Review: Fossil Hunters

Reptoid Games’ journey to creating Fossil Hunters is quite noteworthy. A Toronto based Indie studio of four members started off with a successful Kickstarter campaign, followed by winning Ubisoft Toronto’s Indie Series award, concluding with it now being available on Steam. All that is left is to grab your pickaxe and uncover fossils. Hunting license not required. Fossil Hunters features a modular fossil building system that sparks creative design and lets the player walk in the footsteps of a Paleontologist.

Upon selecting one of four unique fossil hunters, the story begins with you arriving at a deserted dig site where a radio awaits answering. You then agree to assist in uncovering fossils and assembling skeletons for a person who is referred to as the Collector. Each discovered specimen will grant you a sizable cash installment while completing unique orders for other clients will reward you with more exciting treasures. It is at this point that you depart from the confines of the lab and enter the elevator that takes you to discover the unknown.

Your journey begins as you disembark from the elevator in search of fossilized treasure. Each level possesses a design of a skeleton on the floor that needs to be assembled with an assortment of fossils that are scattered throughout the environment. The task falls upon you to dig away at various piles of dirt to uncover the necessary puzzle pieces. Only upon completing each design will access to the next level be granted. You will traverse several unmapped environments across thirty levels that range from cavernous dig sites to magma-filled caves. These adventures can be played solo or with friends as Fossil Hunters supports four player co-operative gameplay. Playing with friends or family results in a completely different, and more exciting, creative experience.

As noted earlier, secondary objectives include fulfilling unique orders for various clients. These designs will be more complex as they require a more creative approach to. It is at this point that the modular fossil building system is beautifully showcased and completing these requests results in a much more addictive gameplay experience. A sense of accomplishment also occurs at the creation of all large and strange looking specimens that you are able to piece together.

You will discover numerous coins which are used to purchase various instruments from lost assistants throughout their travels. They provide advantageous items such as lamps to make your path visible and ward off spiders, supports to brace the stability of caves, and bridges to cross the most dangerous of gaps, all for a small fee. You will also encounter large lizards that move freely and destroy all blocks of soil and fossils that lay before them. Keeping an eye on their activity is highly recommended to ensure the safety of your discoveries.

Players risk causing a cave-in if they excavate too much in a specific area, so this forces you to explore the entirety of each level. Once triggered, a cave-in will cause new dirt to fall upon the ground, destroying everything in its path. However, they can be halted once gaining the ability to utilize supports to maintain the structural integrity of the desired location. At times players will also want to purposely cause cave-ins with the hope of uncovering more difficult pieces from the newly placed dirt piles. Continually swinging your pickaxe can result in back-pain, so feel free to utilize the barrels of dynamite that can be repositioned and detonated to uncover fossils in larger areas at once.

Players are quickly presented with a screen that says it is highly recommended to use a controller for Fossil Hunters and I would have to agree with this statement. Controls are simple and quick to learn with a controller. However, keyboard and mouse controls feel less intuitive as they take away from the overall experience. That being said, players are able to easily facilitate the movement and rotation of each fossil piece by utilizing the bumpers on the controller to properly position each piece in its desired spot.

A gameplay mechanic that needed to be developed more into the overall gameplay experience deals with journal entries. The journal system is your source for all information as you uncover numerous secrets throughout your travels, but most gameplay aspects could have been explained better as several items are not properly explained early on. Progression leads to realizing the purpose of these items, but the accessibility of Fossil Hunters to all age groups might result in frustration for some gamers.

Fossil Hunters features a welcoming artistic design that will draw your attention throughout the game’s entirety. Each environment and playable character has a uniqueness to them. Their charming qualities add to the overall fun factor as you pull fossils across the screen. However, it is the minor details such as the loading screens and map layouts for each level that are presented during elevator menus that let players see the care Reptoid Games possesses for Fossil Hunters. The soundtrack features various calming tracks that will keep your mind at ease when narrowly avoiding cave-ins and other hazardous encounters. Typical elevator music will also keep you entertained as you travel throughout the many levels.

Fossil Hunters is very accessible to all age groups but is absolutely perfect for a younger audience as they would be able to illustrate their creativity while gaining introductory knowledge regarding dinosaurs and archaeological practices. It is an educational game that could easily be used within a classroom to teach key values such as teamwork.

Fossil Hunters is a light-hearted enjoyable experience that is great to play by yourself, but immensely better when played with family and friends. Anyone looking for a heart-pounding narrative where your discoveries are manipulated and end up with the recreation of dinosaurs running wild through the streets of San Diego may wish to look elsewhere. Those looking for quality fun that can be experienced for a short period of time, or countless hours, should look no further than Fossil Hunters. The modular fossil building system and creative direction offer a very rewarding experience.

[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]

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