Genre: Action Developer: Sega Interactive Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
Sega of America (NEVER trust Sega of America!) released Dinosaurs for Hire in the fall of 1993. It’s based on the short-lived Malibu comic by Tom Manson. These were one of those many games where I said ”I’m going to rent this” but just never got around to it. That’s because there was so many great releases that season that I couldn’t wait to rent like Mortal Kombat, Secret of Mana, Mario All-stars, and Shinobi 3. But now, seven years later, I’ve finally found a complete copy of it for cheap. Lucky me.
As the name says, the Dinosaurs for Hire (TMNT rip-off #218) are a cabal of four bounty-hunting mutant dinosaurs… Oh, and of course, they’re dinos- ”WITH ATTITUDES”! And they’re paid to go after a twisted dictator that’s creating bio-mutates by the second. The team consists of Archie (a T. Rex); the ”no nonsense” leader of the group, Lorenzo (a Triceratops); the party animal or dinosaur or whatever of the group, Reese (a Stegosaurus); the group’s trigger-happy loose cannon, and Cybano (a Pterodactyl you can’t select); the ”smart” member of the group.
Of course, with these ”attitudes” come some very big guns too. There’s the usual walking and jumping. But there’s also a close-up attack when an enemy is closer than shooting range. Archie attacks with his gun, Lorenzo with his horns and Reese with his tail. The shooting is just like that of Contra‘s, or so one would think. Aside from the regular machine guns, you can accumulate items that fire spread shots and giant fireballs. Then you’ll get a combination fireball and spread shot. You can also get coffee to refill your health bar.
Okay, so the close-up attack is a pretty original idea, but it has problems. I’ll get to that later. The control is just awful. The jumps are too short and you can’t hold or tap the button to control their height. You can’t shoot straight down, which can be quite an annoyance at times. There aren’t enough weapons either and the ones there are far from innovative and appealing. The back of the box describes the gameplay best: ”if it ain’t been shot, shoot it!” You’re probably thinking that this game is action-packed. Actually, things drift quite slowly for this type of game. You won’t see that many explosions or enemies most of the time. Even in two-player mode
The levels are pretty diverse. They range from a dam to a Japanese jungle (don’t ask me how they end up in Japan), to a toy factory. While there is a bit of decent design, don’t expect any real improvisation in the game play. Even in the cart riding level, you control exactly the same way. As for the enemies, there aren’t enough per level and those existing are way too small. Speaking of the enemies, lord knows why you’re fighting ninjas in the first level. And a lot of the levels just have a bunch of puny wall guns as enemies. However, my favorite aspects of the game are some of the boss battles. They look excellent and they’re huge. They have some cool patterns too. One is a massive Minotaur hanging on a building like King Kong, and another is the Hoover dam boss; an enormous fire-blowing brachiosaurus that’s the hardest dam boss on that entire dam level. But enough of the dam puns. The best thing about the bosses is the strategy involved; a few of them require you to methodically dismember them- like knocking off their hands and then going for their heads. And Cybano’s repartees on the bosses are pretty funny. .
The good news about the backgrounds is how they cover the most intricate of details in a way. For example, in the subway stage, you can see graffiti on the wall and even some vending machines. The bad news is, they forgot to make them look GOOD. Most of the levels are pretty bland, consisting of pretty much the same background patterns over and over. They aren’t too colorful either. A bio-engineering computer lab sure should look more complex than it does on this game. Most of the baddies are so small that you won’t even notice the poor one-color detail on them. It seems that they worked on the boss visuals more than anything else. The Dino’s for hire look as silly as you’d expect. They’re just human shaped dinosaurs with uncannily big muscles. Archie wears a leather jacket, Reese is naked, and Lorenzo sports a Hawaiian shirt.
The animation is sad. In fact, it’s some of the worst on the Genesis! First of all, the jumping has hardly anything past the standing animation (don’t expect any flipping or anything). What’s especially lame is the animation the dinos have when they get hit- they just jerk their heads back in one frame. In fact, nearly every move is done in two frames or less. The explosions could’ve been bigger too.
The sounds are bad even for a Genesis game. The gunshots (sounds you’ll be hearing a LOT) are decent, but they don’t- roar like they should. There are a few other sounds like the pathetic earthquake sound and the horrible ”uhh” sound when you get hit. Almost every sound on the game goes ”pgghh” or ”phhoo” or something like that. And most everything is drowned out by the music. It’s pretty lame. But I do like the sound when you get electrocuted by a couple of bosses. I would say that the explosions aren’t loud enough, but it’s- better that way…
The music also needs help. I don’t see why they made the music drown out the sound so much. Did they think they had something going with it? They might have, eight years before it was made. It’s some very outdated game ”80’s” music done on something like a string guitar. But most of the keys used in the tracks are 100% indecipherable. And I probably don’t want to know what they used to do the ”music.”
When you get hit, you don’t even flash. Your head just jerks back for a second, and the moment you recover, you’ll probably get hit again (at least once)! If you fall for two seconds, you die and there’s no way to look up or down for platforms. Second, enemies can slip between your straight shooting and diagonal shooting VERY easily, often to a point when you can see an enemy coming from a mile away but can’t do anything about it! Also, the Dino’s guns are so ridiculously long that two or three enemies can get too close to shoot and too distant to strike. Third, the enemy shots are so small and they pop up so suddenly that you couldn’t possibly catch a lot of them. Worst of all, even if you DO see some of the shots coming, they’re extremely cheap! For instance, when a fireball falls on the ground and spreads into a rippling flame; if you try to jump between them, you’ll always get hit at least twice in succession- although you don’t touch them. Other times you can jump right into the flames and NOT be hit (at least not five times)! Good thing your health bar is pretty big! The end result is simple.
There are quite a few options for difficulty. You can choose three, six, or nine lives on easy, medium, and hard levels (that simply determines how many hits you can take and how many you have to give), and there are quite a few levels. The game has three characters you can select from, but they’re all the exact same except for Reese, who’s fatter than the other two- and you KNOW what kind of advantage that gives! I think that finishing this twice is sufficient. It’s a lot more fun with another player, but that’s not really saying much.
Tom Manson (the comic’s creator) said that Dinosaurs for Hire was ”revenge for all of society’s whining”. It’s worth checking out and beating once or twice. This game is for the hardcore Contra fans and the six-year-olds. In fact, the creator of this must REALLY know what six-year-olds want- dinosaurs, ninjas, and guns.
SCORE: 5 out of 10