It’s officially Fall, so it’s time for all the new farming sims to debut. Something about the imminence of real-life harvest always seems to lead to an influx of fresh takes on the tried and tested cozy genre that is so popular. In this case, it’s Paleo Pines from developers Italic Pig, where you can make your own Jurassic Ranch, try to solve mysteries, and build relationships with your new neighbors.
As is almost always the case with these games, you have just moved to a new town. Welcome to Paleo Pines, where dinosaurs roam free and live harmoniously with the human inhabitants. You reside in a run-down, overgrown ranch with your trusty companion, Lucky the Parasaurolophus. Everyone is very interested in Lucky because Parasaurolophus is an incredibly rare dinosaur. It is so rare no one can remember seeing any in their lifetime.
Their rarity poses a problem for you; you’ve moved to Paleo Pines mainly to try and find Lucky’s family. Well, no use crying over missing dinosaurs. It’s time to start clearing out your ranch and catching new dinosaur friends to help you become the greatest Prehistoric farmer ever. Of course, the main background mission of the game is to find the almost mythical Parasaurolophus herd, but that will take some time. In the meantime, my main task was to befriend a mighty Triceratops, the best dinosaur.
Taming dinosaurs in Paleo Pines is a multi-step process involving flutes, food, and a treat beloved by dinos called Poppins. These are legally distinct from the Poffins found in Pokémon. First, you have to play the specific species friend call on your flute. On your first encounter with a species, you will have to remember the color and intensity pattern, but once you have encountered them and successfully played it, you can reference it at the bottom of the screen.
Welcome To Paleo Pines
Once you play their friendship call correctly, it’s time to feed them a treat. Each crop or foraged food in the game has different flavor profiles: crunchy, fragrant, juicy, earthy, and spicy. Other dino species will have different preferences. Finding out’s a bit of trial and error as you risk either over-exciting or boring the dino. If you overexcite them, they run off. If you bore them, they go to sleep. However, if they go to sleep, you can get your journal out and examine them, getting some info about their species.
Once you discover their preferred flavor, it’s time to give them a legally distinct Poppin. Poppins also have flavors, so pick the right one, and make sure the arrow in the friendometer is in the green area. Once the dino trusts you, steal it away from its family and put it in a pen on your ranch. You’re my child now, and don’t you forget it. There are herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores in the game, and while you can pop them in the same pen together if you are unprepared, they won’t be happy about it, so before you go dino scouting make sure you already have space for them. There are also loner dinos who want solo pens, so keep that in mind.
Dinos can also be helpful around the ranch and integral in opening up new areas. Each species has different abilities, which you can use once they become helpers. Smaller dinos like Microraptors and Archeopteryx are tenders and discoverers, meaning they can help plant and tend crops. Lucky is a clearer, meaning he can get rid of piles of debris on the floor like stone and planks, while Ankylosaurus can stomp on tree trunks to remove them. Triceratops are rock smashers, along with other species featuring bony frills, and clawed species like Therizinosaurus are slashers, meaning they can get rid of thick fiber bushes blocking paths.
My mission to get a Triceratops meant I had to get a Styracosaurus, bring it to my ranch, and make it like me enough to become a helper so that I could ride it to a boulder that blocks the path to the land of Triceratops. Once I broke through, I saw a lavender Triceratops and knew it would be my newest child. Once I managed to tame it, name it Trixie, and get it its own pen, I immediately jettisoned the Styracosaurus into the wild. I no longer have need of you, you poor man’s Triceratops! Be free!
You’ve Heard of Chaos Theory?
Aside from forcing dinosaurs into friendship/servitude, there’s also a human element to consider. The townspeople of Paleo Pines serve as shopkeepers and sidequests. There is no crafting in the game, so you rely on the shopkeepers at the main town plaza to get supplies. Unfortunately, they aren’t always there, and if you are riddled with ADHD like me, you won’t be able to keep track of in-game days and frequently find yourself out of supplies.
The food vendor is always there, but Marlo, the woodworker, isn’t, and he is the only way to get supplies to create a pen and get a trough to feed your new captive. You may say, “Well, that isn’t a problem; just don’t catch any new dinos without a pen.” WRONG. Some dinosaurs are rare or have rare coloration that rarely appears, so if you see them, you have to trick them into following you home at that moment. I have to collect all the things it is necessary for my continued existence.
Aside from this, the other residents mostly offer sidequests. The human element is very surface level. Much like in real life, I don’t really care about the area’s other inhabitants. You need them to activate progression, but other than that, they are pretty dull and one-dimensional. Which is fine; I care only about dinosaurs.
Paleo Pines is a pleasant experience, and I enjoyed my time with it, but I can’t see myself returning to it unless new content is added. The desert area of Ariacotta Canyons was a fun addition to the locations already available in the demo, and the new dinos added a bit more diversity. Paleo Pines is excellent, but it doesn’t have the staying power right now that games like Stardew Valley do. This comes from someone who has had a hyper-fixation on Triceratops since age six.
Paleo Pines is out now on Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.