The 3 Best/Worst Dinosaur Games of my Childhood
Welcome back to another blog post friends and neighbors! This week we explored the mysterious and sometimes terrifying world of Jurassic Park. Being one of the most iconic movies of my childhood it got me thinking of how the exposure to real dinosaurs (sorry Land Before Time, but not all dinos can be friends) got me hooked on the genre. The most noticeable shift was in my video game consumption during this time, and I thought I’d share my top three best/worst dinosaur video games of my childhood.
Chaos Island: The Lost World
This. Game. Sucked. Let me lay down a little background. The second installment of the Jurassic Park franchise came out when I was seven, which meant everyone in my life was rewatching the first one. In turn, after seeing The Lost World: Jurassic Park, it was all anyone talked about amongst my friend group and daycare. The dino frenzy reached such a high fever pitch that the counselors at my daycare decided they could quelch it by purchasing Chaos Island: The Lost World for the only computer in the building. And therein lay the first of two problems. Seeing that we only had one computer that ran about as efficiently as a potato each dino-drunk child at the daycare had limited time to get their fix of the game. I can still remember kids clawing each other off the chair that sat in front of the computer when their turn came. It was like watching a pack of hyenas stalk a wounded gazelle, waiting for the right time to devour it.
The second issue was the fact that Chaos Island was a terrible real-time strategy game. After waiting an eternity for my turn to finally arrive to play the game I’ve never been more let down by an experience (that’s including the new Star Wars sequels, mind you). In the game, you take on the role of all the main characters from the movie and you spend most of your time wandering around a poorly pixelated Isla Nublar, where the first movie took place. You shoot build bases, shoot the bad dinosaurs, build bases, shoot hunters, build bases, and build bases. From there you are taken to a second island, Isla Sorna, where you do much of the same. The most exciting part of the game comes as a bonus mission where you get to play a T.Rex stomping through San Diego, trying to save your baby. Even at the watery-eyed age of eight, I knew the game should have just been the bonus mission.
If any game was made specifically for young boys then it was Primal Rage by Atari Games. Modeled after the classic versus fighting style arcade games, Primal Rage let players take on the roles of dinosaur-like gods that fought for the fate of a fictional planet called Urth (weren’t they so clever?). This game didn’t pull any punches when it came to fighting and violence. I remember the first time playing the game I took on the role of the raptor, Talon, and completely shredded my opponent to pieces. The finishing moves ranged from brutal to hilarious as you could completely decimate your opponent or choose to literally punch their brain from their head. Like I said, this game didn’t pull any punches. I spent countless hours at my friend’s house smashing away at the Sega Genesis controller, eyes drinking in the fighting dinosaurs, wanting to be king of Urth. After seeing Jurassic Park the game became a source of role-playing for me as I imagined the massive beasts in the game being the dinosaurs I saw on the big screen, duking it out to see who would be the new ruler. It didn’t matter that there weren’t any giant apes or weird cobra beasts in the film, a boy could imagine.
The only drawback to this gaming experience was the buggy game mechanics and the disapproval of our parents. It wasn’t long before we had to turn off the blood in the game and shortly after, Primal Rage became extinct in my life. It just didn’t seem as fun anymore.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
This was one of those games that struck lightning at the right time and in the right format. The year was 1997 and Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park was sweeping through the country like wildfire. Dinosaurs were all the rage again and a little unknown company called Iguana Entertainment was quietly adapting a comic book series into a first-person shooter for the N64. During this time my old man had developed a routine of stopping by the video store on his way home from work and picking me up a new game for my console. Never opposing this newly formed habit, I was thrilled the day he brought home Turok: Dinosaur Hunter as I was just getting over my recent disappointment of Chaos Island and was in need of a pallet cleanser. Turok combined two things I loved at the time, first-person shooters and dinosaurs. The player takes on the role of Turok, a native American time-traveling warrior, who is charged with stopping the evil Campaigner from obtaining a deadly weapon that has the power to destroy the universe. It was fast-paced and ridiculous like Doom but allowed players to explore, giving it a surprising amount of depth. Granted, the game was rated “M” for mature for the blood and violence, but that was only due to it being released on a Nintendo platform and they were still trying to maintain their kid-friendly persona. Enter Turok, a gun-blasting, dinosaur slaying thriller that involved a shirtless man saving the universe. How could a young boy not fall in love with it? This game knocked it out of the park when my dad brought it home and I still look forward to Turok games today.
It seems now that since the dust of Jurassic Park has settled and the movies are not juggernauts in theaters anymore we’ve hit a dry spell in dinosaur video games. There’s a part of me that misses those ridiculous offshoots and wonders if we’ll ever see the likes of them again. Only time will tell.
If you missed this week’s episode of Parallel Quest, you can listen here.