Top 100 N64 Review: #36 – Turok Dinosaur Hunter (1997)

Watch Your Step.

This fairly fun FPS gets slightly ruined when it turns into a platformer.

LesLites’ Ranking#36/100
My Rating: cropped-starcropped-starcropped-star

Turok legitimately freaked me out as a kid.

Blood was always a queasy thing for me as a child. While I could handle the damp, red spots that imitated blood in Goldeneye 007, I could not handle the gushing animation that accompanied damage in Turok. Even with the option to turn it off in the menu, it was too late. I asked my mom to return the game.

This was a lucky move: I saved my younger self a boat load of frustration.

Yes, that tiny bit of green blood gave me nightmares.

Turok is a classic 90s game in style and gameplay. A DOOM clone with platform jumping, you meander through fog-filled levels attempting to find keys. These keys unlock higher levels where you find more keys for more levels, and eventually, you run out of keys to find to get to more levels.

It’s actually pretty addicting. Navigating maps. Killing dinosaurs. Finding secret areas.

What eventually dampened it for me was a lethal jab-cross combo of poor controls (which plagued every N64 shooter) and increasingly frustrating jump sequences. It’s hard to get excited when you have to jump up 10 quarter-sized platforms with controls that make it feel like you are on ice.

Oh N64 fog…how I’ve missed you.


Good, Clean Fun.

No need to crack open a manual. No tutorial to sit through.

After navigating the opening menu, in less than 30 seconds you are already playing the game intuitively knowing what do. Within 10 or 15 minutes, you understand the entire engine of finding more keys to open up more levels. That’s it. It’s that simple.

Turok mystery number one: loincloth and jeans? Tell me more.

So many games have a high barrier of entry. Nothing like sitting down to play something new to only have your entire first session be tutorials.

Not here. You shoot shit and find keys! You pick up ammo and health! There are a couple hidden areas with goodies! What a relief compared to the albatross of modern games with 100 layers of customization.

The Hunt Begins.

Outside of being immediately approachable, my favorite thing was finding these damn keys!

I’m not sure why I’m a sucker for such simplicity, but the deja vu of returning to a level never ceased to amaze: what was once an overwhelming, tortuous maze is now second nature. You navigate to new locations with aplomb and slowly drill down to where the additional keys must be hidden.

Turok mystery number two: the conspicuous horizontal tear across his abs. Surgery? Congenital? We may never know.

And what variety! Some are unlocked during boss fights, others after clearing an entire room of enemies. Some found after perilous jump sequences, while others simply hidden away, tucked off the beaten path.

For an added layer of difficulty, there are eight hidden pieces of a powerful weapon called the Chronoscepter on each level. These are usually saved as a reward for completing the hardest of the hardest challenge on each level and take a keen eye with resolve to find.

Fog? Water? Only one way to find out (not recommended).


Feeling Out of Control.

I’ve never given it much thought (though I’ve seen people discuss it online) but the N64 Controller really is worthless. The three-handled configuration makes sense if you have a game that is either 3D (middle & right handle) or 2D (left & right handle). However, there aren’t enough buttons to fully support what needs to happen in a 3D game.

In Turok, the map is indispensable to not miss out on any hidden pathways because of how graphically limited this game is. It is mapped to the L button. To use it, you have to take your hand off the control stick, slap L, and put your hand back on the middle handle. This is valuable time wasted when you are fending off stegosaurus with machines guns on its back.

So what do you do? You leave the map on all the time which really, really hurts the eyes.

It’s like posting your kids’ art project on the TV.

The C-buttons are used to go forward and strafe left and right. They are very jumpy. Double tap a bit too quickly and you will easily skid to your death. To allow for more precision, the control pad can be pressed in any direction to alternate between walking and running.

This is the same problem with the L button: no one has the time in the middle of a gun fight to take their hand off the controller.

Don’t tell me this doesn’t hurt your eyes. IT BURNS.

In a similar issue to Quake, everything is fine and dandy as long as you and the enemy are on the same plane. Someone on a ledge? ha. Ha! HA!!! Get ready to unload a clip into air as you whirl around. Thankfully, the game offers a very wide hitbox because it knows trying to aim is near about impossible, so a stray bullet three feet up and to the left still has a chance of doing some damage.

The Club is Jumpin’, Jumpin’.

So what should you do with a game with such shaky controls? Remove precision aspects while ramping up other variables such as puzzles, secret areas, or pathfinding to offset it?

Nah, brah.

We are going to do add a shitload of jumping, and not just any old jumping. We are going to expect precise, repetitive, multiple-objects-moving-while-taking-damage-fall-to-your-death-if-you-make-a-mistake kind of jumping.

Pairing this with having to also aim? Criminal.

It just sucks the entire life out of the game. I can’t get this across enough: this controller doesn’t allow you to move well. THEN, you make the entire game about precise movements?

Look, Turok can barely walk down a hallway without bumping into something, nonetheless little planks with swinging blades.

The game’s difficulty is manageable at first, but when the going gets tough, it is difficult to have the motivation to see it through. How does mastering c-button strafing build your resume for other games?

Turok mystery three: what a chiseled figure. I wonder what his micros are?


It’s one of those games where it is fun until its not. While I’m a big believer in the human spirit to overcome, this is not one of those occasions.

Other People’s Takes:

  • First Draft in the Trash: It’s completely unlike shooters from the time as this weird cross between FPS and Platformer.
  • Game Complaint Department: “In any case, I have returned to the original Turok on a few occasions and penetrated it to variable depths. Sometimes I feel like I enjoy it, and other times I don’t.”
  • Comic Book Video Games: “The jumping controls in Turok are fine but the space in which your characters needs to land on is normally pretty narrow with a mis-step meaning a lot of lost progress, health, lives, or all three.


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