Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter - Minis
For better or worse, Carnivores is on the PSP.
If you’ve always wanted to hunt dinosaurs on you PSP, rejoice, because Carnivores: Dinosaur hunter is here. It’s kind of ironic, actually, because it’s been out for more than a decade on the PC. For better or worse, however, it has moved to the PSP.
While I did have a bit of fun with this game, there are some very important stumbling blocks that cannot be overlooked, and keep this game from an 8.5/10. I will explain these failures later into the review.
The core gameplay itself is simple enough, because the title really says it all. You’re here to hunt dinosaurs, so choose your weapon, select a dinosaur, and venture off into the prehistoric forest. This may seem simple enough, and it is; yet where the game truly leaves you hanging is in its lack of any kind of tutorial or instructions. The menu itself is not that confusing: You can hunt, view the controls, or visit your trophy room. However, the menu navigation controls are very confusing, in which you will only be using the up and down buttons on the D-pad to cycle through your options. This was very confusing at first, and when I finally got the hang of it, I really knew that this was a very rough PC-to-PSP port.
The menu itself is not the most confusing thing about the game; that begins the instant you step into the forest. What hit me like a freight train was the controls. See, me being a hardcore Medal of Honor: Heroes player, immediately went for the face buttons to look around, and pushed the analog stick forward to head out. What happened next was one of the most frustrating moments I’ve ever had in a game.
My character instantly looked up into the sky, while slowly shuffling forwards. I tried to right myself, only to continue moving around with that awkward motion. It took me about a minute of awkwardness and frustration to figure out that the controls had been swapped: the face buttons moved me around, and the analog stick aimed. Needless to say, it was a very tough button configuration to get used to, considering the fact that the face buttons make horrible movement buttons.
Once I had gotten somewhat used to the wonky controls, I set out for my prey, awkwardly stumbling through the forest. After I had walked about 200 feet, I realized that I had no idea exactly where I was going, and from what I had read about this game, the maps were quite large. I knew that there was a map in the game, but the game never took the time to tell me how to get to it. So, after a few moments of button-pressing and a few accidental shots fired off (there goes stealth), I found the map.
What you will learn quite early on in your hunt is that finding your target involves a bit of basic map coordination and pressing on the triangle button frequently. This is a very stripped-down and fun-depriving way of finding your target, and I was quite disappointed with the reality of having to find every dinosaur I hunt like this.
Now, let’s get down to the main element of the gameplay: the hunt. At the hunt menu, you’ll select a weapon, select an area, and select a dinosaur to hunt. After that, you’ll select the perks you want to use: camouflage, scent covers, sound suppressors, radar, and tranquilizers. Each of these perks will benefit you on the hunt, but for each perk you use, there is a significant point deduction from your kill. The exception to this is the tranquilizer, which does not kill the dinosaur as quickly as a bullet, and adds a 25% point bonus to your kill. These options may sound like they give your hunt some kind of strategy, but the reality of it is that hunting without these perks is very difficult, especially when you are hunting predators.
In the field, you’ll have a few options at your disposal to take out your dinosaur of choice. To attract them, you have a call, which changes with each dinosaur. This call can attract dinosaurs, but you need to use it in moderation, or you’ll scare them away with rapid blasts of sound. You need to simply respond to their calls, rather than wailing at distant dinosaurs.
One thing I found out about hunting predators was this: If you value your life, do NOT use the call with predators when you’re within a quarter-mile of them, especially raptors. They will be upon you before you can even raise your sights, and it’ll be game-over.
This brings me to the next wonky thing about the game: the gun controls. The left trigger brings up your sights, and the right trigger fires. This sounds simple enough, and it really is, but what makes a hunt so frustrating and aggravating is the extremely slow movement of your sights. If a raptor’s charging at you just out of your sights, you’ll slowly turn towards him…only to be devoured as the game’s impossibly slow sight movement laughs in my face. On top of this, there is no way to “fire from the hip”, so to speak, or just hold the gun without peering down you sights. To fire the gun, you need to look down your sights.
The weapon choice in the game seems quite varied, but what prevents the player from enjoying this variety early on is the fact that they’re only given a pistol to start with. It has a high rate of fire, very low damage, and medium accuracy. After you’ve finally made your first kill with the pistol, you’ll unlock more weapons, opening up more possibilities. The full roster includes the pistol, the shotgun, the X-bow, the rifle, the sniper rifle, and a rifle-looking weapon I have not tried out yet.
A personal favorite of mine is the X-bow, which looks like a crossbow except that the bow portion of the weapon at the front is not a single piece, but an X, so the bow has two strings. It has sights that allow for distance and altitude, which makes you take into consideration your position and the position of the dinosaur. This is a small sacrifice for a very powerful weapon, and you’ll find that the X-bow can get the job done just as well or better than any rifle.
The full roster of dinosaurs is quite varied, and it includes the Parasaurolophus, the Triceratops, the Ankylosaurus, the Allosaurus, the Stegosaurus, the Velociraptor, the Spinosaurus, the Ceratosaurus, and, of course, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. You only have the option of hunting low-point value dinosaurs first, but as you hunt more of the smaller ones, you’ll unlock some of the bigger ones to hunt on more maps.
When you’ve finally managed to make your kill, or if you are still wandering through the prehistoric jungle, you have a few options. You can relocate to another random area of the map, or you can escape the area, which is the only way to quit the game without getting eaten.
The main problem with all these basic mechanics of the gameplay that make up the hunt are never explained to you at all in the game. There’s no tutorial, no instructions, and no way of knowing what you’re supposed to do once you set out into the forest. I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to hunt dinosaurs other than my selected target. I didn’t know that I couldn’t get any more ammo once I ran out. I didn’t know that I could escape when I’m being chased by a raptor. There are so many things that you won’t know about the game that you’ll have to spend a few hunts wandering around, getting eaten, and wandering around some more, before you finally start to get how to hunt. I believed I’ve talked extensively about the gameplay, and how hard it is to master. You won’t find much that you’ll like in the gameplay, but it does have a kind of strategy that keeps it from being absolutely abysmal. Overall, I’d give the gameplay a 6.3/10.
The sound is fairly good, with a variety of creature sounds that are constantly around you in the prehistoric forest, and a variety of sounds for the various dinosaurs. The calls are also varied, and sometimes have a few different sounds for a single dinosaur. Overall, I’d give the audio an 8.7/10.
The graphics…graphically, Carnivores isn’t that impressive. This is not surprising, considering the fact that this is a turn-of-the-century age graphical achievement. Environments are blocky, and dinosaur models seem rough and without fluidity. You won’t find the environments too impressive, but the nice variation of different trees, bushes, and lakes once again holds this game’s graphics back from the edge. Overall, I’d give the graphics a 6.5/10.
The final verdict? Carnivores: Dinosaur hunter is a game that will be fun at first, but will quickly lose its charm, and like me, you’ll be dying to get back to MOH: Heroes. The hunts are sometimes mildly intense, and keep you on your toes, but after a little while, they simply don’t have any real meaning, except making you get eaten over and over and over again. This game is an alright mini, but some major graphical and mechanical tweaks would have gone a long way to put this mini on my list of top games. However, if you’re just looking for a good hunt, you should pick this one up if you’re willing to fork over $4 for a game that is, debatably, worth it. My final score is 7.1/10. Thanks for reading my review; thumbs up if you think it was helpful!