Fossil Fighters' robust roster of collectible dinosaurs and its fast-paced, lightly tactical battles make it an appealing adventure.
- Touch-screen cleaning minigame is fun
- Battles are fast-paced, with engaging tactical elements
- Good variety of cartoon dinosaurs to collect and use.
- Story and gameplay borrow a bit too blatantly from the Pokemon series
- Vivosaurs don't look very impressive
- Disappointing multiplayer.
One part Pokemon and one part Jurassic Park, Fossil Fighters replaces Pikachu and Squirtle with Alectrosaurus and Quetzalcoatlus but otherwise bears a striking resemblance to Nintendo's long-running series of role-playing games. This is no bad thing for fans of creature collection. Digging up old dino bones and battling it out with the not-so-terrible lizards you revive turns out to be a good deal of fun in Fossil Fighters.
The game begins as you arrive on Vivosaur Island to test your skills as a fossil fighter, sporting the spiky hair that's all but required of a hero in a game like this. The days of fossil fighters are largely taken up with three pursuits: digging for fossils, cleaning those fossils to revive the dinosaur those bones belonged to, and pitting their revived dinos against those of other fighters. Those revived dinos are referred to as vivosaurs, presumably to make it clear that this game doesn't offer a realistic portrayal of prehistoric pet behavior. A typical Ouranosaurus of the Early Cretaceous period probably did not use a fist jab in battle, but your vivosaurs employ all kinds of fun, goofy attacks.
Of the three activities, digging is the least interesting. To dig, you'll first need to travel to one of Vivosaur Island's dig sites. Once there, you'll use your sonar by tapping the screen or a shoulder button, head to any dots that appear on your sonar display on the top screen, and dig with your pickax. You may get a plain old useless rock for your trouble, but more often than not, you'll be rewarded with either a fossil or a jewel. There's not much to the digging process, which is why it's good that you're rarely just digging. Upon arriving at a new dig site for the first time, you'll quickly find yourself caught up in some quest or other, which likely involves getting your fellow fossil fighter, Rosie, out of trouble and foiling the plans of a nefarious purple-clad crew called the BB Bandits. So as you dig, you'll also be exploring the ancient pyramids, mines, pirate ships, and other locales where fossils are buried, engaging in fossil battles, and advancing the story. The story itself isn't anything special, and the way it's modeled after a typical Pokemon tale is shameless, but it's got a cartoonish sense of humor to it that younger players will enjoy. Particularly amusing is the banter between Vivian, the driven leader of the BB Bandits, and her bumbling cronies.
The fossils and gems you dig up are encased in rock and need to be cleaned before they can be used. This cleaning process takes the form of a fun touch-screen minigame. You're given 90 seconds to extract the bones and jewels from their rocky prisons. You'll start by using a hammer, which chips away significant chunks of rock with each tap but must be used carefully to avoid damaging the fossil or jewel underneath. Once you've cleared away most of the layers of rock, you can switch to a less powerful but much more precise drill. As you hammer and drill away, rock dust will fill the screen, obscuring your view, and you can eliminate this by blowing into the microphone or tapping the shoulder buttons. When time runs out, or you finish stripping away the rock from what lies within, you're given a point rating out of 100, with 100 being a fossil or jewel that is completely cleaned of rock without being damaged at all in the process. The higher the rating, the more powerful the vivosaur that's revived from the fossil, so there's incentive to clean fossils for vivosaurs you already have in your collection.
The struggle for perfection and the sense of pressure as the clock ticks down make the cleaning process compelling. Still, as fun as it is, you probably won't want to clean each and every fossil rock you find, and thankfully, you won't need to. You can hand them over to your robotic cleaning assistant, KL-33N, who does a decent job on his own and gets better over time as he watches you. You're also rewarded for any unneeded fossils you find--you can donate them to the museum for credit toward earning special fossils or sell them for cash at the island's shop, where you can upgrade your equipment.