I think most people would agree that ham is a tasty meal, and in the event I had my ham dinner stolen from me, I think I would be rather upset. Now I’m not sure how I would react in the event that it was a Tyrannosaurus rex that stole my ham dinner, but I don’t think my first thought would be “I need to fight that dinosaur”. But I suppose that’s why Prehistoric Dude isn’t a story about me.
That brief description encapsulates the entirety of Prehistoric Dude’s plot, which is an indie platformer that is out on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4. In it, Dude, the man who was robbed of his ham, sets out on a journey to find the dinosaur that stole it from him and recover it. It’s a simple platformer with a basic progression system in the form of items, health, and stamina upgrades.
The graphics are standard fare for platformer games. It’s a cutesy style that is easy on the eyes. The music is also fun and upbeat and, at first, it can pull you in. The issue is that it feels like the same 10-second loop plays for almost the entirety of the game, with brief breaks for the boss fight and an occasional change in tune depending on the area. It’s not bad, there’s just no variety. And these kind of lackluster elements are a bit of a recurring theme throughout the game.
The controls are simple, if not a bit clunky at times, the movement mechanics are all fine and they are pretty much what would be expected in a platformer. The combat is a little odd; when the game starts the only attack available is a ranged one where Dude will throw hatchets at his enemies. The hatchets have to be collected by walking over little shrubs scattered throughout the different rooms, which means there is only a finite amount, especially early on. The mechanics for throwing the hatchets are also a bit inconsistent. By holding down on the throw button, the hatchets will be thrown farther, but this isn’t really explained and there were a few times when the game glitched and just whipped them across the screen. Thankfully this wasn’t super common and it isn’t long into the game before the club is unlocked.
But the club isn’t without its quirks too. For starters, it has almost no range. The line between the distance that is just close enough to an enemy while remaining out of their own range is a fine one indeed. Beyond that, the amount of times you can swing the club is based on the in-game stamina system. While the hatchets could be thrown one after the other until none are left, once Dude runs out of stamina it becomes a waiting game while it takes a few seconds to regain each stamina bar. This becomes more bearable after getting a few stamina upgrades, which are scattered around the place, but Dude only starts out with two, which makes combat early on very tedious.
It’s not necessarily bad – just slow and a bit awkward. Thankfully a good chunk of the map can be navigated without needing to stop and fight every enemy, but there are some doors that can only be unlocked by defeating all of the enemies in an area. The game also includes three boss fights. These are also structured a bit awkwardly. The first one is a gimmick fight where the secret to winning is having the boss, which is a pterodactyl, fly down into lava as you jump over it. This is the only enemy that you have to do something like this for, which is why it stuck out as different. The one thing every boss does have in common is that as they get weaker they do become more difficult by speeding up their movement and attacks.
The second boss doesn’t really have anything unique or negative to say about it, and the third and final boss, the aforementioned ham stealing T-rex, isn’t anything special either. The most memorable thing about it is that there is such a ridiculous amount of screen shake incorporated into it that things can be disorienting.
Beyond that, the combat is fairly standard. The quirks can be overcome, and beyond them there aren’t any innovations or unexpected twists. The items that can be found add some standard abilities, like the ability to fight, double jump, grab ledges, and swim underwater. All of which are important for progressing, minus swimming underwater because I managed to beat the game before picking up the item that lets you do it. There are also turkey dishes and smoothies that can be picked up that will boost health and stamina respectively. They can be gained by solving simple lever puzzles or by collecting enough fruit, which you’ll pick up as you walk over shrubs, to make it through locked doors. Getting at least a few of these are essential to beating the game, since being able to attack and take hits will come in handy for the last fight.
There isn’t much else to cover though. Prehistoric Dude on Xbox One takes a little over an hour to beat. While there are more chests to open, I managed to easily nab the 1000 Gamerscore in that time and there isn’t much of a reason to revisit the rest of the game after that. It must be said that I didn’t really hate my time playing Prehistoric Dude, but I just didn’t really enjoy it either. There’s some challenge to overcome and I always like getting 100 percent achievement completion, but there isn’t anything that sets Prehistoric Dude apart from any other platformer. It’s not a bad game, just exceedingly average.