Return of The Dinosaur is a fun board-game style detective game designed to teach kids facts about their most favorite animals of all time. The premise is that your hometown is suddenly overrun by dinosaurs, thanks to professor T. Rex' malfunctioned time transporter. You have four days to find and return each dinosaur to its proper place and period in the Mesozoic era.
Gameplay, which is in real-time, involves going to various places on the map to find clues. You need three items to be able to return each dinosaur: its name, place, and period. The game contains an excellent on-line dinosaur database called "Dino Filer," with information on dozens of dinosaurs. The Dino Filer can also be used separately, from the game's main menu, in case you want to read up on some obscure species. As in real life, your two main concerns are food and cash. You need to eat 3 meals a day, every day, so you must plan your trip carefully lest you lose more time from hunger. This requirement, although perhaps realistic, detracts from the game proper as it has nothing to do with gameplay. You will also need money to buy most items in the game (many of which are needed for clues), as well as to pay bus or taxi fare in case you are running short on time. You can earn cash by correctly answering dinosaur trivia questions at the DINO COLUMN newspaper, or take part-time job or collect cash bonus (these two are random). When you know the answer, you will use the Time Transporter to take the dinosaur home and watch it appear in all the CGA glory.
The game has four levels, each one more difficult than the last. Unfortunately, the clues also become more obscure, and you will have a hard time relating one object in your inventory to another. There is a hint function ("?" button), although using it will cost you precious money. Overall, Return of The Dinosaur is a well-conceived dinosaur detective game that should appeal to dinosaur lovers of all ages, despite a cumbersome interface (you have to walk to each building, the entrance to which may not be obvious) and outdated CGA graphics. On-line instructions and hints ensure help keep frustration level low, despite all the illogical clues. If you have a resident dinophile in your home, here's a good game for him/her.
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