Paleo Pines is the latest game from North Ireland developer Italic Pig whose past work includes Infinite Hotel, Quest Quest: The Quest for Quests, and more.
Comfy farming games have flooded the market, inspired by Animal Crossing and the indie success of games like Stardew Valley. Paleo Pines seems poised to try and introduce the genre to even younger gamers with its round and bouncy art style alongside its large and colorful UI.
So how does Paleo Pines stack up in such a saturated market?
Developer: Italic Pig
Publisher: Modus Games
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Price: $29.99 USD
The game kicks off with the tried and true method of arriving at a dilapidated homestead, thankfully our hero arrives to clean it up after the nearby village had left it to ruin for so long. Along with us, we’ve brought our trusty Parasaurolophus (say that three times fast) Lucky. In fact, that’s what we’re here for.
You see, Lucky is from Paleo Pines but the fact is that the Parasaurolophus have been missing for years now. This mystery falls onto our narrow shoulders as we settle into our new home and search for Lucky’s family.
Character creation is pretty barebones. Skin color, hair color, eye color, hair style, and some clothes. I was hoping for different voices (since the character basically only says “woo-hoo”), or at least some beards. I wanted to make John Hammond from Jurassic Park, instead I had to settle for being a baby-faced professor.
The Parasurolophus mystery is the main story behind Paleo Pines, but players are free to tackle anything at their own pace. In fact the game encourages you to find what you like to do and to lean into that. Like farming? Then farm. Like taming dinos? Then go for it.
The tutorial is a little slow, but I was surprised that it actually checks for players clever enough to “skip ahead’. On day two I managed to skip a lengthy tutorial because I figured out how to farm on day one by myself and had a few things planted already. The NPC noticed this, said there was nothing else to teach me, and let me get back to work.
I do wish the tutorial did mention that you won’t be able to tame dinosaurs until you get your flute on a later day. I spent most of my first day chasing a wild Triceratops with cranberries to try and feed it.
Other things are surprisingly unintuitive or difficult to control, especially for a kid’s game. For instance, when turning around you actually follow your steps. You can’t easily turn in place, especially when mounted. This makes it easy to get stuck on geometry or end up wasting time.
Speaking of movement, having Sprinting cost energy really bogs down the game; especially when it comes to the player character. On your Parasaurolophus, you go ZOOMING when you sprint. Sprinting also levels up your riding dinos, but for the player character? It’s a needless drain.
You spend energy on farming and other tasks, why punish the player’s productivity because they want to move slightly faster when walking around town?
Shells are largely made by doing fetch quests via the town bulletin board, you get some other random prizes too like saddles and veggies. Veggies are mainly used to tame dinos and raise their friendship with you.
Grow crops, run around to level your dinos, do fetch quests, buy fodder, go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. The game just gets so repetitive, especially early on.
Ultimately, Paleo Pines is a fantastic game for children. It’s cute, it has dinosaurs, it has an easy to understand gameplay loop. It’s definitely perfect for a youngster to spend hours on, immerse themselves in the game, and actually appreciate the day to day activities the game offers.
Paleo Pines is a great game for young gamers just starting out with farming/life sims, but it lacks that all-ages appeal.