Review: Kale in Dinoland – Retro-riffic Gameboy action for iPhone!

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I admit it. I like video games. A lot.

But being a busy thirtysomething, I really don’t have much time to camp out in front of the television to play games much these days. And being a father of two, I have to fight with the kids for the controller anyway when I do have a few free minutes.

So whatever game playing I do these days tends to be on my iPhone. While I wasn’t too keen on iOS gaming initially, the platform is quickly becoming the portable gaming system of choice — which is convenient, because I’m already carrying it around with me anyway.

That being said, I’m not as big a fan of today’s “casual” games as I am of more traditional console style games. While established game powerhouses like Sega, Konami and Capcom have been scratching that itch for awhile now, Nintendo is notably missing.

But last year a game was released that captures the look and feel of an early 1990s Gameboy title better than even Nintendo’s own Virtual Console releases.

That title is Kale in Dinoland from The Rotting Cartridge, and it’s excellent.

Supposedly this app is a port of a low-key title released by SkySoft in 1992 [EDIT: This is not true — it’s a brilliant PR stunt to promote the game.] While I’ve played some pretty obscure games back in the day, I’ve never played the original game. [because it never existed — but should have!]

The game itself is a pretty typical action platformer in the vein of Adventure Island from Hudson or Nintendo’s Kirby’s Dream Land titles. It’s a solid game in and of itself, but the game alone is not what makes this app truly stellar. It’s The Rotting Cartridge’s presentation that makes this app well worth the $1.99.

This app completely nails the look and feel of playing the game on a first gen Gameboy. Little things like the photographic Gameboy D-pad and button overlay to the virtual scuffs and scratches on your screen make all the difference in recreating a truly authentic retrogaming experience. You’ve even got the option to thumb through the game’s instruction booklet and have to fire up the game by virtually plugging in a “cartridge.”

The Rotting Cartridge does what Nintendon’t. Here’s hoping to see more titles like this from them in the future!

4.5 out of 5

Kale In Dinoland - The Rotting Cartridge

 

Here’s a recent screengrab of my iPhone. Take note of all the retrogaming goodness.

ios_retrogames_iphone

 

Since we’re talking about retrogames on iOS, let’s review a few other titles I’ve been playing lately.

Midway Arcade [Download Link]
Another great retrogaming package that emphasizes recreating the look and feel of a virtual arcade circa the early to mid 1990s. This app not only features classics like Rampage, Tapper, Joust and Defender, but also features virtual recreations of arcade fixtures such as air hockey and skeeball, complete with virtual redemption center. In-app purchases unlock more games, such as Gauntlet and Total Carnage. It’s definitely well worth the .99 cents. In fact, it’s a steal at that price!

Final Fantasy I [Download Link]
While there have been a lot of ports of this game for portable devices over the years, I’d have to say that the iOS version is the best so far. Based on the PSP version, this remake of the classic RPG features redrawn higher resolution graphics than the Gameboy Advance port a few years ago, as well as another bonus dungeon.

If you haven’t played this title since the NES days, it’s definitely worth a download as the game has been completely reworked to be on par visually with the better-playing SNES titles, and the difficulty has been toned down considerably. Throw in the ability to save anywhere, and you have an excellent portable adventure. The only downside is the price. Square Enix’s iOS games cost more than average, but at $8.99 it’s still less than other portable versions of the game and considerably less than the $60 I paid for the cartridge in the early 1990s!

Mage Gauntlet [Download Link]
On a related note, if Square Enix still made new 16-bit action RPGs, they’d make something like Mage Gauntlet. This is an excellent indie title from Rocketcat Games, and you owe it to yourself to check it out if you’re a fan of the genre. Pixels FTW!

Mega Man X [Download Link]
Speaking of pixels, there aren’t any in Capcom’s port of the SNES classic Mega Man X. It’s still a solid title, don’t get me wrong, but the “improved” graphics look a little Illustrator-esque and I think the game loses a bit of its retro-charm because of it. I really wish they’d let players pick between the classic 16-bit look or the new look, but it’s not to be (well, not with this release, anyway.)

Sonic CD [Download Link]
It’s the mother of all iOS retro releases to date. It’s the best 16-bit Sonic, the best port of that game, with the best D-pad controls of any iOS title to date. Simply put, this game is a must own and you shouldn’t even debate whether or not to try it. Seriously, it’s that good!

 

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