Indisputable fact: dinosaurs are awesome. Giant, majestic beasts who would just as soon munch a twig as rip your face off with their crazy teeth, they really have few equals on this planet in terms of sheer cool. Dragons and giant sharks are pretty rad too, but neither of those girls are clever enough to figure out a door handle.
That's why we're pretty bummed about Ubisoft's 3DS launch title Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D: it takes one of the most amazing things to stomp around on Earth and plonks it into a drab fighter. Not that this is unprecedented, as earlier entries in the series on both DS and DSiWare have all been somewhat underwhelming, but a kid can dream, eh?
There's this really evil dinosaur dictator called the Arkosaurus, see, who broke free of its imprisonment and is bent on taking over the planet, killing off pretty much every lizard in its path. Four hero dinosaurs from differing families must step up to stop him, and that's where you come in.
Dinosaurs 3D takes the combat of Punch-Out!!, simplifies it and surrounds it with extremely linear "exploration" periods that mostly amount to walking forward to your next bout, collecting bones and equipment upgrades, while yelling at smaller animals along the way. Battles are highly telegraphed, with enemies flashing red right before they attack and giving you time to figure out which direction their attack will strike so you can dodge and pounce accordingly. Occasionally they flash blue, and if you sock one in that state you'll get a special Dino Strike to unleash some Dino Pain. There's also a finite area element to battles, and each successful blow will knock the knocked dinosaur back — making ring-outs an entirely viable factor in victory or defeat.
It may sound like it has a lot of depth, but it's tough to argue that it does given how easy and obvious each fight actually is. Granted, this is a game geared towards kids, and perhaps this reviewer has become something of a curmudgeon in his old age, but battles quickly get repetitive, predictable and boring enough that we can't imagine many kids wanting to stick with it on the strength of combat alone. Nor can we picture why anyone would want to continue trudging through the between-battle portions, which are dubbed "exploration" sections yet are anything but; they're jungle corridors with some twigs to break. However, it is the only place where you'll find bones, which unlock new colours for customising your dinosaur and reveal "fun facts" about each species.
There are four classes of dinosaur — predator, hunter, charger or defender — that each must complete their hero mission, but they all seem to behave the same apart from the expected size:speed ratio. Completing one campaign allows you to call on that hero during combat in your next dinosaur's journey.
As you play you'll unlock droves of equipment to fit your dinosaur that modify statistics like power and health, and the frequency in which these are doled out brings a sense of constant reward. These items can be traded with a friend locally and new ones can be plucked as if out of thin air through StreetPass if you and your stranger designate the same family of dinosaur for the ether. If they differ then you battle — the only form of competitive multiplayer here — and the winner snags a reward; the loser presumably cries.
It's not the most visually striking of games, but seeing reasonably OK dinosaurs in stereoscopic 3D is pretty neat, and the sound strikes just the right balance between cheesy and Jurassic Park. The two are mutually exclusive, we assure you.
Dinosaurs are awesome, but you wouldn't really know from playing Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs 3D. Kids and kids-at-heart may get a thrill out of seeing dinosaurs kinda-sorta duke it out in 3D, but the game itself fails to offer much beyond its really simple structure and fight mechanics, both of which get old just a little too quick.