Genre: Run and Gun
Developed by: Interactive Designs
Published by: Sega
Feeling Like: Watching Dino Riders
You know that panel from Calvin & Hobbes that shows a Tyrannosaurs Rex in a fighter jet?
Well that’s all you need to know about Dinosaurs for Hire, a ridiculous premise that happens to be a ridiculous Contra clone for the Sega Genesis. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so when Interactive Designs decided to take the formula and add gun toting creatures from 65 million years ago, it’s essentially a rocket fueled love letter to Komani.
You have to remember that in the early 90s, attitude was everything. You think a bipedal Stegosaurus is enough? Hell no, he’s also got to have sunglasses on. Or a leather jacket. Or some problem with the stuffed shirts, corporate fat cats and uncool parents.
Chalk this up to another Genesis gem I never would have found had it not been for Eric and another relic of the 90s – the video rental store. You’ve got to hand it to Interactive Design, they knew exactly what box art to go with. How can you walk by and not pick up the case and see what’s what?
It’s rough around the edges. Sometimes you can’t see your bullets land, the button config menu refers to the controllers as “Joysticks” (the hell are those?) and there’s only 1 gun per character. You can get upgrades, but they max out pretty quickly. You die if you fall/jump from a certain height, committing one of the most egregious fouls in 2D game design. You can’t dodge to save your life, literally. You’re big, and enemy bullets are tiny. This is like Godzilla trying to evade a pellet gun.
It’s not the pinnacle of fun, but you’ll get your licks and kicks in murdering ninjas, thugs and aliens. None of those hold a candle to the bosses, naturally. They’re exactly what you want in a stupid piece of entertainment. A mechanical Taurus that’s climbed to the top of a high rise. A (nother) Contra rip off boss at the very beginning who takes up nearly the entire screen and threatens a dam. A weird ghost/robot thing.
As if you didn’t need another reminder that this is an experience entirely entrenched in the early 90s, the game even breaks the fourth wall. Within minutes of starting a new game, your Pterodactyl buddy claims your Genesis’ Blast Processing Unit has malfunctioned and that the REAL game starts now. Spectacular.
The quote on the game’s cover says “If It Ain’t Been Shot, Shoot It!” and that’s the kind of quality you can expect here. It’s nowhere near as good as Contra, but what is? They knew exactly the kind of game they wanted, and considering their source material was a rip off of a parody of a mediocre superhero comic, Interactive Design did pretty well.
Anytime I think that Dinosaurs for Hire isn’t as good a game as Castlevania, or F-Zero or Seiken Densetsu 3, I remember that I got to spend a whole weekend with one of my best friends co-operatively destroying mechanized Triceratops and stopping psycho-dictators from plaguing the earth by shoving a machine gun in their face and never letting go of the trigger button. Without that memory, there’s no way Dinosaurs for Hire gets this high on the list, because objectively it’s not an amazing game. Our first real upset entry!