Hey, kid! Do you think that you could have done a better job than Mother Nature in the field of dinosaur design? You do? Why, you arrogant little swine. Get over here and have a go at DesignWare's 1989 Amiga prehistoric-beast-tinkering-with-simulator Designasaurus, that'll teach you a thing or two about having proper respect for the evolutionary process.
This game - and it's really not a game but rather an "educational" activity pack - is called Designasaurus. I know this not only because the word "DESIGNASAURUS" is boldly emblazoned on the title screen, but also because of the background music - a riff played on synthetic pipes, overlayed with a deep voice chanting "de-sign-asaurus, de-sign-asaurus" over and over again. I haven't even clicked a button yet and already I feel like the moment I finish designing my saurus I'll be stuffed into its ribcage and set alight in a Cretaceous recreation of The Wicker Man.
I clicked the "Build Dino" button, and here we are in the "Museum of Natural History." The museum has no exhibits, just a balding man in a lab coat and a filing cabinet where they store all the dinosaur bones. It's not exactly the Smithsonian.
I'm sure you can tell how this works: assemble your dinosaur by clicking on the filing cabinet and selecting the parts you want to use.
Professor Anarchy here retrieves the fossils by giving the filing cabinet a swift kick. Not very professional, but the Prof doesn't care. He's a rebel, a real wild one. You know, within the palaeontology community.
As you rifle through the "skull" drawer of the bone cabinet, you can learn some interesting dinosaur facts. See, this is edutainment! Now I know that the skull of an ankylosaurus a) has a horny, toothless beak and b) looks a bit like those snapping flowers from Super Mario Bros. 3. Armed with knowledge like this, I'll be a hit at any social function or future dating scenario! As long as I can steer the conversation towards dinosaur skull physiology, that is.
There are six species of dinosaur represented, and you can chose a head, body and tail to mix and match, which seems appropriate because that's pretty much how early palaeontology worked. Once you've chosen your three parts, you can print out a picture (or even a t-shirt) if you've got an Amiga printer hooked up, or you can just, um, look at them.
I built a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and I named him Barry. I think when it asked me to enter "Dinosaur Name" I was supposed to enter the species, but that seemed a little impersonal so Barry it is.
"Field Report: Barry's arms are useless, ha ha ha. Barry is composed entirely of Tyrannosaurus Rex parts and therefore appears to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or possibly three velociraptors standing on each other's shoulders and wearing a big coat."
Of course, the true appeal of the Dino-Building function is the ability to mix-and-match fossils to create the sort of freakish abominations that would give credence to a Creationist view that God put dinosaur fossils in the Earth to test us, mighty beasts like this thing.
You see, the long, blade-like arms are necessary to counterbalance the weight of the armoured tail, and the tiny head was selected to ensure a brain so tiny that it could not comprehend the cruel taunts of the other dinosaurs. I put a lot of careful thought into designing this thing, it definitely wasn't that I just randomly pulled three sets of bones out of the Filing Cabinet of Ancient Wonders.
This one is my favourite, though:
I'm just impressed that I somehow managed to make a skeleton look overweight.
The only way this thing will have trouble deciding on a diet is if it was dropped in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet and was momentarily hesitant about where to start.
That's enough messing about with bones, let's try the other options on the title screen, starting with Walk Dino.
After selecting one of three dinosaurs - either the stegosaurus, brontosaurus or the T. Rex - you can enter the only part of Designasaurus that could be considered a game. Your chosen dinosaur, the T. Rex in this case, will follow you mouse cursor around the screen. Your mission is to walk it through five different epochs - and by "epochs" I mean "screens" - until you reach the end and the game throws you a big dinosaur party or something. This should be a piece of cake!
I got halfway across the second screen before my Tyrannosaurus decide that the hot Arizona sun was a little too much for him and he lay down for a nap. No, he's fine, he'll be getting up any minute now. Any... minute... now... erm, are you okay, Mr. Rex?
It turns out that I'm as bad at looking after dinosaurs as I am at looking after horses, and poor old Rex starves to death beneath the relentless desert sun. You see, your dinosaur has a "calories" bar that constantly decreases and falls even faster when when you move. Run out of calories and you starve to death.
Not to worry, you can refill your calories by eat the other dinosaurs that wander past. There goes Rex now, chomping away at a brontosaurus while it just kinda stands there and looks disinterested. Due to a quirk of the sprite's positions, it looks like Rex is standing on a bush to give himself the extra height required to get into a good bronto-munching position. It also looks less like he's tearing into the herbivore's flesh in a brutal display of animalistic carnage and more like he's trying to slow-dance with the bloody thing. That's why the dinosaurs are extinct - their metabolisms burned through calories at an unsustainable rate, and instead of eating their prey they kept trying to waltz with it.
I gave the Dino Walk another go as a stegosaurus, but to much the same result - you can eat the bushes for calories, if you can manage to align yourselves with them correctly, which is a struggle in itself. Plus there are T. Rexes that can eat you. It's the ciiiiircle of liiiiife!
I'll come back to the Dino Walk in a bit, but for now I'm going to check out the "Print Dino" option.
Oh, I see, you're all pals now but when I try to guide one of you through the grand sweep of prehistory you turn on each other faster than a bunch of kids who have just been caught copying each other's schoolwork? Bloody dinosaurs.
So, the "Print Dino" option lets you print out a picture of a dinosaur, funnily enough. Just click on the dinosaur you'd like to see in blocky Amiga-O-Vision and bang, a line drawing just ready and waiting to be coloured in on a rainy Sunday afternoon will appear.
Here is a Brontosaurus, peering at a volcano and hoping that it doesn't erupt and throw up a cloud of ash and debris that could render his species extinct. It is also showing your its arse.
I can't print these out and I don't have any wax crayons anyway, but through the magic of Computer Science I can colour these pictures in digitally, like so.
An artistic masterpiece, I'm sure you'll agree. All those hours spent pissing about on Mario Paint were obviously hours well spent. Just like in Mario Paint, however, colouring things in properly soon becomes dull and the frustrated painter within me began to clamour for something a little more avant-garde, a touch more cutting edge.
This is modern art, this is. I call it "Pterodactyl Symphony in Azure and Redcurrant." I'm asking $25,000. And why stop there? Digital technology offers so much more variety than the dull, staid world of "fine" art.
The only reason that Van Gogh didn't work in the medium of animated GIFs is because they hadn't been invented yet. Imagine how good those sunflowers would have looking if they'd moved around, maybe with a bit of macro text on the bottom that said "SUNFLOWERS LOL". It's not just animation, either - the vast libraries of readily-available clipart can transform any picture into a piece of art on the razor's edge of cool!
Here I have created a haunting tableau in which an Iguanadon has sold his soul to the devil for an oversized hamburger sandwich. Shit, I shouldn't have told you that, now you don't have to argue about what it means. No, wait, I've changed my mind, the devil represents greedy oil companies, the burger represents thoughtless convenience and the dinosaur represents the inevitable extinction that awaits all things. Man, it's no wonder that any idiot can write a political cartoon, this is is a piece of piss.
If you haven't guessed already, I ran out of things to say about this part of Designasaurus the second I'd typed the words "print out a picture of a dinosaur." Time to give the Walk Dino option another try, then.
This time, I made it through on my first attempt, because I figured out you can walk backwards on to the previous screen if you see a T. Rex coming to eat you. I'd just assumed I couldn't at first, although I'm not sure why - going back in time was fine, but not going forward? I dunno, but armed with the knowledge that my stegosaurus can surf the time-stream in both directions I managed to carefully, slowly and with much eating of bushes, reach my goal.
I got a certificate! A certificate with a spelling mistake, because I'm sure that should say "epochs" and not "epics," I didn't just walk my stegosaurus through Gilgamesh. You can print the certificate out, if you like. I would have very much liked to, and had it hanging beside my bronze swimming certificate and beginner's first aid award, but alas I have no printer available and as such this article will have to stand testament to the fact that yes, I did help a stegosaurus survive through FIVE epics. Epochs. Whatever.
That's it for Designasaurus. See you next time!
What, you don't want a review or something, do you? This isn't a game, it's a digital colouring book with a built-in starvation simulator. Dinosaurs are neat and all, but even the educational aspect of this is lacking because the information is now out of date. Actually, that could be a project for someone - update Designasaurus with the latest scientific advances in the field of figuring out what the deal was with dinosaurs. Change every use of the name Brotosaurus to Apatosaurus and give the T. Rex feathers. Go ahead, destroy some kids' dreams. They'll thank you for it later.