Ever since I first heard about Paleo Pines, I’ve been extremely excited to play it. I’m a big fan of cozy farming sims but some of them can get a bit samey. Adding extinct reptiles into the mix is definitely a way to mix up the formula and in my opinion, it works wonderfully.
After playing the demo, I already had high hopes for this game, although I was interested to see how its performance on Switch compared to the PC-only preview demo. While there are certainly some quality-of-life elements and glitches that mar my opinion, I am absolutely loving every second I spend in Veridian Valley.
For the uninitiated, Paleo Pines is a 3D farming life sim set in a world where dinosaurs still exist. You and your best dino pal Lucky the Parasaurolophus move into a run-down ranch in Veridian Valley, the lush, green area of the larger Paleo Pines world. Your aim is to study and befriend a wide range of dinosaur species, grow your own crops, and figure out the larger mysteries of the world, including finding out where all the other Parasaurs are.
For starters, the character design and the concept are both simply adorable. I love a good character creator, especially ones that don’t lock me into binary gender options, and Paleo Pines offers a wide range of skin tones, hairstyles, and clothing while still sticking to a cutesy, cottagecore aesthetic. The core cast of NPCs is hugely diverse and there are even randomly generated townsfolk that use the same assets as the character creator.
It’s clear that a lot of thought and attention to detail went into creating the dinosaurs for this world as well. The Paleo Pines team has talked about working with a paleontologist in the past and the collaboration is clear. While still matching the cutesy aesthetic, the dinosaurs’ designs, diet information, and even scientific classifications are accurate to what we currently know about our ancient friends. Pairing this level of detail with creative liberties like brightly-colored rare dinos and making the Gallimimus call sound like a sea lion adds so much charm to Paleo Pines, especially for dino lovers like my partner and I.
The farming aspect of the game is pretty similar to other titles in the genre – you till the ground, plant seeds, water your crops, and sell your harvests. Once again it’s the dinos themselves that add a unique twist to the standard farming gameplay. The dinosaurs you befriend and house on your ranch each have special skills that you can lean on once they trust you enough. The goofy Gallimimus that I’ve already mentioned is the first dino to join your team alongside Lucky and they specialize in watering crops. Manually watering all of your plants drains your stamina pretty fast, so getting to hop onto your dino’s back and have them spray a whole field in one mouthful is convenient and adorable!
Personally, I’ve struggled with games like Stardew Valley in the past as I get easily overwhelmed when a game asks me to do too much at once. At the same time, a complete lack of direction can also turn me off a game. I think Paleo Pines strikes a nice balance between the two, slowly introducing new mechanics and areas through a main storyline and season system, but providing plenty to do with side quests, optional errands, exploration, crafting, and taming new friends for your ranch. Some of these can be a little frustrating, in particular the lost item quests, but overall there’s plenty to keep you busy without creating real-life stress in what is meant to be a relaxing, escapist experience.
As much as I’m enjoying Paleo Pines, it’s certainly not perfect. As I mentioned earlier, the Switch version has a few performance issues like stuttering and visual glitches, which I’ve mostly encountered when placing furniture or fences around my ranch. I find them fairly easy to overlook but they might bother you more than me. My other main concern is with the map. Unlike most videogame maps, the area maps in Paleo Pines are more artistic than they are functional. There are no labels, you can’t place markers, and the symbol that shows you where you are is hard to see. I’ve found myself getting lost a couple of times and had to brute force my way back to a familiar area because the map has been no help.
The map also lets you see where certain NPCs are at any given time, but even this has issues. If you inspect your map while on your ranch, none of the NPC icons show up. It’s the same in Pebble Plaza, the main shopping hub, with the map only indicating which characters are in the plaza with you and leaving the rest of the area blank. This makes finding characters for fetch quests a lot harder than it should be. Again, given how much fun I’m having with the overall experience, I can look past this, but it’s definitely worth considering.
Overall, I think Paleo Pines is catered to a pretty specific audience of dinosaur-loving cozy game enthusiasts and as someone in that group, it goes down a treat. I stand by my original assessment that this game is freshening up the farming sim genre, albeit in a sometimes clunky way. For the price, this game is definitely worth trying out and who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with it as much as I have.
If you’re after some more prehistoric adventures, check out our list of the best dinosaur games on Switch and mobile. We’ve also got plenty of gorgeous gardening experiences waiting in our best farm games guide.
Paleo Pines is a delightful, dino-filled romp through the farming sim genre that skillfully blends real paleontology with cutesy, cottagecore aesthetics and motifs. It’s a little wobbly on the Switch but it’s still full of wholesomeness and charm.