Last time in Vintage Dinosaur Gaming, we met the precocious Parasaurolophus Rolph and began a quest to save Paleo Island from a monstrous T.rex. After a tour through the Triassic section of the island, we took a ride on our pterosaur pal Pterrance and landed in the Jurassic section.
This screen represents the early Jurassic, as indicated by the Dilophosaurus skulking about in the distance. Besides the grass-like ground cover, the flora has an appropriately Jurassic flair and shows an attention to detail you might not expect from a game like this. You have to appreciate the variety in the environments, it’d be so easy to just slap the animals in a flat wasteland and call it a day. Much like in the Triassic, you can click around the screen and get some fun facts on topics such as fossilization, the huge arthropods of the Carboniferous, and the plant life that abounded in the days before flowering plants took over. It’s always nice when a piece of dinosaur media extends its scope beyond the dinosaurs themselves! There’s a lot of stuff packed into this game, and it’s a shame this kind of edutainment has effectively gone extinct.
A closer look at the Dilophosaurus reveals a striking resemblance to the Graham High model featured in innumerable Dorling Kindersley books, though the same could be said for any competent contemporary restoration of the crested theropod. It’s a solid attempt at a famous dinosaur, and thankfully averts the Chlamydosaurus curse with no neck adornments. The legs are little more than toothpicks, but let’s not dwell on the negative. As it ambles across the screen, Rolph lets us know that Dilophosaurus is known for the double-crest on its skull. Thanks Rolph, your expertise is truly without equal.
The next screen takes us atop a cliff, where Rolph can meet some of the airborne animals of the Jurassic. The Archaeopteryx apparently wasn’t deserving of its own little movie so we can’t get a closer look than this. It’s fairly standard, even a little retro for the late 90s, but it gets the job done. Wings-with-Hands is in full effect, no surprise, but I’m a little impressed they even tried to do it as a 3D model considering the challenges of computer-rendered feathers. Unlike most animals in the game, Archaeopteryx barely moves beyond rocking on its perch. Clicking it prompts Rolph to let us know that birds first appear in the fossil record during the Jurassic period, and alludes to birds as “the only living descendants of the dinosaurs” because in 1999 it was still a step too far to call them dinosaurs outright!
The only other animal here is that pterosaur flitting about in the distance, which is meant to be Rhamphorhynchus! Strangely enough, there’s no Pteranodon or Quetzalcoatlus in the Cretaceous sections of the island. Rhamphorhynchus and Eudimorphodon are all we get, which is a bit of a shame since pterosaurs were in a transitional period between the monstrous living kites of the early 20th century and the more progressive version presented in Walking with Dinosaurs or Jurassic Park 3. A Dinosaur Adventure 3-D Pteranodon would have been quite a sight!
In an unorthodox move, the Rhamphorhynchus is shown snatching a dragonfly out of the air rather than the expected fish. It then perches atop a stony spire and gives us a wall-eyed stare. Not a flattering look and easily one of the ugliest pterosaurs I’ve ever seen. The anatomy is a total mess with more joints in the arm than is even remotely reasonable, the skull is more Skeksis than pterosaur, and the scaly skin would be baffling if not for that aforementioned problem of rendering fluff, fur, and feathers in such primitive CGI. Needless to say, this is the worst looking creature we’ve seen thus far and not up to the standards set by everything we’ve seen leading up to it.
Moving along, we find ourselves beside a crescent-shaped lake which, by this game’s standards, is positively teeming with life! The huge tail-dragging sauropod in the back is meant to be Diplodocus, as indicated by its narrow neck and especially long tail. The Ceratosaurus seems poised to strike but clearly its heart isn’t in it. It just stands there, looking around, hoping we don’t call it out for being a coward. The pink thing emerging from the trees isn’t directly identified but is clearly the Velociraptor we’ll be seeing next time. Whatever it’s doing in the Jurassic section of the island is a mystery. It’s also HUGE, if perspective is to be believed. The gliding reptile at top left isn’t identified either, but clicking it invites Rolph to let us know that familiar reptiles like lizards lived alongside the dinosaurs. This game was created a decade before the discovery of the Chinese early Cretaceous glider Xianglong, so let’s chalk the presence of a rib-winged lizard up to a lucky guess!
In the Ceratosaurus movie, we watch it sprint across a clearing before popping up and growling right at us! It’s a scary scene for a little kid, but it’s pretty comical coming back to it all these years later. This is a Ceratosaurus drawing on early depictions of the genus, particularly in the chunky “carnosaurian” skull. The placement of the horns doesn’t match the real animal but they have the right sort of shape, so not a bad attempt overall. Check out those osteoderms!
The other focal dinosaur, Diplodocus, is so long that I can’t even fit it in a single image! This stitched-together collage is the best I can do, imperfect as it is. As it wanders by, you really get the impression that you’re looking at a BIG creature. It’s an old-school sauropod with elephantine hands and feet and a droopy tail, but I’ve got a soft spot for sauropods that look like they’ve wandered out of a vintage John Sibbick painting. It’s a little surprising how long this aesthetic hung around even after Jurassic Park firmly left it in the swamps where it belonged. We’d only have to wait another couple of years after the initial release of this title for Walking with Dinosaurs to introduce the world to a post-Renaissance Diplodocus, so the outdated one here is no huge loss.
On to our final screen of the Jurassic section! Rolph finds himself beside another lake, accompanied by three of the most iconic of Jurassic dinosaurs and a positively adorable frog! Stegosaurus is sporting a colour scheme I can only describe as “macaroni and cheese” which is a bold choice, but one I give my personal seal of approval. The Allosaurus reminds me of red wine. Do people pair wine with macaroni? Was this a conscious decision by the game designers? Am I just padding out the text so two images don’t sit too close together on the page? Inquiring minds want to know.
The huge sauropod in the distance is none other than Brachiosaurus, but its 2D appearance should clue you in that it has no accompanying mini-movie. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed; why include it at all if it’s only going to be part of the background?
The Allosaurus movie places us in a cave as the great hunter prowls outside, walking off-screen before suddenly lunging at us through the entrance! Spooky! Spookier still are the completely uniform teeth lining its mouth. I spent a lot of time praising the animals in the Triassic section but I feel like all I’ve done is pick them apart here in the Jurassic. The Cretaceous animals look better, so I’m not too sure what happened. It could be worse, though, since the Allosaurus does sport some fancy crests over the eyes! As any regular readers will know, older depictions of Allosaurus are prone to leaving the head totally unadorned. Rolph, sharing his unparalleled wisdom, lets us know that Allosaurus had three clawed fingers on its hands. You won’t get hard-hitting reporting like that from any other hadrosaur, I guarantee it.
Unsurprisingly, the Stegosaurus is shown wielding its thagomizer as a means to ward off predators. Allosaurus, nearly scraping its belly on the ground, approaches from its left and lunches at lightning speed. Undeterred, the Stegosaurus thrashes madly and delivers a hefty thwack to the theropod’s face, sending it reeling. Thrilling stuff!
Battered and bruised, the Allosaurus limps off to lick its wounds, loiter around a lake, and stick its head in more caves. It certainly was a Different Reptile, but we love it all the same. Take note of the luscious environment in this scene! I can almost feel the humidity in that hazy scenery, though I’m sure that’s a byproduct of the game’s age and not a deliberate design choice. We can get a better look at the Stegosaurus here, and it’s clearly of the tail-dragging retro sort much like the Diplodocus. Is it just me or do theropods always seem to be a little more progressive-looking than their herbivorous counterparts?
Believe it or not, we’ve already reached the end of the Jurassic! Next time we’ll take a dive into that lake and pop out in the Cretaceous region, where the game really starts to show its age. Hope to see you there!