A Dino's Night Out by Aris Katsaris(2000)

The Evil, Ugly Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: This is almost as bad as that stupid bear game from a couple years ago.

The Nice, Handsome Guy On My Shoulder's Verdict: This was my favorite game of Dino Comp 2000.

My Verdict: Proof that a newcomer can write a great game on his first try.

Game Information

Game Type: Inform

Author Info: Aris Katsaris is a big interactive fiction fan from Greece. He's a frequent poster on the IF newsgroups, a beta tester for the stars, and maintains a homepage.

Other Games By This Author: This category is quite redundant when it comes to DinoComp games. This is Aris' first game.

Download Link: The entire Dino Comp 2000 package(650 KB) includes this game and a lot of other great ones.

The Review...

Loosely based on David Dyte's famed game A Bear's Night Out, Aris Katsaris' A Dino's Night Out took me by surprise. I had played several other DinoComp entries by first time authors and thought they had showed potential, but Aris' first game doesn't just show potential: it fulfills it. The writing is elegant, tasteful, appropriate, and entertaining. The story is endearing, amusing, and in its way, fascinating. The puzzle...well, there aren't any puzzles, so forget about that. Even the design of the game is very, very smooth - what a joy to play a game that doesn't tell me I'm doing something wrong every few moves! "Get out of bed" would still have been nice, though. The game is small, with I believe four rooms, one NPC you cannot interact with too much, and five or six objects, but here I appreciated the small size of the game. It's reminiscent of Chicks Dig Jerks - no, don't laugh - in that it can be played through very quickly, but still be an extremely satisfying gameplay experience despite, or perhaps because of that. This, I imagine, is what mini-comp games all aspire to be. The key aspect of the game is the idea that the player has the opportunity to "choose" a path for the character he is playing, a pet dinosaur belonging to a human master in modern times. This choice is, believe it or not, built around the dinosaur watching different video tapes. What I especially liked about this game was that none of the choices were presented as being the "right one" - each was equally valid considering the video the dinosaur had just watched. On the downside, by picking a video you essentially choose your character's fate unconsciously. To play the game along another path, you have to restart it all over again. Now, I don't know any dinosaurs personally, but this does make it seem like they are very, very vulnerable to mass media manipulation. I would have liked to have seen even more choices in the game myself - it could have been a brilliant example of truly interactive fiction, then. Kind of like Alter Ego, you dig? As it is, it's a little less interactive than it seems...but according to Neil DeMause, that goes for IF in general.

The game does a great job of raising interesting issues. In fact, I daresay it's artier than anything entered into the recent IF Art Show - if you define art the same as me, that is, which you probably don't. Out of all the games in the Dino Comp this year, this is the one that really put me into a dinosaur's head. No, it's not a simulation of what being a dinosaur would really be like(Dino Dinnertime was actually probably better at doing that); rather, it's a fantasy of what it would like to be a dinosaur if dinosaurs had the same basic level of intelligence as human beings have. It's intriguing to look through dinosaur eyes with my own intellect intact. This game exactly illustrates what the best IF is often about: thrusting the player into unfamiliar virtual situations and into alien roles that they are not accustomed to to dealing with or playing in the "real world", but calling upon their knowledge, intelligence, and "sense of wonder"(thanks, Magnus Olsson) garnered from years of experience in that "real world" in order to conquer, or at least understand, these unusual surroundings. It's not a simple "message" game in the same way as people say LASH is - it's more theoretical in nature, and really offers no definite answers to the questions it poses.

So, I really did love playing this game. I enjoyed the humor where it appeared, but was also able to appreciate the more serious themes raised in the game, too. It's not just a great mini-comp games, IMHO, but also one of the better games I've played this year. Play it today! The water's fine!

Simple Rating: 7/10

Complicated Rating: 32/50

Story: 8/10

Writing: 8/10

Playability: 8/10

Puzzle Quality: 1/10

Parser Responsiveness: 7/10

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