Did nobody heed the warning of Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ian Malcolm – aka Jeff ‘The Fly’ Goldblum – when he said that reviving extinct species for our own amusement might be just a teensy bit wrong? Many years after mad billionaire John Hammond made that ill-fated dino-based theme park, someone’s at it again, only this time it’s a holiday resort where youngsters come to hurl dinosaurs in a pit and make them fight one another while we watch.
It’s basically cockfighting, but instead of using dumb and delicious birds you’re excavating fossils, cleaning them up, then reviving them as dinosaurs using science. Poor Ian Malcolm would be rolling in his grave. Of course, they’re not dinosaurs – they’re ‘vivosaurs’, which are the same thing only more brightly coloured. After arriving on the island, hopeful Pokemon trainer (sorry, Fossil Fighter) Ash (sorry, Insert Name Here) embarks upon a quest to be the best something-or-other in the land. Good on him.
While obviously, and foolishly, attempting to take on the Pokemon juggernaut, Fossil Fighters isn’t as cynical a rip-off as you’d expect. Uncovering fossils with sonar and a spade is actually quite fun, as is breaking them apart with a hammer and drill, and blowing dust away with the DS microphone. Pootling around the little world, adding creatures to your unholy genetic army before heading to the stadium to engage in basic turn-based battling with other monsters is a mildly entertaining setup.
But. It’s. All. So. Predictable. We’re knee-deep in Pokemon territory, with very little new added other than the fossil stuff (and that was done already in Disney’s Spectrobes). There are cosmetic changes in abundance – you don’t catch or breed creatures, you win or discover them instead – but, strangely, even the famous dinosaurs aren’t as charming or iconic as Pokemon.
Pitting a T-Rex against a velociraptor should be an epic event – and it’s one we’ve wanted to recreate since we first saw Jurassic Park – but dinos here are stumpy, bizarrely coloured and largely toothless. There’s no gore, no munching, just ‘special abilities’ and a reduction of HP. Great – that’s everything we love about dinosaurs removed in one fell swoop.
The game in general is similarly lacking bite. It’s too bland and shallow to usurp the master of the genre, and too afraid of innovation to come up with something new. This may be mildly entertaining but, once again, Pokemon has nothing to fear. The only series facing extinction is this one.
Sep 2, 2009