...And suddenly we wake up, and it is back to 2014 (or, I suppose, later, depending on when you read this), and there have been no floppy disk drives for a decade, and your computer will react as if you tried to command it in Etruscan if you try to play Designasaurus II. However, through the magic of DOSBox, it is possible to bring old bones back to life. Designasaurus II has been reviewed in recent times from the perspective of gamers. How does it fare when viewed from a paleontological perspective, by someone who remembers playing it when it was still fairly new?
So, let's see the edu—
|There's something wrong with this picture.|
|I did not know that.|
The game has two modes, a research sandbox, where you just pilot a dinosaur around for a while, and a quest, but more on that later. In both modes, you either use a pre-loaded dinosaur or create your own from pieces of others.
The pre-set roster plumps for usual pre-'90s favorites: Allosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Apatosaurus, Deinonychus, Iguanodon, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus rex, along with token pterosaurs Rhamphorhynchus (spelled without the first "h", but honestly it has too many "h"es already) and Pteranodon. You'll notice that each one has some special ability, be it claws, teeth, spikes, clubs, horns, flight, or being Apatosaurus. Even Iguanodon has thumb spikes, which is probably why it made the cut over some more non-threatening ornithopod. Allosaurus seems to be a bit of an odd theropod out; if you already have Tyrannosaurus, why have Allosaurus? The game makers probably just wanted another theropod model. It makes up for this seeming redundancy by having an attack that can be best described as "air-guitar-fu":
|"Dier, dier, dier, waah!"|
"Dude, what are you doing?"
"...I...I thought we were going to settle this by rocking out."
Creating your own dinosaur involves juggling bits of multiple dinosaurs. In honor of the star of the moment, I have created a doppel-Deinocheirus:
|That's not *too* bad.|
|Oh, well. (Also, all dinosaur names apparently end in -asaurus.)|
You get 16 different combinations of time and place to send your dinosaur, two each representing the Late Triassic, Early Jurassic, Middle Jurassic, Early Cretaceous, and "middle" Cretaceous, and three for the Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous. Environments include volcanic, tropical, oceans/lakes, deserts, plains/valleys, mountains, arctic, and a combination of each. Each "world" gets two types of dinosaurs/pterosaurs wandering around, and that's it. Some of the models are reused for different dinosaurs. We already met the fearsome tricerapod, but Apatosaurus gets quite a workout as a generic sauropod, and Deinonychus also stands in for Coelophysis and hypsilophodonts. The combinations are generally defensible, although there are some oddities, such as Late Cretaceous Antarctica being populated exclusively by Rhamphorhynchus and Triceratops. Refreshingly, the dinosaurs make no noises outside of a sort of grunt during combat. In addition, although the screen can be fairly swarming with critters, none of them are particularly interested in yours. If there's fighting to be done, it's either from accidentally bumping into them or is initiated by you, and you can disengage by leaving the scene. You can be as bloodthirsty or peaceful as you want; it is entirely possible to play as a carnivore and survive on the miscellaneous vermin running around, or to play a psychotic Iguanodon and shank everything that comes your way, leaving the corpses to rot. (Incidentally, no concern is ever expressed over what you might be doing to the timeline through your actions.)
As you might suspect given the vintage of the game, there are some limitations. We already saw that the game cannot express your abominations as what they're supposed to look like, instead using one of the 10 pre-loaded models. Another limitation is modeling of scale, by which I mean there isn't any. This means that your cute lil' pink Rhamphorhynchus, which in real life topped out with a wingspan shy of 2 m, is more than happy to go up against an Apatosaurus or Tyrannosaurus, slap it a few times with its tail (or bite or claw it; it's kind of hard to tell what's going on when it fights), and then devour the carcass in one gulp.
|This is when I started to question the legitimacy of the Foundation.|
|I bet you didn't call him "sinister" when he started out.|
|For extra late '80s/early '90s ambiance, pronounce it "die-noh-NIHK-us", like Christopher Reeve in the classic TV documentary Dinosaur!|
10 million credits, which at current exchange rates are worth nothing (it's unclear what these are supposed to be for; apparently all of your lab time, which you spend tooling around the Mesozoic slaughtering dinosaurs with genetic abominations, is free. Perhaps they're good in the Foundation cafeteria?);
This lovely certificate, suitable for framing:
|This is definitely going on the wall.|
|Dot matrix *and* continuous feed paper!|
|Perhaps Dr. von Fusion wasn't as brilliant as we thought. On the other hand, if he got this off the ground, his is truly a mind apart (and how does it weigh only 7 tons at a length of 90 ft and a height of 65 ft? Is it made of styrofoam?).|
In the end, 20 years on this is a reasonable time-killer if you don't mind time travel to 1990 and can laugh off some dodgy "facts". A polished and updated version could make a fun casual game, just you running your dinosaur through the past, losing someone else's eggs and getting involved in air guitar duels with animals a fraction of your size.
Random screen shots!
|Did you know that...|
Dinosaurs had very rich inner monologues.
|Yes, defend yourself, Allosaurus! You only outweigh that hypsilophodont by a couple of orders of magnitude!|