Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Capcom (1993)
It’s not the first amalgamation I’d consider if someone said “Put two things together and make a game with it from an original comic book” and while I might have chosen Dinosaurs, because they’re dinosaurs after all, it’s unlikely I’d have chosen Cadillacs. Likely I’d have opted for Dragons and Dungeons… no wait…
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs started originally as a comic book series in the late 80’s, set in post-apocalyptic world where pollution and disasters ransacked the planet, people moved underground for centuries and when they came back to the surface, dinosaurs were around again. Our two main protagonists, Jack and Hannah, fix cars and science dinosaurs respectively while trying to survive in a world where driving down to the corner-shop is likely to get your head chomped by something large and scaly. (Not using a mom joke there…)
From this, in steps Capcom to publish Cadillacs and Dinosaurs as a brawl-em-up. Take your two main characters, add in a few extra minor characters, give them some pointless stats, details and have them punch, kick and fight their way through multiple enemies, levels, bosses of both human and dinosaur in nature, and some enemies that are a little of both. The special skills are laughable at best, “Good Skill”, “Items”, “A move everyone else already has” and “Useless” are pretty much the spectrum on that one.
In so far as a plot is concerned, our intrepid heroes embark on a journey to stop poachers from killing dinosaurs and selling the skins, get ambushed on the way home and find out it was a ploy by some nutcase in a labcoat who wishes to fuse humans and dinosaurs together through ‘Science’ and become the perfect being. Sadly this was doomed from the start as he never wished to become me, oh how fickle life is. Cue this as a reason to fight your way through multiple levels featuring bosses, returning bosses, dual bosses, transformation bosses, bosses that become standard enemies and effectively hitting all the usual feature one might find in the arcade gaming tropes section. Even the obligatory sewer level and elevator level turn up.
You’re not alone in Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (Of which the Caddy rarely turns up but thankfully the dinosaurs do) you’ve a wealth of weapons to help you ranging from pistols to shotguns, clubs, rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, dynamite and knives with the usual smattering of arcade brawling food items and points items to help push you up onto the bonus lives limits. Depending upon the machine you’re playing on, you can have 2-3 players on screen at once trying to work out which dinosaurs are nice/nasty and which enemy is about to hit you before your mates screw it up and take you down by accident.
I can’t say that I know of the source comics or the cartoon series (which may or may not have come out after the game anyway) but as a game, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs shows that the motion and controls are fluid and quite responsive. Running is done easily with a double tap in a direction, jumping and fighting is pulled off easily while the use of weapons and items comes fairly intuitively. There’s little difference between the main characters in choice of skills and abilities, they all have combos, they call can run and jump and attack, they all have the “2 button” desperation attack that floors everything around themselves and costs a small amount of health in the process.
Graphically everything looks ok, though there’s a little chuckle to oneself when you see the Twin Towers stood next to some new-age Mesopotamian Pyramid, maybe they rebuilt it. The levels don’t seem to have the same attention to detail one might expect from Capcom and the detail on the standard enemies is somewhat lacking for quite a few of them, however the focus on the dinosaurs and dino-related creatures is sublime and there’s a guilty pleasure in punching out a T-Rex type dinosaur while bodyslamming a boss into several standard enemies.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs also delivers on the sounds, solid and loud explosions, synthed voices punctuating screams and shouts of triumph and jubilation as well as a rather overly enthusiastic “GO” sign that pops up when you need to progress to the right for more fighting. The music however doesn’t seem to have been considered suitably for the project in that you can go from 20 seconds of intense rooftop fighting, to a jazzy number in a chaotic hallway before going back outside to a epic, adrenaline inducing rush of music before the boss turns up and it becomes a lowerkey tune that doesn’t have the same rush. It gives the impression that whoever assigned the music didn’t have the same ideas as the person that composed it.
Sadly for an arcade game, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs doesn’t have much of a replay factor. Once you’ve beaten it you might give it another go and use another character but there’s little deviation from the standard play here. Even before you’ve beaten it, chances are you’ve seen everything already and there’s little reason to come back and go through it again. Which is a shame as it’s quite the fun game to play.