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Our family attended GenCon this past summer (2016) and while in years past we have focused on games for us adults, this year we decided to pay special attention to the sections and aisles dedicated to kid games. One booth in particular (Peaceable Kingdom) stood out to us as having some neat looking games that caught our three year old daughter’s eye. After demoing a few, we decided to take advantage of a social media promotion that involved having your kid take a picture at their booth and using their hashtag to be entered into a drawing. Not long after we arrived back home, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that we were one of the winners and we choose to receive a copy of Dinosaur Escape. There was very little information on BGG regarding this, but it looked interesting and we were willing to give it a go.
Overview: Dinosaur Escape is a cooperative game where the players are taking turns moving dinosaurs around a circular track, rescuing them before a volcano erupts! On your turn, you roll a dice and move one of the three dinosaurs in either direction the amount listed on the die. Then you flip over and look at one of the 12 face down tiles which then forces you to remember what you have seen and what you haven’t. If you have matched up the correct tile with the correctly colored dinosaur, they escape! If not, you flip the tile back over and the play moves to the next player. Most of the tiles are all benign dinosaur themed things like footprints, dino eggs, and lizards. There is one tile that is a T-Rex that forces you to bring your dinosaur figures back to their starting spaces. If you roll a volcano face on the die, you add one of the 5 levels of the 3D volcano standee. If you are able to rescue all three dinosaurs before the volcano erupts, you win!
Components: Dinosaur Escape comes with 3 dinosaur figures, 12 tiles, the 5 volcano pieces, a die and the board. The dinosaurs are basically smaller versions of toys I had as a child. They feel almost like a soft plastic or silicone so they shouldn’t shatter with rough usage. The cardboard used for the tiles and volcano are nice and thick. I worry that over time the volcano puzzle pieces won’t fit together as snug over time, but as of now, they have held up. Another nitpicky thing is that the custom die has the numbers and volcano painted on rather than engraved. In my experience, dice with painted symbols wear off after time. I wish they would have opted for something a little more permanent. It has survived many plays thus far, but I felt it was worth mentioning.
Teachable Moments (if any): One of my favorite parts of Dinosaur Escape is the memory mechanic used to match up the dinosaurs with their tile. There are only 12 of them, but it is easy to forget where you’ve already looked. This can waste precious time and is especially dangerous if you have to endure the T-Rex more than once! This is a neat memory-building idea that is, in my opinion, far more engaging and interactive than the old school game of memory where you are trying to match tiles. This game also reinforces taking turns, which can be hard for little ones. It is also an introduction to dice rolling and the roll-and-move mechanic. It took some time to explain that the space where the dinosaur started does not count as a move. We had to teach her the concept of zero just to get over that learning hurdle. “It started on zero, so we can move three more places. One, two, three.” Lastly, even though it is a cooperative game, you can still all lose as a group. Teaching the art of winning and losing is important to gamers and this game helps pave that road for the future. I’ve come across many adult gamers that could have been taught how to win more gracefully and lose well. Losing a game does not make you a loser and winning a game doesn’t make you a better person than someone who maybe did. When we first began playing Dinosaur Escape, our daughter would cry when we lost. Now, just a few months later, when we lose, she just wants to try again and do better.
Kid Fun: This game has a high toy factor. Between the dinosaurs themselves and watching the volcano build up, we found our daughter was enthralled by the Dinosaur Escape before we even started. The dinosaurs in particular, I think, are what draw our daughter to the game; the box even advertises “Comes with three toy dinosaurs!” She loves coming up with explanations for everything as well. “This must be the beach because it’s where we found the shell” “One of the dinosaurs lost one of his tooths!” Nothing beats finding one of the dinosaur tiles though. That race to get everyone saved before the volcano erupts gives this game great tension.
Adult Fun: From an adult perspective, this game gives much more than some of the other games we have tried. In a sense, it is solvable. By narrowing down the sections that you have searched, and moving the dinosaurs in the right manner, you can shave off a lot of turns and beat the clock more often than not. I don’t feel satisfied with those wins. I have begun letting our daughter make all the decisions. I try to help her make decisions and test her memory in the process, such as asking her questions. “Before you choose a tile to look at, can you point to the tile that has the feather on it? How about the lizard?” We lose more of our games by letting her run the show, but I feel like she is learning more that way and she has more fun as well. Watching her game at a higher level made the game more enjoyable for us. And as I mentioned before, the volcano die rolls are unpredictable so even the best laid plans can be covered in lava. That tension makes every game fun, though it doesn’t give you a lot of control over how many turns you will have to work with.
Appropriate Age Range: While the box states 4+, we introduced this game at the age of three, and it was perfect for our daughter. There is a possibility that we could have introduced it closer to 2 or 2 and a half, but it probably would have been too much and we as the adults would have ended up running the game more often than not. We are still playing it often and it gets requested regularly. As more games get introduced to our daughter, I predict that this might fall out of the normal repertoire but will still get the occasional play in. I believe that the best age for this game will end up being 3-5, with some minimal usage until maybe 6. We will try to update this once our daughter reaches the proposed upper limit.
Price and Value: The MSRP for this game is $17.99, and while that is overall pretty reasonable and in line with many other children’s games, it seems just a touch high given how few components are involved. I feel it is worth it for how much time and how many plays you will get out of it, but if you can maybe find a sale and get a couple bucks off, it would definitely be worth your while.
Conclusion: Dinosaur Escape is a fun cooperative game that adds some tension and excitement to a category of kids games that can sometimes leave an accompanying adult wanting more. This strikes a really nice balance, looks great on the table, and makes for some fun family moments and laughs. We can recommend this game as a good stepping stone to more advanced games. It is quite hard putting number ratings on games that aren’t geared towards the author’s age group, but my daughter who is now three and a half would give this a 9 or 10 based on how often she asks for it. As far as our own parental ranking, let’s just say that I would chose this over most other games our daughter is able to play at this time.
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