Strictly speaking, E.V.O. Search For Eden isn’t a dinosaur game — the game allows you to play as all kinds of creatures. Still, there are few titles that utilized dinosaurs as well as this under-appreciated SNES gem.
Some games let you control a character or two; E.V.O. puts you in control of life itself. A mystical manifestation of the Earth named Gaia (like in Captain Planet, but with less Whoopi Goldberg) guides you through a plot that covers more than a billion years. During that time, you slowly influence the development of all biological life.
But some dark force is trying to screw with Earth’s evolutionary development (and it’s probably not creationists, because they haven’t evolved yet). You must stop this evil influence, save the Earth, evolve into a complex life form, and eventually join Gaia in Eden.
You start your journey as a lowly fish. You can swim and you can bite, but you can’t do much else. Thankfully, you won’t be stuck as this lowly creature forever. Throughout the game, you’ll encounter other life forms that act as both enemies and power-ups. When you defeat a life form, you can also eat it. Those delicious animals restore your HP and grant you E.V.O. points, which you can use to evolve your character.
Evolution is segregated into chunks: legs, jaws, fins, horns, body, tail, and more. Each part increases your HP, boosts your speed, or gives you some sort of special ability. Horns, for example, allow you to ram enemies instead of just biting them; fins increase your swimming speed and jump height.
If you’ve played a lot of JRPGs, you might be tempted to save your points for the most expensive parts. But doing this will create a mish-mashed abomination of a creature, like if Dr. Moreau went out on a bender. You’ll be powerful, sure, but you’ll struggle to make those mighty body parts work well together.
The trick is to try to build creatures that actually exist, from rabbits to dinosaurs to human beings. Getting the right combination of parts allows you to unlock secret evolutions, which are far more powerful than those mix-and-match creations.
After traversing the world, finding a spaceship from Mars, defeating some giant bees, destroying a temple of bird men, and talking with the ghost of a triceratops, you face off against the biggest threat evolution has ever seen: a single-celled organism who’s attained sentience.
Once you secure the safety of all life on Earth, you can start the game over and experience brand new evolutions.
If you need more incentive to replay, the game also has multiple endings. You don’t even have to save the Earth if you don’t want to. You can take the world down a whatever weirdo evolutionary path you’d like.
So you see, E.V.O. is more than just an awesome dinosaur game. It’s an awesome dinosaur, bird, rabbit, human, tentacle-monster, etc. game. Still, most of the game is spent eating dinosaurs.
And, if you’re like me, you wanted to spend the entire game as a Pterodactyl.