During this week’s Sonic the Hedgehog-focused episode of Retronauts, Sharkey mentions a free, Flash-based game called Dino Run. He argues it’s what would happen “if you distilled just the speedy bits of Sonic and made that the entire point.” As someone raised on Nintendo consoles, my only real experience with Sonic was playing the game briefly with Genesis-owning friends. I tended to like the games until I got far enough that running fast became suicidal instead of fun, so I decided to give Dino Run a try to see how it creates a game based purely around speed.
[[image:cgdinorun3.gif:It’s so adorable when they resist inevitable extinction.:center:0]]
The premise as stated in the help screen is simple in a way that evokes early arcade games: “Escape the pyroclastic wall of doom and find your dino sanctuary!” You are always mere moments away from destruction in Dino Run, and your velociraptor will be engulfed in flames within seconds if you do not run for your life as soon as the game starts. This constant necessity to run away or face death seems like it might be too basic to be interesting, but the game also provides the player with just enough temptation to slow down in the form of items strewn about the stage. Some of these can be used to permanently increase your velociraptor’s abilities at the end of a level, so there is a constant tension between the short-term desire to stay alive by running to the right and the long-term desire to collect enough items to increase your speed enough to survive in later levels. This simple dynamic creates a surprisingly engaging game.
Nothing was more frustrating to me as a kid playing Sonic than running full-speed into spikes I could have never seen coming, and Dino Run gets rid of this problem. It centers entirely on speed by excluding any fatal obstacles or enemies other than the meteoric fallout constantly moments behind you. Other dinosaurs and the environment can slow you down, but nothing will kill you but a lack of speed. The game is stripped down in terms of visual and sound design as well, drowning in retro charm with catchy chiptunes and graphics that look like they just might be able to run on an Intellivision.
Dino Run is free, fun, and probably runs on the web browser you’re using to read this right now. If you don’t give it a try, you’re only hurting yourself.