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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Dinosaurs are trying to murder you in this stylish tribute to the golden age of survival horror

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Nothing good ever happens in remote Arctic research bases, whether it’s John Carpenter’s The Thing, classic X-Files episode Ice, or Code: Dino-H, a new indie survival horror game inspired by the classics of the genre. Created by a small four-person development team, it’s only about 15 minutes long and feels more like an experiment than a fleshed-out game, but I enjoyed it all the same.

It opens with the classic PlayStation-era warning: “This game contains scenes of explicit violence and gore.” And it’s clear from that point on that the developers have a real passion for this golden era of survival horror—particularly Dino Crisis and Resident Evil.

You play as a researcher trapped in the aforementioned base, which for reasons that don’t really matter is crawling with hungry dinosaurs—velociraptors to be precise. Surrounded by the half-chewed remains of your fellow researchers, you have find a way to A) escape and B) avoid becoming dinosaur chow. It’s basically Jurassic Park meets The Thing, which is a powerful blend.

It’s a bit of a mix of styles. The combination of 3D environments and fixed cameras is reminiscent of Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (not surprising, given the game’s name), but the aesthetic is pure PSX. It works, though. This art style lends itself perfectly to horror games, and the vibe here is superb. There are some nice details too, like the way snow blows in through the broken windows.

Code: Dino-H (man, that name gets sillier every time I type it) has all the hallmarks of the classics, including tank controls and static camera angles that obscure just enough of the environment to make you feel uneasy about what’s lurking ahead. It’s not a complicated game, and the dinosaurs are easy enough to avoid, but the oppressive atmosphere makes for an effective horror experience.

If you like the sound of it, you can download it right now for free via Itch. It’s rough around the edges, and the slightly twitchy tank controls take some getting used to, but it’s worth a look if, like me, you have a particular nostalgia for these kinds of games.

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