Dinosaur Fossil Hunter – Review
Follow Genre: Simulator
Developer: PyramidGames
Publisher: PlayWay S.A.
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Dinosaur Fossil Hunter – Review

Site Score
Good: Realistic visuals
Bad: Gameplay can get repetitive, awkward default controls
User Score
(1 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

We have a soft spot for dinosaurs, so when Dinosaur Fossil Hunter was released back in May of this year, it was on our radar pretty much instantly. Despite this, we didn’t get around to actually playing Dinosaur Fossil Hunter around the original launch date. So why are we looking at the game now? Well, earlier this month, developer PyramidGames dropped a major update to the game, officially bumping the version up to 2.0! This felt like the right opportunity to give Dinosaur Fossil Hunter a shot. So join us, as we strap on our boots, grab our pickaxe, and head into the wilds to dig up some dinosaurs!


A recent trend we’ve noticed in simulation games is that more focus is put onto the narrative alongside hyper-realistic gameplay. This is also the case with Dinosaur Fossil Hunter, as we are placed in the shoes of a young, unnamed paleontologist. He goes on to tell us how he has always been obsessed with dinosaurs ever since he found his first fossil at the age of eight. Now in his mid-twenties, our protagonist has dedicated his life to digging up dinosaurs and filling a museum with his discoveries. There isn’t more to Dinosaur Fossil Hunter’s story than this simple narrative, but it’s enough to make the game’s campaign feel structured and cohesive.


We were a bit surprised to see that Dinosaur Fossil Hunter took up 22 GB of space on our hard drive -almost three times the size of Jurassic World Evolution 2, including all currently released DLC- but now that we’ve gotten around to playing the game, we understand why. The attention to visual detail is staggering, from the textures of the fossils to the vast and varied environments where you need to find them. This is a fantastic-looking game, although we should note that it also feels very empty. There are no visitors walking around in your museum and even when you’re on the dig sites or working in the lab, there are no co-workers to be found. Adding more human models to the game would probably add another degree of realism, even if they aren’t actively doing anything. Even the game’s protagonist is never shown as the game is played in the first person view. This also means that tools are simply floating in the air as you’re using them. We would’ve preferred it had a human model been implemented, and would have loved it if we had been able to customize their looks.


While the visual presentation of Dinosaur Fossil Hunter definitely impressed us, the same can’t be said for the audio. That’s not necessarily a bad thing here, as there simply isn’t a whole lot that could be done here. The paleontologist narrates the game’s main campaign, and does a decent job, and the sound effects are realistic. The music is instantly forgettable, but in this case, that didn’t bother us.


Our initial expectations for Dinosaur Fossil Hunter were that this would be a game about digging up dinosaur bones and assembling them, and while this makes up a major part of the core gameplay, there’s far more depth to be found in this simulation game. It’s actually rather impressive to see how clever PyramidGames was with the introduction of some of the core mechanics, as the tutorials are seamlessly integrated into the first three parts of the story, covering our unnamed palaeontologist’s youth. The game opens on a beach where you are introduced to navigating the area as you recall finding your first fossil as an eight-year-old. Then there’s a segment where you connect the dots to draw a sauropod, before moving on to constructing a trio of wooden dinosaur models. While it isn’t clear from the get-go, the gameplay here actually mimics Dinosaur Fossil Hunter’s later mechanics.

Once you’re actually getting to grips with the meat of the game, you’ll find that a lot of thought was put into implementing pretty much every step of the real-life fossil hunting process. You’ll be navigating your vehicle through narrow roads, dealing with roadblocks along the way as you make your way to distant excavation sites. You’ll try to differentiate between what’s rock and what’s bone on site and clean up your findings in the lab, before moving on to assembly and finally displaying your find in the museum. Dinosaur Fossil Hunter is equal parts survival game, driving simulator, puzzle game, and educational software.

Unfortunately, the concept sounds a lot better than the game is in practice. Even with the 2.0 update, which PyramidGames announced with much fanfare, we had some issues with the game. We tried to play using both a controller and a mouse and keyboard and both options felt like a struggle, straight from the get-go. After messing around with button layouts, things fared a little better, but the initial button mapping felt very counterintuitive. The gameplay itself feels very realistic, albeit repetitive. If you’re looking for an action-packed experience, you’re better off looking elsewhere, but if you enjoy titles like Lawn Mowing Simulator (which incidentally also has dinosaurs these days) or Model Builder, then this game might be right up your alley.

That’s because a lot of the work you’ll be doing is reminiscent of those aforementioned titles, at least when it comes to performing mundane and repetitive tasks. We’re not gonna lie here: despite the fact that we absolutely have an interest in real-life paleontology, Dinosaur Fossil Hunter doesn’t quite make hunting for fossils exciting. You’ll be spending a lot of the time preparing the bones, which is a simple but repetitive step-by-step process. The aim here is clearly realism rather than fun, and while there is something to be said about the zen-like nature of going through this process, you need to be in the right mindset to truly enjoy what’s being offered here. It would help tremendously if things felt smoother and more streamlined rather than that the game itself is struggling against you every step of the way -especially when you’re attempting to navigate your truck through a forest with narrow roads and plenty of obstacles. Our personal favorite part was when we got to customize areas in the museum, adding new skeletons and decorating the room around them.

Unfortunately, before you get to that part -which is probably the most satisfying aspect of Dinosaur Fossil Hunter– you need to put in a major amount of effort first. Granted, this applies to real-life fossil hunting as well. It takes a lot less time to get a skeleton from a bunch of bones on the excavation site to a museum-quality reconstruction than it would in real life. However, this is a highly specialized process in the first place, and in real life, the same person doesn’t cover every aspect of fossil reconstruction. Instead, real-life paleontologists and museum workers all have their own specialization, which further highlights the need to include additional characters -we would’ve preferred it had the game’s flow centered around the journey of the fossils themselves rather than on a singular human protagonist. It would’ve been a minor change but it would have made the game feel more alive. That said, we guess we should be thankful that Dinosaur Fossil Hunter doesn’t include a gameplay aspect where you’re filling in forms, and trying to get permits to gain access to international dig sites. If you’re still on the fence at this point, then be aware that it’s clear that the current 2.0 release of Dinosaur Fossil Hunter isn’t the game’s end state. Judging from PyramidGames’ blog, more dinosaurs, small fossils, and locations are forthcoming. Here’s hoping that they’ll be taking the opportunity to not just add more content but also smooth out the overall gameplay experience. We’ll keep an eye on updates and hopefully, our opinion of the game will improve if and when we return to it in a couple of months.


Despite our love for the source material, we can’t help but say that Dinosaur Fossil Hunter is a mixed bag in its current state, even after the 2.0 update. PyramidGames absolutely nails the experience of being a paleontologist as the game covers pretty much every aspect of the excavation process, but repetitive gameplay and awkward controls make for a game that takes no small effort from the player to really get into. That said, if you’re in the right mindset, there is a lot to enjoy here, provided you take the time to remap the default button layouts.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Dinosaur Fossil Hunter - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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