Game reviews: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Baseball Riot
Turok is a disappointing cash-in and Baseball Riot is just a smartphone game that somehow ended up on a console
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Night Dive Studios
The second age of the first-person shooter might be slowly whimpering its way towards an expected end, Call of Duty and its many spin-offs and rip-offs seemingly indistinguishable in a gaming world that’s grown bigger and bolder. But there’s nothing like nostalgia to help us remember the old-old days, and here comes Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, an innovative FPS from the genre’s early days on the classic Nintendo 64 console. This reboot of sorts is available for PC, and has been long awaited by nostalgic fans, the game holding a cult status not dissimilar to that of fellow N64 shooter GoldenEye. But unlike the many remakes of that James Bond classic, Turok is a bit of a sad cash-grab, with little seemingly done to place it into the modern world of hi-def updates.
All the hallmarks you remember are on board: prehistoric settings alongside futuristic worlds; a super-strong Native American armed with sci-fi weaponry; dinosaurs, cyborgs, time travel portals – the crazed comic book come to life in first-person form. But that’s where the nostalgia ends, and this re-release quickly reminds you that its gameplay came from the simpler times of Doom and Duke Nukem, rather than anything resembling modern virtual warfare. But really, we can handle that. We get that Turok is a bit of a relic, but did they have to put absolutely zero effort in buffing it up? Graphics are as jagged and blocky as the days when you suffered through a boxy low-res TV, and the polygon textures and environments really do hammer home just how badly the game visuals have aged. The only real positive change we could see – and granted, this is almost 20 years we’re talking about – is the substantially improved control system. Turok’soriginal console itineration suffered from a mostly irrational way of looking and aiming, and that’s all finally been set right. Better still, is the choice between keyboard-and-mouse or custom game pad. Turok is the worst kind of reboot offender, a greedy attempt to cash in on rose-tinted memories, with the bare minimum done to put it into a modern context. If we weren’t so desperate to buy back our childhood, we’d give it the dreaded single star. Sadly, we’re exactly the kind of suckers they’re looking for.
The consensus on gaming is starting to become depressingly skewed: console and computer releases, despite having vast worlds, literate storytelling and innovative gameplay, are often seen as childish and wasteful. Smartphone games, meanwhile, with their simplistic nature bordering on stupidity, they’re all good – a fun distraction for many, and who the hell are you to say different? That kind of thinking results in games like Baseball Riot, an Xbox One release heavily inspired by the oh-so-popular smartphone world. Don’t get us wrong: it’s not a bad game. It’s Angry Birds with baseballs, in short. You’re a gruff batter who must take out series of evil enemies, standing in a stationary position and hitting a limited number of balls across all manner of puzzle environments. Things start off easy enough, a bad guy here or there in an easy location quickly dispatched with a blow to the face. But as the levels progress, so too does the difficulty: an ever-changing roster of enemies equipped with catching mitts, shields and their own bats; placements in seemingly impossible-to-reach positions; and crates as well as other obstacles that can help or hinder.
There’s also a points system that sees you collecting stars to progress across different regions. It’s fun at first, but eventually becomes incredibly frustrating. A large part of that is because solving some of the latter levels seems to take nothing more than pure luck, but there’s also a creeping feeling that kicks in. A deeply felt irritation that raises the question: why the hell are you playing this on a console made with the most advanced technological hardware, when any crappy phone will do? Baseball Riot costs just HK$40, and developer 10tons is no doubt relying on that near-throwaway amount to draw in an audience. And it’s true, for the cash, it’s not a bad game in any respect. But possibly more important is the simple idea that buying into their scheme will propagate the trend to an unpredictable point. Do us all a favour and download Angry Birds instead.