While tower defense is one of those genres that I can’t seem to get enough of, even I have to admit that it’s high-time for some innovation. Enter Go Home Dinosaurs ($4.99), the latest title from Fire Hose Games and a TD game that looks to carve its own niche.
While a first glance might lead one to believe its primarily for kids, beneath the playful, cartoony exterior lies a game that expertly combines tower defense with puzzle elements, making it one of my current favorites of the genre.
Apparently the love for BBQ is so great it extends across time periods and species. As such, Dinosaurs puts you in command of an army of gophers that must guard their delectable BBQ pit against an onslaught of hungry dinosaurs.
When it comes to basic tower defense gameplay, Go Home Dinosaurs plays similar to many other titles. Dinosaurs run down a pre-set path towards the BBQ pit with two pieces of dynamite acting as last-second defenses against impending BBQ devouring. Meanwhile, players place a variety of gopher-manned weapons around the path in an attempt to drive the dinos towards extinction. A coin system rounds out the gameplay, allowing players to earn currency in-game (no IAPs) and purchase supplemental towers with limited, but powerful effects.
Where Go Home Dinosaurs differs from other TD games is in actual tower placement and in the ability to directly control a movable attacking gopher.
While tower placement is important in each level of Dinosaurs, players will spend the majority of their time using their gopher to collect coconuts (which act as the currency needed to place towers) and place them in a good position to attack the oncoming dinos. The gopher isn’t a slouch in terms of damage dealing either, meaning players will need to balance collecting coconuts with keeping him constantly attacking.
It’s a fun twist to the gameplay that adds some continual, fast-paced action to an otherwise passive genre.
Taking a page from classic puzzlers like Tetris, tower placement is the other aspect that Go Home Dinosaurs mixes up. Each tower has a specific “shape" that takes up a certain amount of spaces in a certain formation on the gridded play field.
Players quickly learn that towers can’t be placed indiscriminately without forethought. In addition, the level design will naturally prevent certain towers from being effective, forcing players to develop a well-rounded approach to using all the towers. This actually brings some challenge to later levels, a concept that I welcome whole heartedly in TD.
In this regard, Go Home Dinosaurs almost becomes a TD/puzzle hybrid. Considering players can only bring a certain number of towers into a level, part of the challenge becomes figuring out which towers to bring and in which formations to place them.
There’s also the fact that your gopher also has to be part of the equation. Do you place your towers at the entrance and risk blocking any effective spots for your gopher to attack from? Or, do you focus on saving up coconuts for powerful towers while using your gopher as the primary damage dealer until you can get them set up?
These are just a couple of many questions and scenarios that will pop up, and showcase some of the depth that Dinosaurs offers beyond standard tower defense titles.
There are a few annoyances with Go Home Dinosaurs, mainly its iPad-only status, some minor control issues when placing towers (i.e. tap and dragging a specific tower will occasionally select another tower in my inventory), and slow-down on non-iPad 4 hardware. However, these are relatively minor in comparison to the many positives the game offers.
In the end, Go Home Dinosaurs is a well-executed tower defense title with enough additions to the genre to make it worth checking out. Suffice to say, I hope other developers take note when trying to differentiate and improve upon tower defense.