Just a few weeks ago I was taken to a dinosaur museum for my birthday, so you can understand why I jumped on the opportunity to review Fossil Hunters. The first title from Canadian developer Reptoid Games is a dig-em-up. Landing somewhere between an adventure game and a puzzler, it’s a lot of fun to play but unfortunately feels a little rushed.
Life, uh…Finds a Way
Thin on the ground with plot, you play as one of four possible titular Fossil Hunters. Your aim is to reach the deepest depths of the caverns, 30 levels down. To get there you will navigate through a variety of thematics including lava, overrun mushrooms and space. Yes, I said space. The game is comfortable in it’s slightly offbeat humour and setting, which gives the world a little bit of character. Each hunter is completely mute and has the same abilities, so it’s the setting that has to sell it.
One of the refreshing things about Fossil Hunters is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’re welcome and encouraged to construct the most ridiculous skeletons you can. Each level has a set schematic (or a few) to discover and complete in order to advance. Alternatively, players can make their own whenever and wherever, generating gold to exchange for items. There is “The Collector” who will give you increasingly bizarre tasks to complete from his buyers, a nice tip of the hat to the early mistakes of paleontology. Feel free to make the four-headed monster you imagined when you were younger.
Digging through the rubble to find the fossils is a cathartic and relaxing experience. I played through the game in single player, but the campaign supports up to 4 players locally. The levels are never too challenging in terms of puzzle or skill, and there’s no procedural generation, so replay value is very limited. A lack of competitive multiplayer mode feels like a missed opportunity, as I could imagine a head-to-head fossil making challenge being a lot of fun. Especially when the in-game items (TNT, supports, destructible bridges) would make for great sabotage use.
The Early Mole Digs the Deepest Hole
For all the fun I had playing, the game currently has a lot of problems with bugs. The devs are vocal on the Steam message boards in addressing them, and are receptive to feedback. They’ve gone so far as making their Trello board publicly visible, which is a good way of including the community in the process. However, it ultimately feels like there was a lack of playtesting before the release.
None of the issues are game breaking, but they are numerous and mildly irritating. Once they’re addressed, I will happily recommend picking up a copy as a fun way to kill a few hours making a mockery of paleontology.