There are certain immutable truths to existence. Toast will always fall on expensive carpet butter side down. Nobody really knows what cats want. Little boys have a near complete fascination with dinosaurs. It's the latter of these observations that Ubisoft's concentrated on for its latest entry in the Combat Of Giants series. We've previously seen Ubisoft unleash Dragons and Mutant Insects but this release returns to the most gigantic of earth's creatures, the dinosaurs. Although the Giant Sequoia could probably give them a run for their money, but a combat game featuring gigantic trees might not be that exciting. Still, we're copyrighting the idea right now, just in case Ubisoft comes calling.
Dinosaur Strike is a combat game with a slight resemblance to Nintendo's excellent Super Smash Bros Brawl, with a simple choice of only two attack moves — light and heavy — for each dinosaur you choose. The range on offer is extensive with a total of eighteen available dinosaur species to choose from. Different dinosaurs adopt different poses and strike with different body parts, and we've got to admit that the little boy inside us was initially wowed by the sight of these massive lumbering beasts having a go at each other.
As you play through the game's domination mode, fighting off other AI controlled Dinosaurs, you level up your reptile's attack, strike speed or health, and these upgrades are accompanied by physical changes that make for some very cool looking (and rather spiky) dinosaurs. So far, so cool, especially in the eyes of little boys for whom the game is so very clearly pitched. Aside from domination, you can also take dinosaurs head to head in single or tag team play as well as setting up tournaments to play through.
The Wii's capacity for waggling is built into the game. As you play, a meter builds up your Dino Strike special moves, and at key points in a battle, you'll be able to unleash these attacks, which play out via a waggling mini-game. The closer you follow the Wiimote and Nunchuk wiggling pattern, the more damage you'll do your foe. When you start off, Dino Strikes are a bit of an afterthought, but to get through the later levels of domination, you'll come to rely on them a lot.
This reveals the core problem with Combat Of Giants: Dinosaur Strike's gameplay model. Despite the massive character models, the actual combat is very shallow while the gameplay difficulty ramps up extremely quickly. You could probably beat the first couple of dinosaurs with your eyes shut, just randomly tapping the light and strong strike buttons, and forgetting about dodging or blocking at all. Then you'll hit a brick wall of difficulty, but it's one that isn't overcome particularly through skill. Both blocking and dodging are imprecise and clunky, and that leaves you relying on Dino Strikes to finish off your scaly foes.We weren't that impressed with Combat Of Giants: Dinosaur Strike overall, but in the interests of checking its appeal with its core market, we dutifully handed it over to a six year old boy. Within minutes, he'd created a Scolosaurus called Tommy and was laying into his opponents with combinations attacks, enjoying himself along the way, until he hit the same learning curve problem we did. At that point, his enthusiasm dimmed substantially, and it's rather telling that he's not hassled us to play it again, preferring more streamlined gaming fare, including the previously mentioned Super Smash Bros Brawl.
If you've got a small boy with an absolute dinosaur obsession — which usually equates to any small boy — and can pick up Combat Of Giants: Dinosaur Strike cheaply, it'll provide some fun, but not enough for lasting gameplay.