Dinowars. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Carol Holzberg
Dinousaurs have been extinct for over 65 million years, but you woundn't know it from looking around classrooms, playrooms, and children's toy stores. Science projects, museum exhibits, and plastic toy replicas of all shapes and sizes pay homage to the prehistoric "terrible lizards." Even the computer industry offers an amazing collection of dino software. DigiTek's DinoWars capitalizes on our insatiable quest for knowledge about these giant reptiles.
An electronic strategy game with a flair for the arcade, DinoWars pits eight famous dinosaurs--including the ever-popular tyrannosaur, stegosaur, and brontosaur--against one another. Alternatively, dinosaurs may join forces and wage ferocious battles to retrieve a kidnapped dinosaur egg and ensure survival of their group.
Activities take place on an electronic game board measuring ten squares wide by nine squares deep. Five game board layouts--including river valley, volcanic terrain, lush jungle, and barren desert--harbor perilous environmental dangers.
Play begins with competing dinosaur armies lined up in a chesslike arrangement along opposite sides of the board. Two human players (or one human player and the computer) take turns moving dinosaur pieces across the board in an effort to capture the enemy egg.
If two dinosaurs meet on the same board square, the screen changes to a closeup view of the animals, and the players manipulate their reptilian alter egos in a battle to the death. The winner remains on the board (usually in a weakened state), but ready to continue the fight for survival with the next prehistoric enemy.
To win the game, either obliterate your opponent's entire army or recapture the kidnapped egg and return it to the farthest edge of your side of the board. As straightforward as this sounds, DinoWars consists of more than a senseless contest of brute force. Like chess, it's a game of ploy and counterploy, strategy, and tactics.
Each dinosaur has its own personality, moving at a particular speed and with limited range (a designated number of x-axis and y-axis squares). Configured with a certain level of strength, agility, and armor, attributes that significantly affect a dino's ability to do well in battle, some dinosaurs fare better against certain opponents. Players may choose to alter their dinosaurs' attributes and customize their dinosaur armies to contain only certain animals.
For example, my ten-year-old assistant decided that he wanted an army consisting predominantly of powerful tyrannosaurs. He configured each T-rex with maximum strength, agility, and armor, gave them all the ability to survive aquatic obstacles, and equipped them to move over maximum range. He then configured the computer's army with wimpy dimetrodons, set to move over a minimum range. To further guarantee the odds of winning, he elected to play at the Advanced level and set the computer at Novice. Of course, he won every battle.
DinoWars does have a high level of configurability, with an online encyclopedia featuring 15 categories of information about the dinosaurs' geologic time, extinction theories, and related topics. As much as it offers and as impressive as these educational aids are, however, it's a kids' game. While I quickly tired of the violence, my ten-year-old son really enjoyed being able to test new fighting strategies. Colorful graphics, animation, and realistic sounds, such as animal roars and gushing river waters increased the program's entertainment value. An Ad Lib sound card magnified the sound intensity. If you're looking for a game that will entertainingly teach your children something about dinosaurs, DinoWars could be the product for you.