Games based on animated movie IP’s have a long and varied history. Most are garbage, but history has revealed a few gems, The 16-bit trio of Jungle Book, Aladdin and Lion King, for example, are among the best, and Toy Story wasn’t half bad either. Giganotosaurus is a series rather than a movie, but it still carries the Disney brand and now has a companion videogame from Outright Games.
Unfortunately, despite a great soundtrack and some exceptionally well-created characters, Giganotosaurus doesn’t quite live up to expectations. What begins as an apparently simple game specifically designed for younger players soon gives way to a repetitive, overly challenging and often frustrating experience that is hampered by poor controls and a haphazard camera.
Aside from these issues, it’s a shame that Gigantosaurus falters, because, within ten minutes of booting it up, me and both of my kids (three and five) were in love with the authentic look of the game. The four main characters; Rocky, Tiny, Mazu and Bill are tremendously cute and represent the characters from the show almost perfectly.
In gameplay terms, this team of dinosaur heroes can be played by each of up to four players — or by few players who have the ability to switch between characters at will with the right bumper. Each dinosaur has their own skill, with Mazu able to operate levers, Tiny able to knock down obstacles with her armoured head, and so on.
These skills are used to solve puzzles in the environment, few of which are truly taxing, but some of which can lead to areas that are otherwise hard to reach. The main objective across each of the fairly large open levels is to collect eggs, and the players are led constantly towards the next objective by a breadcrumb trail of purple fog.
My gut feeling is that this breadcrumb trail is a late addition that was introduced to mitigate some of the difficulty curve that rapidly ramps up more or less from the very outset of the game. My eldest child (who I think is at the younger end of the target market, but who has nonetheless completed Super Mario 3D World on her own) is completely bamboozled by some of the in-game tasks.
Even in the first level, some of the eggs require the player(s) to climb several platforms, pull a lever, switch character, jump to a moving platform, collect an egg and then float to the ground using a leaf. Fast forward a couple of levels and you’ll be doing the same thing, but using spring shoes that have a limited use, and failure to complete a jump might mean restarting the whole process.
For an adult player, this is at best mundane — the jumps are easy to miss thanks to a locked camera that can’t be panned manually and which sometimes goes bonkers on its own. Occasionally, even when the camera is stable, it can still be hard to make jumps because the controls lack the finesse of a Mario or even a Ratchet and Clank.
For kids, the poor controls remain a problem, but there’s also the added issue that each task is more punishing than it needs to be. Good platform games have a way of stringing together challenging sections in a way that feels rewarding when you finish them, but reasonably fair and exhilarating even when you fail. Giganotosaurus just makes kids feel punished, and each failed attempts teaches them nothing because the reason they failed is usually because of the wonky camera, or the dodgy controls.
Beyond this, don’t get me started on what happens with multiple players — even just two of them. Several sections require the players to not only perform the complex tasks I’ve already described but also to synchronise them. Failure to do so can mean that one player (usually the only who is on the right path) will respawn next to the other player, who has often fallen to the ground. It’s absolutely infuriating.
When someone does actually find an egg, there’s a palpable sense of relief, and thankfully it’s rare that the game makes it too hard to return said egg back to its home. Often, high up eggs will be returned by the means of a helter-skelter style ride that carries both the player and the egg down the side of the hill or mountain that they are on. During these sequences, my kids absolutely love screaming as though they are on the ride in reality, and there’s a real sense of speed to these sections.
Another element of Giganotosaurus that we all enjoy is the racing sequences that link each level. These Wacky Race style events have the players racing in a Mario Kart style race that looks great and, again, moves at tremendous pace. Thankfully, my eldest child is fantastic at this kind of game, but my opinion is that a child who hasn’t been through Nintendo training won’t have a clue how to handle these sections, infrequent as they are.
Aside from egg hunting and racing, there are a few other things to do during the course of the game. Collecting purple seeds will allow the player to plant new trees, and there are several of these on each level. It’s also possible to collect chestnuts to feed the titular (and strangely herbivorous) Giganotosaurus. These tasks (and a few other similar ones) serve as distractions for the completionist, and I can’t see a young player having the skill to complete them all, nor an older player the interest.
So, Giganotosaurus is an attractive, occasionally promising kids game that I think will sporadically delight fans of the series, but which lacks the polish of even a second-tier platform game. It’s not a bad game and in many ways, I feel a lot of effort has gone into it. Parents can likely find a better platformer for their kids assuming they are not Giganotosaurus fans, whilst adults should definitely think twice before investing here.