Review: Paleo Pines (Switch)

Live with and raise your own dinos in this unique life sim game!

By Brandon Elkins. Posted 10/10/2023 12:02 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Adorable dinosaur designs that have smooth animations filled with personality; Art style blends well with the overall relaxing atmosphere of the game; Large amount of dinosaurs to befriend and add to your ranch
Poison Mushroom for...
Janky movement makes it difficult to be precise when farming, redecorating, and interacting with objects; Human characters are stiff in comparison to dinosaurs; Some short NPC and audio loops can become annoying; Invisible boundaries on small ledges and hills can break immersion of open-world elements

Paleo Pines is a single-player life simulator with open-world elements developed by Italic Pig. The story of the game is rather simple: you move away from home with your first dino companion, Lucky the parasaurolophus, and settle into a rundown ranch. From there you meet the townsfolk of the nearby settlement and start your dino ranching journey. You can tame several different species of dinosaurs that help you around the ranch with tasks like clearing debris, watering crops, and planting seeds. But in order to get their help you must first earn their trust by feeding them snacks and playing tunes on a flute.

Paleo Pines has the standard twin-stick 3D movement and camera control scheme, although flipping your character around 180 degrees can be a bit janky. The lack of a jump ability is also a little offputting, but at least you can sprint. But the main draw of the game is the dinosaurs. Before you tame a dinosaur you’ll need to make sure you have a space for them to stay on your ranch and the right snacks that they’d like to eat. The mechanics of taming a dino require the use of the flute, an assortment of snacks, and a special snack food called a Poppin. Each dinosaur requires a unique melody that you have to play in order to start the taming process, with larger dinosaurs having more complicated tunes.

The overall objective of the game is to expand your ranch, farm crops, and tame dinosaurs to your heart’s content. There are also quests that expand on the NPC characters’ stories and personalities as well as unlocking several tools and items in their shops. Taming dinosaurs is also key to expanding the explorable world as they have abilities that can clear obstacles blocking off areas where more dinosaurs and resources are.

The game’s UI is serviceable, but the inventory management and map systems leave much to be desired. The inventory is small at first and can be upgraded by the tailor later, but the lack of a visual guide showing the player what to press to split stacks of items makes organization difficult. The map can’t be interacted with (no markers, pins, etc.) making it a hassle to double-check where something is after closing it. The journal though has plenty of informational tabs regarding dinosaurs, items, recipes, notable NPCs, crops, quest log, and a calendar.

Paleo Pines features some of the cutest designs of dinosaurs I’ve seen, they’ve made even the more vicious dinos look harmless. The character customization doesn’t have anything of note, but it gets the job done in creating an avatar for the player. The animations of the dinos are smooth, full of personality, and emulate how they would have moved in reality. But on the other hand, the doll-like human characters are a bit stiff in comparison and don’t convey as much personality as the dinos. The game’s music is relaxed and calming and the noises the dinosaurs make are cute. However, the short loop of some audio tracks can get tiresome after a while.

When I first started the game, the tutorial covered some basics of movement, accessing the inventory, and how to mount/dismount my dinosaur companion and learned how to farm from one of the townspeople who visited the ranch. It was during this farming tutorial that I discovered how the weird janky movement when trying to turn 180 degrees made it difficult to plant crops and organize my ranch. From there, I continued into the town where I met the town’s residents and shopkeepers. There were some NPCs that only said one thing when trying to interact with them and continued walking in a preset path, occasionally shouting “Yippee!” at random. Safe to say that my immersion was a little rattled because of it. Something that I struggled with was finding where certain NPCs were for quests. Several of the NPCs move around and can be tracked using the map, but it’s not easy within the town since you can’t zoom in or move the view of the map.

I also found the mechanic of using the notebook to record things before picking them up a hassle and the start was a little slow in getting into the part where I could start exploring and finding dinosaurs. It took around three in-game days until I befriended my first dino (not including Lucky the parasaurolophus). He was a light blue and yellow gallimimus, which I named Starry. I grew to use Starry more than Lucky as he made traversing the open-world much faster thanks to his faster sprint speed. Speaking of open-world, there are portions of the map I explored that are a bit too empty for my liking. I later befriended a dark blue styracosaurus (which I named Neptune), who helped break down a boulder blocking the path to an arid environment where I managed to tame several more dinosaurs including a triceratops and a scelidosaurus. 

From my overall experience with Paleo Pines, I had the most fun when discovering and befriending dinosaurs, but the rest of the game can feel like a chore at times. The jankiness of the movement makes farming more difficult than it needs to be and although the open-world section is decently sized, it has invisible boundaries on small cliffs or ledges that can break the immersion of the game world. Despite my gripes with the gameplay, the art style of the game is charming and I’m a fan of how adorable the art team rendered the dinosaurs. The world and characters also blend well together and the only real issue I had with the visuals was that the corners of the skybox could sometimes be seen and the stiffness of the human animations. Also, while doing the townspeople’s tasks, which can be a bit fetch-questy, it becomes noticeable how empty certain sections of the game world are. However, the prospect of getting more dinos to live on your ranch is what warrants launching the game up at least a couple times.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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