It is one of life’s eternal quandaries, the sort of question that people contemplate while staring meaningfully at a sunset or argue over during a dinner party. How do gophers manage to keep the dinosaurs away from their cooked meat?
Okay, maybe I was being a little over dramatic, but that question is one that you will be facing in the iPad version of Go Home Dinosaurs!, a funky little tower defense game that pays homage to possibly the best in the genre game of all time, Plants Vs. Zombies.
When the iPad was first released, it seemed the perfect place for these types of games to shine; with such a large screen and precision controls, games like Plants Vs. Zombies and Tower Madness really worked. But as time has gone on, developers have tried to make the genre more complex, which, in some ways, goes against the reason why people like to play them. Go Home Dinosaurs! slows things down and focuses on what makes these types of experiences appealing.
The idea is as simple as it is bizarre; stop Todd Rex and his army of dinosaurs from reaching the gopher’s BBQ grill. The dinosaurs walk a predetermined path around a garden and players must place their gopher defenses in prime locations. Players take control of the ‘Daddy’ gopher that can be swiftly moved round the garden with just a tap of the screen. He will also throw rocks at the dinosaurs, as long as he is in range. So far, so good, right?
Defending the garden isn’t a walk in the park. To place defenses, players must first collect coconuts in order to buy defense units. These pop up in random spots every few seconds; tap the screen and off goes the gopher to collect the bounty (get it? Bounty…Coconuts? Oh never mind!). Once players have enough, they can start turning their flowerbed in to a furry little arsenal.
It is slim pickings when it comes to firepower when first starting the game, with peashooter totting gophers as the only available unit. As players make their way through the levels, more become available, and all of them are brilliant. From DJ gophers (The DJ GO4) that blast dinos with their loud music, to scientist gophers that use teleporters to transport dinosaurs back to the start of the level, all with their own little quirks, cute voices and catchphrases. Just trying out new units becomes entertaining. Players must pick defenses before the level starts, much like Plants vs. Zombies. I ended up playing levels multiple times to try and work out the best solution.
The game also takes a little inspiration from Tetris. Each unit resembles Tetrominoes in shape, bringing a strategic element to the game. There were many occasions that I placed a unit, only to kick myself, as I hadn’t used any foresight and wasted precious open space. Some of the later levels really limit the open space in which to place defenses, so careful planning is necessary.
The game provides a great deal of challenge; it breaks players in gently and just when it seems too easy, knocks the player down a peg or two with a cunningly difficult stage. The occasional difficultly spike can sometimes cause a little frustration, but I could always go back to a level after unlocking new units. With intuitive and simple controls, anyone can pick up the basics in just a few levels, but entering the second world is when the game really starts to test players, throwing in new dinosaurs, along with shortening their paths. There is also a huge amount of levels to tackle, 60 in total, 18 different types of defense units and a shop where players can buy outfits for their gopher.
Go Home Dinosaurs may seem like a Plants vs. Zombies clone on paper, but is only similar in spirit and shouldn’t play second fiddle. The work put in to both the visual and sound design is a joy, and it made me giggle every few minutes. Although the App Store is now full of tower defense games, most of which are just carbon copies of the original formula, don’t be put off. Go Home Dinosaurs! brings color, comedy and quirkiness to a well-worn genre and is well worth the asking price.
Oh, and don’t worry if you are a vegetarian, there is a meat free mode locked away in there somewhere.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.