Call of Mini: Dino Hunter comes from Triniti Interactive at the height of their talents. They’ve been developing the solid, if slightly cynical, Call of Mini series for a little while now, and have developed a great understanding of the mobile gamer’s mentality. Their latest, a bombastic dinosaur blaster, is certainly no classic. But, like most addictions, it’s easy to get into and considerably harder to get out of.
Getting Its Claws in
Every successful Android game needs a hook, but Triniti have decided that one simply isn’t enough for Dino Hunter. It’s full of them, all dragging you back when you want to leave, tugging your reluctant thumbs away from work and back into the game. The first, and by far the most crucial hook is that killing dinosaurs is good, mindless fun. Sure, this is a simplistic third-person shooter with little variation, and bite-sized missions which offer little more nuance than ‘shoot everything that moves’, but there’s still a basic enjoyment in being a Dino Hunter.
After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and, as it turns out, this metaphor also applies to the senseless slaughter of prehistoric beasts. Call of Mini: Dino Hunter has a weapon for all occasions – shotguns ensure that even the hugest dinosaurs are blown away like oversized sacks of potatoes, while there’s a fittingly meat-headed, Neanderthal thrill in dispatching a dinosaur with a hammer. Bosh!
Brain the Size of a Peanut, Short Reach
There are attempts to shake up the formula too, which succeed to varying degrees. Some missions rob you of your firepower, giving you only melee weapons with which to dispatch the furious creatures, while others take a defensive angle. All in all, though, they struggle to have any impact. They barely feel any different – whatever the flimsy conceit, it still boils down to a cramped arena filled with rampaging dinosaurs to senselessly mow down.
There’s a co-op mode too, which is a little more fun than going it alone. However, because of the all-action design of the game, the other players feel somewhat incidental, and there’s never a true feeling of teamwork or cooperation.
Also, while Call of Mini: Dino Hunters does look visually impressive, with solid 3D environments, I’ve never been a fan of the big-headed character designs that are so prevalent in Android gaming. It’s just a little charmless.
The hooks continue. Dino Hunter boasts RPG-style levelling, a huge number of levels, loads of weapons and shiny upgrades for them, as well as armour and customisation. There are daily missions too, which reward the player with in-game currency for logging in daily and completing certain tasks. All of it with one goal: to keep you coming back for more, spending more in-game currency, and maybe even a little of your own.
I’m not averse to having my loyalty rewarded, but ideally I’d like it to be a little incidental bonus for clocking in daily, rather than the sole reason that I’m clocking in daily. When you realise that you’re only continuing for the sake of collecting drip-fed incentives, you begin to think that a truly addictive game wouldn’t need to prop itself up on the promise of freebies. Then again, it’s easy to be cynical, but these incentives are yet another example of Triniti’s mastery of player mentality – they understand the low attention span of the mobile gamer, and they’ve got to keep us coming back for more and more. And, ultimately, it works.
The compulsive nature of Call of Mini: Dino Hunter cannot be disputed, but the gameplay itself is shallow, and unlikely to keep you engaged for long. You’ll keep coming back, but after a while you’ll begin to question why. For all the upgrading, progression, levelling up and daily incentives, you’ll see few changes. Some levels even take place on a jetpack – you’d think that’s about as big a change as a game can make, but it still crucially feels the same.
And this, unfortunately, encapsulates my feelings on the game as a whole.