My heart sank after I used the random number generator this week. The first week, it gave me Jurassic Park, a game from my childhood that I had very fond memories of. The second week, it gave me Top Gun: The Second Mission, a game that I didn’t play as a child and could go into with no preconceptions. But this week, it gave me The Adventures of Dino Riki, a game that I have nothing but bad memories of. This is a game that I put tons of time into while I was growing up and had never even seen the first boss.
When I sat down to play the game this morning, I knew what I was getting into. But I had no idea when I was a kid. This was an age before the internet, where you didn’t happen to catch the issue of Nintendo Power that talked about it or have any friends who had played the game before, all you could judge the game on was the box. If you were buying the game used, you often wouldn’t even have the text on the back of the box to tell you what the game is. The art on the cartridge shows a caveman jumping at a T-Rex (with too many fingers) and a pteranodon. To me, this screams that it’s an action platflormer with a dinosaur theme. Well, great! I love platformers and dinosaurs! What could go wrong?
Turns out the game is a bullet-hell shooter. You are a caveman, who I assume must be Dino Riki, and you move up the screen while tons of enemies flood the screen and try to kill you. The really weird thing is, these enemies aren’t even dinosaurs. You get these strange looking heads with feet that kind of look like mutated goombas, some giant bugs, and some birds.
As you advance through the level, you’ll find several power-ups. There’s a speed boost, a diamond that just grants points, and some health. Most importantly though, is weapon upgrades. You start off with just rocks, but after you pick up an upgrade, they become hammers. After that you get boomerangs and then fire breath. These last two are especially helpful as they clear a much bigger portion of the screen than the first two. Based on the demo that plays if you don’t hit start right away, there’s a power up that makes Riki super buff and makes him throws images of himself as a weapon, but I never got that.
One of the stranger things about Dino Riki is that it has a jump button. You wouldn’t normally expect that kind of thing from this style of game, and it seems kind of pointless at first. But then you get to a point where you have to jump to a giant lilypad to avoid drowning in water. Jumping is really finicky, and I had more than my fair share of deaths from missing the jump. Eventually, you reach a part where you have to jump across a series of lilypads, some of which disappear and reappear periodically. I’m pretty sure that’s as far as I had ever gotten growing up. But a crazy thing happened this morning. I made it past those lilypads.
After that, you continue with pretty standard bullet-hell gameplay. Eventually you reach a cave and the game stops scrolling. Outside is a single weapon upgrade, so you grab that and enter the cave. Inside is a pteranodon. While technically, pteranodons and other pterosaurs were not dinosaurs, this is close enough for me! The pteranodon spits fire at you, you dodge it and fire back. It’s actually surprisingly easy easy considering how difficult it was to get here.
Level 2 is a nightmare. It takes place in a desert and has way more enemies than the the first level. There’s these triceratops looking things that sit at the edge of the screen and spit fire the goes all the way to the other side. I quickly died and learned that once you game over, you have to go back to the first level. So that’s where I stopped. But whatever, I made it further in the game this morning than I had the rest of my life. That’s a victory as far as I’m concerned.
The Adventures of Dino Riki is not a bad game by any means. It’s brutally difficult, and that’ll be enough to turn off a lot of players, myself included. But when you manage to overcome the obstacles, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. Too bad the obstacles that come after are even harder.