In 1993, Virgin Games released a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System called Color A Dinosaur. The term “video game” is used very loosely here, since Color A Dinosaur was intended for young children and consists entirely of coloring in selected areas of still images that feature cartoony dinosaur figures.
At best, it can be considered a touchstone conversation-starter concerning video game target audiences, using electronic gaming for educational and parenting purposes, and the intersection between entertainment and self-growth. At worst, Color A Dinosaur is a misguided, ill-advised, naive, shallow, not-fun video non-game with no replay value whatsoever.
After a credits screen (including a notable appearance by Tommy Tallarico as the game’s composer, Tallarico being the notable composer of music for titles like the Earthworm Jim franchise on later consoles), the “game” has a plain-Jane title screen featuring the title of the “game” spelled over a pack of crayons, and the figure of a dinosaur that gradually gets filled in with color.
Hitting a button gets past that screen, and to the dinosaur selection screen, which shows small thumbnail images of the sixteen choices available. Once a dino is selected, the dinosaur figures appears alone and enlarged on the screen, with a palette of ten available colors on the left (though, in reality, it is only three available colors and seven combination pattern variations) and a hand designating a portion of the dinosaur. The A button fills the hand-picked portion with the color currently selected on the palette, the B button moves the arrow cursor down to a different color, the directional pad scrolls through different areas of the dinosaur picture to select for filling in, and the Select button switches to a different palette (though this also switches the existing colors that have already been used on-screen).
That is the entire game. Even when you complete a dinosaur and color every available area, you do not get to select another picture. You just have to sit there and stare at your results until you reset the “game” or turn it off completely. If you select a relatively large portion of the picture, the NES actually takes a few seconds to color it. You get to watch as the enormous pixels slowly fill in with color. This is not a fun game by any rational measure.
The dinosaurs are pixelated to the max and every other graphical element sucks too.
The title screen has a repetitive theme, the effects are silly and simple, and during coloring there is no background music whatsoever.
It could be argued that this game is unique, but that is not necessarily a good thing; a cosmic-orange-colored 14-inch triangle-shaped piece of zebra poop that smells like rotten radishes might be unique too, but it is still crap.
There is so little to this game, and thus there is naturally so little to say about it. A coloring book and a set of crayons provides much more room for creativity, a longer-lasting (and more portable) image, better control, more intuitive function, and was probably cheaper in the 1990’s as well. There is no actual reason to play this game. It is not fun. It serves no purpose. Like Videomation, the images created cannot be transported or used for anything else. It is a pointless, unenjoyable endeavor, and it cannot be defended as “educational” or a “kid’s game” because, when honestly considered, not only does it not truly fit either category (it teaches you nothing, and any kid old enough to use a controller would find it dull and dumb), but is indefensible in any manner whatsoever. This is a not a video game, but nonetheless it must receive a rating, so a half-star out of five it receives because at least it is a finished product, it could be supposed.