, it is highly realistic and has some pretty deep gameplay. For most people, though, it's going to be a chore traipsing around the landscape trying to find exactly the right creature to kill; only to see it run off again as you approach. The addition of a free-roaming, kill-anything-you-see Mode would have benefited this game so much, making it fun for casual and serious gamers alike.

      It is only 69p, so it's not going to break the bank if you find you don't like it; but to be honest there are other games out there that are a lot more fun.

      (c) Copyright SWSt 2011

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