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Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey Xbox

Published by Global Star Software
Developed by Vicious Cycle
Released - Out Now
Price : £19.99

Dinotopia, as I'm sure you're all aware, is a TV program on satellite TV that was inspired by the Dinotopia books. Dinotopia is a society where humans and dinosaurs live side by side. You'll even encounter dinosaurs that can talk with humans. Not all humans are happy with this arrangement though and a group known as the Outsiders are consistently plotting to bring about the downfall of Dinotopia. In recent times though resistance has subsided somewhat but it soon starts up again after a man is killed by a renegade Tyrannosaurus.

The game is centred around the Gemini brothers, Drake and Jacob whose father was the aforementioned victim of the renegade Tyrannosaurus. You play as Drake Gemini and the game begins with you and Jacob speaking to, the rather comically named, Castor Pollux. Unfortunately the conversation is not a happy one as Jacob bitterly resents the fact that his father was killed by a dinosaur (how unreasonable) and is determined to join the rabble rousing Outsiders in order to exact revenge. Drake, however, is determined to protect the dinosaurs and doesn't hold them responsible for the death of his father and reminds Jacob that they both took a vow to protect the dinosaurs of Dinotopia.

In the midst of this conversation with Castor Pollux and Jacob you'll learn the basic controls. The game allows you to lock on to your enemies, a feature that is often forgotten these days, and this enables you to take out your enemies with a minimum of fuss. Most of the time you'll be fighting your enemies with your trusty mallet. Throughout the game you'll come across different mallet heads which have different powers. The bone mallet for instance protects Drake from all damage whilst the metal mallet will restore a portion of Drakes health for every hit he makes on an enemy. You can also find sunstones to place on your mallet, which will give it further special abilities. During the game you'll learn simple combo moves which are all easy to carry out. Ranged combat also exists and you can throw Swamp Rocks and Hobi Peppers at your enemies. It's all a bit too simple though and although there are three difficulty levels (beginner, apprentice, and master) none of them will pose much of a challenge for an experienced gamer.

The biggest problem with Dinotopia is that the games objectives lack variation. Most of the game has you carrying out chores, which are all too easy and uninspiring. Worst of all though is that many of them offer little challenge. It could be argued that the game is primarily aimed at young children but seeing as the game carries an age rating of 12+ it's not deemed suitable for young children. The problem with all these mundane tasks is that they drag the appeal of the game down to a point where it can become boring. It's a real blessing when you get to engage in combat and take a breather from running chores.

Graphically the low budget nature of the game is really obvious. The characters have that action figure look about them with static facial graphics and heads that simply move from side to side during a conversation as there is no lip movement at all. The various levels all look pleasant but quite basic and the textures are probably as plain as you'll find on the Xbox. It all looks pleasant enough though but there are some animation problems. You only have to see Drake attempt a jump to know that you're not going to see anything impressive in the way of animations. There are also some collision detection problems and Drake will occasionally find his way blocked by an invisible obstacle but this never causes any problems.

There isn't an option to enable subtitles but then there doesn't need to be as the game is subtitled by default. Almost everything in the game is subtitled with only the odd, unimportant comment from bystanders occasionally omitted. The cutscenes are shown in a letterbox format with the text being displayed in the lower border, which helps to make the text stand out. All objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time by pressing the start button. Tutorial messages are shown in text too so you'll no problem in learning the control system. The game manual is very short but describes what the various items are and covers the game play basics as well as describing the background story.

It's rather difficult to decide on what rating to give Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey. The game itself is nothing memorable and it certainly makes no attempt to offer a great deal of variation with the range of objectives that it throws your way. Graphically the game looks basic but it's not unpleasant and the fact that it's only £19.99 does temper the lack of quality with the games visuals. There is also the advantage of the game being subtitled. However you can't get away from it all being rather flat and whilst there isn't anything particularly poor here, there is nothing to get excited about.

Overall Game Rating: 5.3/10
If you're a fan of Dinotopia then it's possible that the game might appeal and that you'll be able to forgive the very basic nature of the game. However, even taking into account the games price tag, other gamers might not be so forgiving and they'll see the game for the lacklustre effort that it is.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No problems at all for deaf gamers because the game is subtitled.