Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pinball Games #2

Dinoland (1991)
By: Wolf Team  Genre: Pinball Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 2,345,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

I think it's safe to say that interest in pinball video games was ignited for pretty much the first time by the Crush series and unsurprisingly it didn't take long for various other developers to try their luck as well. This effort from Wolf Team is one that I remember and it has a lot in common with Naxat's series. Oddly, an improbable back-story has been added here though, which casts you as DINO-Bunz (yes, really), a suitably cool/tough-looking green dinosaur who must protect/rescue his sweetheart, Meeshell (who's pink and has a bow on her head, obviously). This is apparently achieved by smacking up those pesky carnivores with a pinball - actually, I believe DUNO-Bunz is the pinball as he's able to curl into an impressively tight spherical shape - and there are three prehistorically-themed tables over which to do this, based on three primeval environments - land, sea, and sky.

The 'land' table features the most 'normal' dinosaurs...
The game's blurb describes it as a '3-dimensional pinball game' but I can't imagine why they would say that since all tables are viewed from directly overhead. Each is about two screens high and two of them (land and sky) feature two sets of flippers, one at the bottom, the other about half-way up while the 'sea' table just has the one set at the bottom. Much like the tables in the various Crush games, as well as all the usual bumpers, chutes, and twirly things, there are a suitably prehistoric array of creatures bumbling around each table too. Only some can be destroyed by the ball while others just make funny faces when hit but are ever-present, and each table also features a small pocket. Hitting this target once will add a blocker between the bottom set of flippers but if you hit it six times you'll find yourself trotting off to battle a large, scary boss who taunts DINO-Bunz with his captive girlfriend!

Groo! The 'sky' table doesn't look very pleasant...
The bosses may be formidable but it seems that the small brown fellow from the title screen is the mastermind behind the criminal activities that have befallen DINO-Bunz, for he is also found slowly walking around the edge of each single-screen boss encounter toward Meeshell whose innocent pink loveliness is found at the top of the screen. If he reaches her, he whisks her away once again and the confrontation is over. However, DINO-Bunz is able to take his normal form for very short periods here (as indicated by an on-screen meter) and can walk around on the table. If he touches his nemesis while doing this the plodding brown oaf will turn around and start in the opposite direction. If you can fend him off for long enough to smack the boss up sufficiently, you can rescue Meeshell and rejoice in your mutual love! Then you'll return to the main table and she's apparently a captive again.

Gnnnhhhh! Stupid cat/tree monster thing!
Indeed, you can actually 'rescue' Meeshell as many times as you want but the only way to complete the game is to reach 100,000,000 points. Being a pinball game, there are all manner of ways to amass points and bonuses including multi-balls and various multipliers, and the most helpful feature must surely be the slot machine at the top of the default 'land' table. This consists of three reels, each featuring five symbols - matching any two of them awards you with bonus points but matching all three does special stuff. Pink dragons will give you an extra ball, green dragons will give you a large bonus, the brown dude's face will give you other bonuses, while the other symbols represent each of the tables - three shells will take you to the 'sea' table and three birds to the 'sky' table, and nothing takes you to the 'land' table. Because you can't go there. As you're already there.

The 'sea' table is perhaps the best looking one...
So, yes, reaching the other tables isn't easy since it apparently relies on random chance. They're also pretty tough once you're there as well, mainly because you only get one ball on them - if you lose a ball, you don't actually lose it but just get sent back to the Dinoland table instead. This obviously means you'll spend most of your game time on the same table so it'll have to be a really good one to maintain interest, right? That's for sure, but something I'm less sure of is whether it succeeded. There's no point even comparing it to Devil's Crush, nothing could ever beat that, but at the same time Naxat's game does raise the standard accordingly, and I was immediately disappointed by Dinoland when I started playing it. The action is slower, there's less to see, the tables, whilst larger in number, all have fewer features and are much less interesting... it's just inferior to its competition in every way really.

The bottom part of the 'land' table...
Aside from the rather ghastly 'sky' table, the graphics here are quite nice, particularly the cute sprites (though not many of them actually look like dinosaurs), and the music is pleasant enough too, but that's the trouble - everything is nice and pleasant but that's not really enough, I'm sorry to say. Pinball games should be fast, loud, and exciting, not merely 'nice'. The ball should be pinging around all over the place at light speed, making lots of loud noises as it hits all sorts of stuff. Ball movement here isn't terrible but it isn't very convincing either, never feeling as weighty as it should. It's also a pretty easy game - even on game over you can continue from the title screen with your score intact (although all bonuses are reset). Wolf Team describe Dinoland as a 'crazy, zany game' and I suppose it is in some ways. The characters are appealing and it can be good fun, and I did warm to it after a while, but there's just not enough to keep players interested long-term.

RKS Score: 6/10


  1. I've been playing/enjoying this game for years, and I've never seen the sky or sea tables - bit of an eye-opener there!

    It might not be the best pinball game around, but I'm a sucker for anything from Wolf Team so this remains a favourite of the "genre".

  2. Haha, blimey, I guess they're even harder to reach than I thought then! There are other ways to reach them than the slot machine - destroying the right enemies at the right time allows you to access them by 'losing' a ball too, but that happens just as rarely as getting a result on the slots.

    It's a pleasant enough game though, as I said, I just don't find the tables interesting enough or feature-laden enough to sustain my interest. I'm glad I played it though, for sure :)

  3. The interest in videogame rendition of pinball surely skyrocket when Nintendo's Pinball sold for Famicom/NES a staggering 1.85 million units.
    But really pinball was an ideal arcade game to translate in videogame form.

    Devil Crush on PCE is fantastic and is probably my favorite videogame based on pinball.
    I was also always fascinated by Fantastic Pinball on Saturn, maybe one day I will try it.

  4. Yeah, Devil's Crush is definitely my favourite and I can't see it being toppled any time soon. I don't recall hearing much about NES Pinball, was that more popular in Japan? When I was growing up, Alien Crush started the brief pinball game craze and Devil's Crush really got it going. Both are great, as is Jaki Crush. I'll be looking at all sorts of examples for this feature though, and I'm looking forward to it :)

    1. If you haven't played it yet, Pinball on the NES is one you really should play. Deceptively simple looking, it's ridiculously addictive and even has a hidden Breakout-style bonus game. I'd put it just behind Devil Crash as my second favourite pinball game (speaking as someone who LOVES pinball games!).

  5. Wow, that's high praise indeed! I'll definitely check that one out, thanks! :)