Children the world over are taught that millions of years ago a meteor hit the planet resulting in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Developers TealRocks Studio have reimagined this world altering event to create the world in which DragoDino takes place. Rather than being forced into non existence, DragoDino envisions an adorably cartoonish world where some dinosaurs not only survived the extinction event, but continued on with life on the floating islands – known as Skysauria- that were created following the meteor strike. These dinosaurs not only survived, but evolved and eventually become a more advanced species known as DragoDinos.
The birth of a new dragodino is a rare and sacred event for the species, so it’s understandable that when the newest egg is stolen and flown to the highest tree in the Forest Kingdom the eggs father, Bob, sets out to rescue his offspring. Players can choose to take on the game as Bob or Lola in the beginning, with additional characters being unlocked later on. There are benefits and disadvantages to the characters that you choose, however. Lola, for example, starts with an extra bar of health but is a bit slower than her counterpart, Bob. When playing in local co-op mode, it is possible for both players to choose the same character, so there’s the also the option to choose between a light or dark color scheme for your dragodino to help differentiate which screen belongs to which player.
Platforming is the meat and potatoes of DragoDino’s gameplay mechanics, with each of the 10 levels being broken up into smaller sections. Players vertically traverse through the level, engaging with a variety of enemies most of which are fairly nonthreatening unless they touch you. Some enemies do engage with longer ranged attacks, but they’re still dispatched easily enough. There are plenty of power ups and collectible items – ranging from stun bombs to protective shields to combinations of the two – to be had in each level which can make an already kid-friendly game even more manageable for a younger audience.
This family friend aesthetic makes it tempting to sit down with your child to push through a few levels, but there are some downsides to cooperative runs that add unexpected difficulty. It is possible in coop modes for players to move around the level independent of one another, which is fantastic for collecting the necessary gems in a hurry, but should one player get knocked out the second player only has 9 seconds to find and revive them. There is no minimap or navigational system for DragoDino, so if one player has gone ahead and becomes knocked out, both players could find themselves losing all progress if it is not possible for the second player to find and revive them in time.
DragoDino does have roguelite elements, which adds additional insult to the injury of a slow coop partner not reviving their ally in time. There are two difficulty modes; Normal allows players to have 3 lives and the beginning of each level serves as a checkpoint whereas Hardcore is a one shot run and death puts you back at the very beginning. Even on normal any progress in a level, including collectibles and upgrades, are lost with death. This includes levels that have a boss fight at the end meaning players can progress and complete a level, but die during the boss sequence and have to repeat the entire level over.
There’s no hope for simply memorizing the layout of the level and easily relocating only the enemies that are necessary to kill to advance as each level is randomly generated at the start. One of the primary mechanics for the platforming aspect of DragoDinos is that the dinos can power jump, but only once they’ve found their first blue gem in a level. The more blue gems they accrue, the higher they can leap. Unfortunately, the randomly generated nature of the level design means that occasionally the levels present themselves in such a way that it is impossible to progress because there are no enemies in reach that will drop the blue gem, and without it the dragodinos can not leap higher in the tree. The only recourse when this occurs is to hit retry, which uses up one of the dragodino’s lives and costs players any progress up to that point.
DragoDino’s adorably cell shaded cartoon world and easy to control gliding dinosaurs are quick to draw the eye of parents who are looking for a local cooperative experience to share with their children. The game’s unnecessary difficulty spikes with roguelite elements, insufficient time for revives, and frustrating boss battles means that those same parents might have to spend some time playing without little helpers if they want to actually make it to the ending.