Ahhh, the late ’80s. That glorious time period gave us bad hair, Bill and Ted, clear Pepsi and Tone Loc. Its also gave us the Game Boy, which, if you’re anything like us, was a watershed moment for gaming geeks. Kale in Dinoland is a Mario type platformer game that attempts to bring back those fond memories, and for the most part it succeeds in offering a sweet slice of nostalgia.
You play as Kale, whose girlfriend has been kidnapped by the nefarious Mr. Dino. Your job is to jump, swim, run, and swing through six worlds consisting of hot jungles, hotter volcanoes, artic wastelands and even rivers in order to rescue your sweetheart. Each world is divided into a number of gigantic levels, all with secret doorways and paths to find.
Watch your step.
Along the way you’ll face all manner of enemy critters, like spiders, jellyfish, spiky turtles, and penguins. Your main defense is an arsenal of coconuts and shooting-stars, which you can throw at the enemies. However, in an unique twist, Kale has the ability to ride some of the creatures and use their abilities as if they were his own. Need to get up the high wall somehow? Hop on the back of a jumping pig creature and bounce on up. Need to get across that empty cavern? That bird will give you a ride! There’s a wide range of creatures you can use to get Kale to his goal, and this mechanic provides some rather cool moments.
In platformers like this, tight controls are mandatory, and Kale is pretty good in this regard. You use an onscreen D-pad for movement and “A” and “B” buttons for jumping and attacking. This layout works pretty well, though we wish there was an option to modify the controls, as we sometimes found ourselves hitting both action buttons at the same time, or just missing them all together. Also, controlling the animals when riding them can be fatally loose and inaccurate at times.
Swim with the fishies.
Another niggling problem is that if you happen to deplete all of your lives in a level, you have to restart all the way at the beginning of the world, not just the level. As the individual levels are rather huge and challenging, this can get very annoying. It may be historically accurate to the games from the ’80s, but we’d still like to see some system of checkpoints or other ability to save your progress. Also, the boss battles at the end of every world are fairly boring, which can be deflating after spending so much time getting to the end.
The graphics, on the other hand, are simply wonderful. Presented in all their wonderful 8-bit, pixelated, monotone glory, they actually give you the sensation of playing on a Game Boy. Adding to this is a simply awesome soundtrack. On more than one occasion, you’ll probably find your head bobbing and your feet tapping to the rhythm of the chiptune music.
Kale in Dinoland is a good game that, with a few tweaks to the gameplay, could be a really great game. As it stands, though, it’s still worth playing. From its cute graphics and great music, to huge levels and interesting gameplay elements, this will satiate your nostalgic appetite.