There’s a lot of debate in the paleontology community about whether Tyrannosaurus rex was an apex predator or a scavenger. Its long, powerful legs would probably indicate that it was good at chasing its prey, but its vestigial arms don’t really lend themselves very well to predation. Thankfully, this age-old, somewhat bitter argument isn’t a debate Rio Rex is interested in solving. Instead, Rio Rex simply asks the following question: how awesome would it be to wreck up some stuff as a dinosaur?
Let’s back up a little. Rio Rex is a 2D side scrolling action game developed by noted Flash developers GameTornado, whose previous works include Short Life, Rocketville and a whole bunch of other Rex games including Miami Rex, L.A. Rex and London Rex. GameTornado is a developer with a pedigree; Rio Rex isn’t their first rodeo, and it shows. GameTornado has had its works ported to mobile platforms like Android, and will enjoy its first Steam release this summer with Rio Rex.
All of this is to say that a certain level of quality should be expected from Rio Rex. Perhaps, if this was a bedroom developer’s first title, some leniency could be utilised, but since GameTornado knows what it’s doing, we should expect Rio Rex on Poki to be as satisfying and enjoyable as the developer’s previous work. It’s a relief to say, then, that Rio Rex is an absolute blast, and that only one or two minor niggles keep it from being a bona fide classic of its genre.
Okay, this is probably where we should summarise the story of Rio Rex. Err, you’re a Tyrannosaurus rex, and the city of Rio de Janeiro has done something to significantly annoy you. You can fill in the blanks yourself; maybe you had a T. rex girlfriend that Rio de Janeiro stole, or perhaps Rio de Janeiro killed your T. rex parents. In any case, you are here to exact revenge on the buildings and people of this beautiful city, and it is this revenge which will drive you through 16 levels of mayhem and mischief.
“Mayhem and mischief” might be a bit of a soft phrase when it comes to Rio Rex, actually. The first thing to say about this game is that it’s pretty darn violent. Our nameless T. rex protagonist devours humans and destroys buildings with gleeful abandon, and when people are eaten, there is, as one should perhaps expect, rather a lot of blood. With that in mind, if you’re of a sensitive disposition or you don’t want your kids exposed to violence, it might be best to avoid Rio Rex.
Those of you who stay will find a surprisingly fun and satisfying side scrolling romp which manages to stay on just the right side of repetitive. The objective in Rio Rex differs from stage to stage, but it’s usually focused around destroying a certain amount of something within the level. That something could be people, lab equipment or vehicles, but a certain number of whatever it is must be eradicated before the T. rex is satisfied. This does unfortunately mean that it’s occasionally possible to miss an objective entirely thanks to a fairly cluttered visual environment; humans aren’t particularly visible against Rio Rex’s busy backdrops, so if you miss one, it’s all the way back through the level to make sure your murder quota is fulfilled.
This formula could quite easily descend into bland repetition, but Rio Rex moves at such a savage pace (no pun intended) that it never has time to slow down and become boring. The game is controlled with the keyboard and mouse, with WASD used for movement and the mouse used to bite enemies or breathe fire (historical accuracy isn’t exactly top of the list for GameTornado, it seems). The pace of gameplay is fast and furious; enemies with weapons, which appear later, can easily carve your health bar up if you’re not paying attention, while bosses often require a slight alteration of your strategy in order to succeed.
Don’t worry if you’re not of a particularly strategic bent, though. Rio Rex isn’t interested in chin-stroking strategic gameplay. What Rio Rex loves is destruction, pure and simple. Points are given in the game for destroying inanimate objects, people and vehicles, with a total of 3 “skull medals” available for players should they destroy enough objects in time. Score-chasing is an old and venerable pastime, and it’s actually really nice to see a game which doesn’t bother itself with upgradeable protagonists or a crowbarred-in leveling system (an upgradeable T. rex might be a tad absurd, anyway).
All in all, Rio Rex is a game out of its era. Its simplistic, straightforward destruction-based gameplay and savagely entertaining run-and-gun style evoke a retro mentality, a desire to return gaming to its all-singing, all-killing roots. Rio Rex isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’ll settle for Rio de Janeiro, and that’s enough for us. If anything in this review has you excited, you can have yourself a little Rio Rex game on Poki right now.