Dinofour ($1.99) by Craig Simmons of Craigeatscrayons is a retro puzzle platforming adventure with cute dinosaurs. If you enjoyed games like Gunbrick and Icebreaker: A Viking Voyage, then you will enjoy Dinofour.
I was born in the late ’80s, so I grew up with platformer games like Super Mario Bros. Because of this, these games will always have a soft spot in my heart, as they are timeless and challenging. I’ve also grown to enjoy puzzles over the years, so combining the two mean great things, especially when you add in charming characters. When I saw the trailer for Dinofour a few months back, I knew that this was something I would have to check out for myself.
The visuals in Dinofour are vintage with the 16-bit look and feel that takes me back to my childhood. Even though it’s using classic visuals, the environments are incredibly detailed and textured, with rich and vibrant colors. The dinosaur characters are endearing and sweet, making this a fun little game for the entire family, though it is a bit unforgiving at times. The animations in the game are smooth, though movement felt slow. The chiptune soundtrack is a delight too, and the sound effects are a nice touch.
Like many other platformer games, Dinofour’s split up into three different worlds that have 24 levels each. In order to advance, you’ll have to clear the previous stage and earn up to three stars depending on how fast you are. The goal in each stage is to have the four different dinosaurs work together to reach the big dinosaur egg at the end. The levels are all relatively short, and can be completed in less than a minute if you’re good enough. On top of the basic objective of getting to the end, there are secret areas and special items that you can collect too.
The four dinosaurs have their own distinctive skill that you will have to use at the right time to complete stages. The green one can push heavy boulders, which are useful for activating buttons. The orange one can breathe fire, which can melt ice blocks. The purple one can defy gravity, so it can walk on ceilings when necessary to avoid spikes and other obstacles. And finally, the blue one is able to fly.
The controls in the game are simple, but could definitely use some work. In the bottom left are two arrow buttons for moving the dinosaurs left and right. The bottom right will have an “A” and “B” button. The B button is used for jumping, and the A button is for switching off dinosaurs and activating their special abilities. For the flying dinosaur, tapping A three times with the right timing means you can fly longer.
However, I found that sometimes it was hard to switch dinosaurs because you have to press the A in a certain frame, and this led to precious seconds being wasted. I’m not sure having a dual-purpose A button works well, given that issue, and maybe having a third button for switching off would be better.
Another issue I am having with the game is the fact that the movement of the dinosaurs feels a bit slow and cumbersome, which lead to some untimely mistakes that ultimately result in death. While the beginning of each stage is pretty straightforward, the real challenges are usually towards the end, and a little mistake means your efforts were wasted and you have to start over from the beginning. As I mentioned, the game is pretty unforgiving, so while it looks like a kid’s game, it may result in some angry little kids if you’re not careful.
Dinofour also has Game Center integration for achievements, but no leaderboards since there is no scoring system aside from stars. I was a bit surprised by this, as Dinofour seems like a fun game to do speedruns with. Perhaps the developer can consider adding leaderboards in the future for best times on stages.
I’m a fan of puzzle platformers, so I’m enjoying Dinofour so far, despite the slow movement and cumbersome controls at times. Hopefully the developer can fix these in a future update. Otherwise, I love the retro graphics, chiptune soundtrack, and challenging (though unforgiving) gameplay.
I recommend giving Dinofour a try if you like puzzle platformer games with a vintage feel. Dinofour is available on the App Store for the iPhone for $1.99.