Dino Frontier PlayStation VR Review

Publisher: Uber Entertainment  Developer: Uber Entertainment  Genre: Simulator  Players: 1  

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

You would think that mixing dinosaurs and cowboys would make for a great game, just like how people thought cowboys and aliens would make a great film…. Sadly, not so much.

Dino Frontier is a tabletop VR game in which you take on the role of Mayor and overlook your tiny town, helping it to develop. You begin by creating buildings for settlers to… settle in, and once they have arrived they will begin to forage for resources, such as wood and food. These resources then go towards their survival and creating more buildings, such as a hospital, a saloon, a place to eat and other such amenities, and you’ll soon find you have yourself a thriving little town to take care of.

A table top game, you can shrink and enlarge the table so you can see more of the action.

These settlers can also wrangle a variety of dinosaurs, each with their own uses, training them to help with the foraging, or to help in other areas, such as healing settlers if they have been injured during a fight, or if their needs are low.

Settlers needs include food, sleep, entertainment and health, and if these become low then they won’t do their jobs thoroughly. Each settler also has a set of skills, including fighting, harvesting, helping and luck, and these can be upgraded as they work. Settlers can also upgrade when you buy the Settlers Training Yard, which sees them improving on their fighting and foraging skills, and also their training abilities for the dinosaurs. You can also purchase a shooting gallery to improve the settlers attacks and defences.

Your own physical presence in the game is that of two giant hands, which can pick up dinosaurs, settlers, and other objects, including a big mallet that you can hammer when creating your buildings. You can choose where to place buildings on an allotment of land and buildings can be upgraded to cater to more and more settlers; you’ll find that more people will want to join your village as it expands, and you can choose the best settlers to join your group.

When picking up a dinosaur or settler, you can turn over your hand so that they are standing in your palm, and this way you can view their statistics. You can also upgrade the settlers in this manner when an arrow pointing upwards appears above them, signalling they are ready to be upgraded.

At times your village will come under attack from bandits, who will arrive wielding guns and/or dinosaurs – at this point I found shoving the biggest dinosaurs and best trained settlers at them helped to defeat them the quickest, and after that your settlers and dinosaurs will just go back to business as usual. It’s in these moments when your settlers and dinosaurs can come to harm. Settlers are soon healed with a quick visit to the hospital, though if you lose a dinosaur, you’ll have to capture another one to replace it, as their health cannot be replenished.

The game plays smoothly enough, though I did experience some annoying, glitchy camera issues from time to time, and even resetting the camera wouldn’t fix it. There were even a couple of game crashes.

To capture a dinosaur you have to create a lure. The type of lure you use will attract the same type of dinosaur, so if you want a T-Rex, you will need to use a T-Rex lure. You then place the lure in a clearing and wait for the dinosaur to arrive. You’ll be informed, via fanfare and a voice over cue, when a dinosaur strolls along, at which point you can then send in your best trained settlers, and any other dinosaurs you might have, to pummel this new arrival into unconsciousness, at which point you can then cage it up and send it to a pen for training.

Creating lures uses up resources, though gathering resources is hardly the most difficult of tasks. Settlers will chop down trees for wood and chop down bushes for food. Some will even try to take on a wild dinosaur which they can kill for extra meat. However, there’s never any threat of you running out of resources, as you can either use a watering can to regrow the trees and bushes in seconds, or you can lure and capture a dinosaur that has the same ability as the watering can to do this for you (although using the watering can is a lot quicker).

As well as the village, you can also head out to an abandoned allotment where you can grow extra plants and set dynamite to blow apart rocks to collect iron and gold, which are probably the most difficult resources to collect. You can also take up to four settlers into a mini defence game, whereby you have to defend your resources from waves of bandits, whilst also chiselling and chipping away at the base of a mountain to collect iron and gold. What you collect here will go towards setting up defences around the area, such as turrets and dummies that distract enemies, though you’ll find you’d much prefer to use these resources to expand your village, and quitting the defence game will allow you to take any leftover resources back there, rather than wasting these valuable resources during the defence game.

During the loading screens, in between your travelling to and from the allotment, mini game or your town, there is some humour to be found as two cowboys sit around a campfire and sing songs clearly aimed at children; one song is about brushing your teeth. Dino Frontier is amusing in its randomness, but whilst the initial humour and charm is very endearing, it very quickly fades when you realise that there really isn’t much for you to do at all.

Capture dinosaurs to use as helpers, or kill ’em for food.

Settlers will chop down wood and find their own food, followed by the respective dinosaur that will help to collect it. You can give a helping hand, picking up and placing resources in their respective mills, though once you realise the dinosaurs will do all that work for you, you’ll mostly leave them to it, especially when the repeated movements of picking up each individual item and placing it in the mills, back and forth, starts to make you feel like you are going to suffer with repetitive strain injury. Also, once the resources are in their mills, a settler, not you, will churn it into usable wood or food, some interaction that could, and should, have been left up to you.

Dino Frontier is a cute, fun game – for a while. Unfortunately once you have wrangled enough dinosaurs and expanded your village, which doesn’t take very long, you’ll find that interaction on your part starts to shrink, with the dinosaurs and settlers taking up a lot of the work. Most of the characters will do any work of their own accord, with you demoted to giving assistance only; it feels like the game plays itself.

Of course, that’s all part and parcel of a simulator – think of Dino Frontier as The Sims meets Jurassic Park – but some more actual gameplay would have made it feel like you were part of the world rather than an outsider watching. Heck, even giving the player something interesting to watch would have been beneficial, but there’s really not enough going on to keep you invested. You don’t even get to lasso a dinosaur yourself, which would have been very fun!

Dino Frontier feels like yet another demo game for the PSVR, one that is still testing the waters of what the hardware can do, and this game doesn’t really push the boundaries in the way that other VR games have proven to be able to do, Tethered being one example. If you are looking for substance here, you’ll definitely be disappointed; there’s an idea here, but the execution is definitely lacking and a game should not be commended for its concept alone.