Fortunately, the similarities work in its favor. What comes off initially as a casual experience for younger gamers soon reveals itself to be a challenging and fun affair that will test both your careful planning and your quick reflexes with its active tower defense gameplay style.
Go Home Dinosaurs! (iOS [reviewed], PC)
Developer: Firehose Games
Publisher: Firehose Games
Released: May 9, 2013 (iOS) / March 14, 2013 (PC)
MSRP: $4.99 (iOS) / $9.99 (PC)
In Go Home Dinosaurs! you are an adorable little gopher tasked with protecting your barbecue from those dastardly prehistoric monsters of the game's namesake. Each level can earn you up to three steaks from your barbecue, and each hit you take from the incoming dinosaurs causes you to lose a steak through the dynamite rigged next to it as a last stand against the opposing forces.
In many cases and especially in the later levels, the player will find great challenge in figuring out exactly how to preserve every one of those three delicious steaks. Why a gopher is cooking steak for his family or why he even coexists with dinosaurs is questionable, but irrelevant for the sake of the incredibly fun gameplay.
The game has tons of humor and charm to spare, as each unit you place on the battlefield to help protect your barbecue spouts lines paraphrased from cult classic and popular movies such as Full Metal Jacket, The Warriors, Aliens and even a few references to other videogames (some groan-inducing, such as the 'arrow to the knee' riff from the gopher in the game's store).
At times, the game threatens to be cloying because of the constant repetition of these lines by your gopher squadrons, but thanks to the constant progression and inclusion of new units, you're mostly treated to more fun references as you get further along.
The gameplay itself is incredibly fast-paced for a tower defense title. The little gopher you control can actually defend against dinosaurs by throwing rocks when you move him close, but you'll be spending most of your time with him (her?) collecting coconuts from trees in much the same way that you collect sunflowers in Plants vs. Zombies. The dinosaurs move along a pre-determined path, and it's your job to set up defenses along this path to properly eradicate the giant lizard menace.
The dinosaurs themselves are cute and dopey, they come in a wide variety of Stegosauruses, T-Rexes, Pterodactyls, and others with varying attack patterns and speeds, and they can be absolutely relentless in their single-minded determination at times. The defense units you receive also vary widely and take up a certain amount of space and a type of shape on the battlefield, so it's necessary to plan carefully before each round to make sure you get the right kind of defense units that will actually provide useful against the dino onslaught.
For example, in one of the later stages, I found a great strategy against the dinosaurs by setting up a couple of 'snow-thrower' gopher units that damage and slow down incoming forces and come in the most aggravating tetromino (zigzag) size for the battlefield, as well as a couple of 'boombox' gopers that slowly deplete enemy health within a certain area. With little room to spare, I chose to use my favorite instant power-up, a robotic gopher team that pops up wherever needed to attack enemies and collect coconuts for a limited time.
Truth be told, for a good number of the levels I relied on this team for that extra little push, especially during moments in most levels when the dinosaurs rush the BBQ in great numbers. In a way, the instant power-ups you earn primarily through collecting coins at the end of most levels feel a little like cheating, as they don't require too much strategy beyond when to use them.
In this sense, the game might seem to appeal more to a younger audience who may need the extra help. Don't be fooled however, as there are certain levels in the late game where surviving with all three steaks truly relies on timing your use of the power-ups in conjunction with the defense units and which ones you decide to use.
Go Home Dinosaurs! will last you at least eight to ten hours if you're a skilled player, and certainly more if you're a younger or less familiar gamer. With its 4.99 asking price for a total of 60 levels, the game certainly gives you enough bang for its buck, and with adorable characters and often smile-inducing one liners, you'll be returning to it often for a tower defense experience that starts out casually and then truly challenges your brain and reflexes.