N64 legend Turok: Dinosaur Hunter returns from obscurity with a very different take on his legend. And by different we mean awful.
Despite all the many Turok games we’ve played over the years we have no idea what the actual backstory and lore is supposed to be about. The early ones on the N64 seemed to involve Native Americans and alternate dimensions, we think, but then the 2008 reboot was a lot more sci-fi and took part on another planet. We know Turok started out as a comic book series (which given the dinosaur angle makes it odd that it hasn’t been turned into a movie yet) but we don’t know which, if any, of the games sticks closest to it. But we suspect it’s not this one.
Escape From Lost Valley, and sister title Voltron: Cubes Of Olkarion, were created as part of a initiative by film company Universal to find indie developers to create games based on their IPs. They ran a Gamedev Challenge event and looked at hundreds of different submissions before picking Escape From Lost Valley as the winner. That’s a wonderful idea and we only wish other publishers and IP holders would be as daring and thoughtful in their approach to licensed games.
There is one little problem though… it’s the fact that Escape From Lost Valley may well be the worst game we’ve played all year.
If Escape From Lost Valley is the best game out of hundreds of entries then we are genuinely terrified to think what the worst must’ve been like. Presumably a large part of the appeal was supposed to be the cute graphics, which are admittedly great. The animation is limited, but they make the business of slaughtering your way through the prehistoric animal kingdom much more palatable than the notoriously gory first person games.
Although the isometric viewpoint seems to imply some sort of puzzle-rich action adventure Escape From Lost Valley is nothing of the sort. It’s a linear action game, where you tour round a series of very short, but very hard, levels carving up everything you come across for no more reason than you’re trying to get home. You’re accompanied by a friend called Andar, who doesn’t really help but instead hints at a co-op mode that doesn’t actually exist.
Your only weapons for dinosaur carnage are an extremely short-range knife and an extremely slow bow and arrow. The knife has a perilously long wind-up before it does any damage and often knocks enemies backwards, out of your range, making follow-up attacks difficult. Even worse, both it and the bow can only be aimed in the major compass directions, so if an enemy doesn’t happen to be standing in the right spot it can be impossible to target them without a lot of fiddly movement.
An isometric viewpoint is a terrible idea for a game this difficult and this reliant on accurate aiming. Turok is often obscured by the scenery or other characters and judging exact distance and position is extremely difficult, especially when an enemy is jumping. Even the doge roll is more trouble than it’s worth as it’s also very hard to use with any sort of precision and leaves you dangerously vulnerable after use.
For a game that’s almost solely about action these are baffling decisions to make. We can only assume developer Pillow Pig Games was going for some sort of isometric Bloodborne affair, but it’s hard to tell what is purposeful and what is just bad design. Even the presentation has similar problems and as cute as the visuals are the sound is almost non-existent, with just a small collection of ineffectual sound effects and almost no music.
The only role-playing element, if it can be called that, is crafting armour out of defeated creatures (which makes you look even cuter than before) and making more powerful arrows. If you use up all the special ammo there’s no easy way to get more except trundling back the way you came – a task so soul-destroying we refuse to believe anyone would willingly do it if they weren’t being paid to review the game.
The whole thing is bewilderingly awful from start to finish and possessed of not an ounce of entertainment value. Some of the boss battles threaten to be interesting but they’re just so hatefully difficult, even on easy, that it’s impossible to take any pleasure from them. It’s not been a good year for isometric action games but after this Stranger Things 3: The Game looks like a masterpiece in comparison.
We’d more easily believe someone at Universal wanted to purposefully sabotage their nascent video game department than that this was a game released with the genuine assumption that anyone would actually enjoy it. In the meantime, it’s back to the rubbish bin of forgotten IP for Turok. Although at least whatever form its next escape attempt takes can’t possibly be worse than this.
Turok: Escape From Lost Valley
In Short: A monstrously awful game that is subject to so many bafflingly awful design decisions it’s lucky it doesn’t collapse into a black hole of its own ineptitude.
Pros: The graphics are really cute.
Cons: Everything else.
Developer: Pillow Pig Games
Release Date: 25th July 2019
Age Rating: N/A
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