Designasaurus version II. (computer game) (Evaluation)
by Karen Lee Siepak
What's eight feet tall, ten feet long, and eats nothing but plants? An ankycoronyasaurus, of course! Great at fending off enemies, it's also fairly fleet of foot. I know, because I created it.
What do I do with my anky? Send it to prehistoric times where it must struggle for survival. Sometimes I have it look for gigantodon geneprints that Dr. Max von Fusion scattered among 16 prehistoric worlds. If I don't bring them all back, the Foundation won't be able to continue its work.
This is Designasaurus II, a clever program that lets you create a dinosaur and explore prehistoric worlds or play an adventure game.
The VGA graphics are quite vivid. Trees and cactuses have realistic shadows. Arctic dragonflies flit and flutter about harmlessly. Abandoned nests may hold a clutch of eggs, have broken shells beside them, or be mysteriously empty. Bones and skulls litter the ground--an ominous sign.
Britannica consulted two paleontologists when designing the program, and everything appears in the appropriate time period. Everything except your dinosaur, that is; it can go everywhere.
To design your creation, select the forearms, head, body, and tail from any of ten existing dinosaurs--make an outrageous combination if you dare! Say you're feeling a bit conservative? Just select a premade dinosaur that actually lived.
Next, pick a geological period and climate. Each period offers a choice of two or three climates from a list of seven: desert, volcanic, oceans/lakes, mountains, plains/valleys, arctic, and varietal (some of everything).
In a prehistoric world, you have a godlike perspective. You control your dinosaur with the keyboard or joystick and monitor its vital statistics by viewing three minicomputer screens on the right side of your main screen.
Put the world on hold and move through options on one of the tiny screens; you'll even see "your" finger pressing the buttons.
Now, explore! Designasaurus's adventure mode, identical to exploring except that you don't choose the period, requires you to retrieve geneprints. You still must struggle to eat, drink, fend off enemies, and defend friendly dinosaurs' eggs.
I would locate a corner at the end of the world (as far left and south as there are graphics, for instance) and cover the terrain systematically. Eventually I would locate a blue geneprint square. Locating the teleporter to return my dinosaur to the lab, though, proved to be the hardest part of the game.
Do I have any complaints about the software? Just a few, and at best, they're marginal. Contrary to what the manual says, sound can't be toggled off, and it grows tiresome in the lab.
To configure the joystick, you must press and hold it while mashing the fire button; the directions neglect to mention this. Also, an option to restart with the same dinosaur in the same world without having to teleport back and forth seemed like an illogical omission to me.
The Designasaurus II box states that the game is intended for players between the ages of 7 and 14, but unless your young children are good with manuals, they'll need help playing initially. And I enjoyed the program tremendously--although I'm far above the age limit.
Frantically searching for water to save my anky, I thoroughly enjoyed the thousands of tiny details I found along the way. Designasaurus II engages saurians of all ages, and you'll play well into the next geological era.