Preview - wacky team-based pseudo sports kids game, and it's French, too!
That Dinoz got balls
The game is set in the past in a cartoon world where compelling little creatures called Dinoz exist. Dinoz have evolved into four various species, and have created a form of entertainment called DinozBall, a rule free team sport where the object is to score goals using a dinosaur egg. The object of the game is to train up four lively Dinoz as a team, choosing from 28 species (from four distinctive groups; two legz, crawlies, four legz and birdies) and teaching them in one of three behavioural disciplines; aggression, defence or speed. With your Dinoz assembled you must then compete in various "stadiums", which are actually tiny continents consisting of ice packs, deserts, canyons, swamps, lava flows and even forests and jungles. Apart from the other team of Dinoz fighting for possession of the ball and the chance to pluck victory from your claws, there are various carnivorous plants and other inhabitants blocking your path. The final game will also ship with a split-screen multiplayer mode. The speaker at the Vivendi presentation described the game as "wacky team sport and action", but at its heart lies some very complex artificial intelligence programming. Through collaboration with MASA Oiko have produced DirectIA; a motivation-based decision engine. This allows them to give each of their Dinoz a "best trade off philosophy". So Dinoz make decisions for themselves based on what they have to achieve and the various forces at work. Presumably this means that even if a pass is on, they may think better of it if they spy a gap in the play.
Dinoz is only 20% complete, but the game already seemed very lively and childish. Oiko are keen for Dinoz to fall into the hands of children. With Christmas coming up and console prices dropping, they feel the game anticipates a widening demographic. Most of the PS2's many games are geared towards adults and older teenagers - it will be interesting to see how well Dinoz gets on given its target audience. The visuals are charming, with every one of the Dinoz we've seen packed with character and the rolling 3D landscapes subtly detailed with rocks, pebbles, water basins and other environmental hazards. The animation is delightful - we witnessed one of the crawlies racing along, wading into the water and immediately moving into paddling position, the crocodile-like tail swirling the water behind him into a fine wake as he continued at flank speed. Other Dinoz have adorable little animations, like backwards flips, and they remind me of the baby Yoshi in the original Mario Brothers movie (don't ask), with their oversized heads and cute little bodies. Dinoz is aimed squarely at youngsters, but Oiko and Vivendi seem very keen to promote its grown up technology. They seem to think that the idea of caring for and nurturing your little Dinoz will appeal to kids, in the same way that pets have done for years. The point is, as far as Oiko are concerned, that kids won't accept them unless they behave like pets, and that's why the connection with MASA and the DirectIA engine will be so important.