Paleo Pines – Switch Review – Thumb Culture

Paleo Pines – Switch Review – Thumb Culture

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Paleo Pines by Northern Ireland-based devs Italic Pig, is a single-player role-playing game set in a time with cute dinosaurs. Available on console and PC, I have been playing, along with my 6-year-old, on the Nintendo Switch.

Roarsome Entertainment?

With a nod to elements from Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Pokemon, would we find this dino-driven social/management sim as captivating? Let’s take a look!

screenshot showing a side view of the blue and white striped dino Lucky with our character riding on top. Behind are green hills and trees. The sky is a sunset of deep orange, pink and blue. There is a brown signpost beside.
Signposts are not very helpful here!

Gameplay

As with most traditional adventure games you begin by creating your character. Here we have a fairly normal but not over-the-top palette to select from including skin tone, eye colour, hairstyle, etc as well as a selection of clothing. You will notice that to keep inclusivity you cannot set a sex and Italic Pigs have described the character as non-binary. My son being 6 did question why he couldn’t select a boy however he still managed to come up with a character and was more than happy.

Leading into the story, told as a series of picture postcards, you find that you had living with you a small blue baby dino that quickly grew up from an egg. Very soon you are dropped into the game.

Riding on the back of your dino, Lucky, you begin a brief tutorial on how to control the movement, open your inventory, and interact. The game is in a 3rd person perspective that is centered around your character.

A bit like Disney Dreamlight Valley, you need to clear areas to enable you to either pass through or build. Each action uses energy, therefore you cannot do very much in one go although you can get your dino to help you.

Screenshot showing our character tending to their farmland. There is a brown rectangle of soil with 3 small light brown seeds in each of the 6 plots. A red square is highlighted around the one we are about to water. The screen shows green grass along with grey/blue stones dotted around amongst tall green trees. There are a number of brown bucket and old fence debris items scattered around.
The tutorial starts off well.

Onwards!

The main quest is to find the missing Parasaurolophus dinos. Yes, I had many attempts to try and say that word. In order to locate them you have a series of quests to undertake as well as side-missions that you can pick up from the town board or are given to you by the friendly villagers. You can check progress at any time by opening your journal. This displays everything from the time and weather all the way to the requirements of your dino and a calendar filled with events.

Screenshot showing the journal opened up. It is a brown book with cream pages. There are coloured tabs along the top and we are looking at the Quests section. The missions are in a blue block heading with brown writing setting out the tasks below each one. Those that are complete have a tick beside them.
The journal is a handy place to see what missions you currently have on.

In true adventure form, you can buy and sell wares with vendors and begin building your own ranch. The currency is shells. You can construct pens, build farms and sow your seeds. There is not a huge selection at first and the farming mechanic is fairly basic. That said, it’s enough for my son to enjoy doing, especially when riding a dino to help with it all.

Rest assured that as you progress, you can be as creative as you like when designing your ranch, decorating, and of course, dressing your character.

Screenshot showing one of the vendor interactions. The screen shows a character called Corian who is selling various fruits and vegetables. Corian is central while to the left and right there is the inventory of both the shop and your rucksack. Each item in the shop has a small icon as well as a cost below. The screen is vibrant with nature as well as the grey village stone walls behind.
The witty descriptions given to each item in your stash made me chuckle.

Exploration

While exploring the vast landscapes you will come across different types of dinos. In order to entice other dinos to join you, you can use your magic flute to play back the song that they have called to you followed by giving them their favourite food. The Gallimimus, for example, required various foods in order to get them to accept me.  With the dino following my character, I found myself still at its needy cause, as it required other items. By using the journal on them I found that the dino was all of a sudden “discovered.” This helped reveal the habitat and diet as well as skills, but not much else. The magic flute is used to instruct each dino what to do.

Screenshot showing a lush green along with our character and a small brown dino beside them. Small coloured bubbles of red, yellow and blue are rising from a magical flute that we are playing to entice the dino. Lucky looks on at the bottom of the screen.
Ah the magic flute, required for instructing dinos. Michelle Flaherty need not apply.

Frustrations

While the tutorial was going well, there were some areas that you are left to find out for yourself. While perhaps the devs felt that it was obvious what you needed to undertake, there were some really frustrating moments where it was not explained as to what you are supposed to be doing.

Likewise, the map can be fairly unhelpful. While a map shows key landmarks and people, there is no in-game navigation or compass to help guide you when walking from place to place. As you can imagine, the fun begins to wear off when you are not sure what you need to do. Waypoints would have been helpful. Instead, you have to keep looking at the map to see which direction the red circle has moved in.

Screenshot showing the map uncovered so far of Paleo Pines. The map is on a brown rectangular paper with colourised locations shown. Green forests, red roofed villages and a brown desert area in the bottom right are connected via brown roads and bridges that cross a blue river.
The map is your main method of understanding where you are and where you are going. Sadly there is no compass or direction shown.

When traveling from area to area within the game, there is an element of loading times that feels that it is slightly too long. This leads to your mind wandering, especially if you are struggling with a task.

More than meets the eye

When you are not questing you can be looking for collectables. Within the Journal there is a Collection area that sets out the type and quantity of items such as rare gems to finding historical places. Similar to Animal Crossing, it’s a case of trying to tick them all off as found.

Paleo Pines features a day and night rotation that in turn leads to the next day in the designated season. Each of the 3 seasons, as seen on the calendar, brings with it different weather, more things to find, and also affects where dinos will be located. I liked how the game continues to evolve around you. The world adjusting its graphics to suit.

How many dinos can you find and successfully add to your growing ranch?

Screenshot showing the journal once more with the season calendar now shown. Both pages have dates 1 to 21 with the left page titled "Jurassos 1" and the right page "Cretumnus 1"
With each season brings new things to do.

Graphics & Audio

The graphics are very easy on the eye with a fun and colourful cartoon style to them. The intro showed off some very wholesome postcard images that appeared to be very well rendered.

I did find that playing on the Nintendo Switch, Paleo Pines seemed to suffer from some blurring to the graphics, especially when it was docked and displayed on the TV. Edges just didn’t look that neat and it was almost as if something was turned down in order to optimise it. Similarly, shadows cast by objects such as trees seemed to draw in and flicker when they felt like it depending on the movement on the screen. It was almost as if it couldn’t make its mind up whether to show the shadow or not. I hadn’t changed the camera angle either.

Screenshot showing night-time in the game. Our character rides Lucky back at the farm. The graphics are in a blue filter to signify dusk while a small post with a lantern on glows yellow with glow bugs flying around it.
The day and night cycle works well and helps bring to life Paleo Pines.

The audio is very pleasing, with a happy selection of melodies playing in the background that match the gameplay at hand. Similarly, the sound effects of hopping on and off your dino and the general interactions are fun and immersive. Get ready for honks, trills and your magic flute filling the air with sound.

Longevity

While there are a lot of quests and collectibles to undertake and discover, there are a lot of moments where you just hit a brick wall of frustration. I could therefore only play an hour at a time before struggling to fathom out what was actually needed of me next.

Overall there is much game-time to be had once you get going and the changing seasons revitalises the map.

Screenshot showing a lush green field with a 3 large grey boulders in place. Beside our character are 2 grey and blue triceratops.
Making new friends and enticing them to live at your farm is key.

Final Thoughts

Paleo Pines is fun to a point. I was hoping that it would have been a little more helpful when it came to the tutorial and perhaps the devs could update it to reflect the missing guidance. Although I expected a bit of a challenge, usually that is more the puzzle questing and discovering side rather than the fact that you don’t know what to do at certain points. Ultimately Paleo Pines frustrated us all at times.

While we enjoyed meeting the dinos and helping the villagers, some refinement is required if this is to truly be a time sucker like Animal Crossing was.

I award Paleo Pines a Thumb Culture Silver Award.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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About Author

Source: thumbculture.co.uk

Kerri Waldron

My name is Kerri Waldron and I am an avid healthy lifestyle participant who lives by proper nutrition and keeping active. One of the things I love best is to get to where I am going by walking every chance I get. If you want to feel great with renewed energy, you have to practice good nutrition and stay active.

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