Bad Dinos is a fairly typical tower defense game. What stood out to me about it though, is its creators; Insomniac Games. The Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive developers are going crazy with projects at the moment. Console games, PC games, VR games, mobile games, they’ve got eggs in all the baskets you could think of. Having experimented with free-to-play and in-app purchases before, Insomniac put this one out for a few bucks. Pay once and it’s yours. No gimmicks or nagging. Good call, I’d say.
Bad Dinos is, by most accounts, exactly what you’d expect from a tower defense game. However you feel about the genre, this won’t be the game to change your mind. That being said, there are a few interesting mechanics at play here that keep it fresh. Protecting cave-people from dinosaurs is your goal, and placing turrets is your means of achieving it. As your towers mow down the dino-horde you’ll earn more bones to upgrade your existing defences or build new ones.
As well as automatic defenses, you’ve got four special abilities at your disposal. Each runs on a cooldown to prevent overuse, and they go a long way to keeping gameplay engaging. Use a line of decoys to redirect enemies, throw some tar down to slow the dinos, rain spears upon them, or, most importantly, catch them with a net. Once a dino’s health is low enough, dropping a net on it will capture it for your side. Once you’ve got your hands on one, you can send it out to attack the approaching dinosaurs and defend your side. A lot of the strategy here comes from timing your net uses to capture the strongest enemies and make them yours. You don’t want a strong enemy being killed while your net’s still cooling down.
Each level offers a different layout to wrap your head around, dynamically changing throughout the stage. New paths will fall into place, allowing enemies to flank your sent out dinosaurs or bypass existing defences. These changes keep the game challenging and strategic. Do you go all out blocking off the existing enemy paths, or save some bones to deal with the new ones when they pop up?
At the conclusion of a stage, you’ll be awarded up to three stars for your performances. One for beating the level, one for taking no damage, and a third for meeting a time limit. These stars can then be used to upgrade your special attacks – a great incentive to replay levels. Maybe you reach a tough level that you could really use a better net to beat. Go back and clean up some extra stars you missed, grab an upgrade and head back in.
Bad Dinos isn’t without Insomniac’s usual charm. Animated scenes tell a rudimentary story to link each level while character and environment designs show off a nice hand-drawn style. It has that crude yet polished sketch aesthetic I’d compare to something like Castle Crashers – very Newgrounds. There’s a nice catchy theme song to match, and I must say I got a few laughs from the cave-people’s grunts and hums.
Bad Dinos doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel that is tower defence, but provides a high-quality iteration on the formula. Taking enemies as your own and using special abilities in real-time keeps the player involved, while adding to the strategic depth provided by evolving levels. For a well developed and fairly substantial tower defence experience on Android or iOS, you needn’t look further.
DISCLAIMER: this game was purchased by the writer, and reviewed on an android device over 5 hours of gameplay.