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Minutes into Star Fox Adventures, General Pepper (who happens to be a talking bloodhound) pops up on screen and reminds you, ”This mission is about saving the planet — not blowing it up.” This warning sets the stage for the latest chapter in the adventures of Fox McCloud, the reynard best known as the ace fighter pilot from 1997’s best-selling Star Fox 64. This time, Fox steps out of the cockpit and onto the prehistoric landscape of Dinosaur Planet. He walks upright and wields a magical staff, but like General Pepper advised, Fox’s offensive abilities must take a backseat to his MacGyver-like resourcefulness in the game environment.

Playing out in a light, comedic style that’s reminiscent of the film Ice Age, this prehistoric adventure includes encounters with a passel of talkative dinosaurs. For most of the game, Fox is accompanied by an eager baby triceratops named Tricky. This tyke’s unique abilities are put to use as the pair go up against General Scales, a rapacious dinosaur who has seized the four SpellStones used to hold Dinosaur Planet together. With the world split into pieces, Fox must reclaim the gems and save this land before time.

While there is some combat against Scales and his dino grunts, it’s certainly not the game’s forte. (It’s disappointing that you can only fight against one enemy at a time, but the battles are fun and not exceedingly difficult.) The emphasis on combat, however, isn’t missed since the plot is advanced mostly through puzzle solving. It’s a welcome respite from today’s combat-heavy titles that too often feel like carnival whack-a-mole games rather than rich story-driven adventures.

In turn, the game’s focus on rewarding exploration lets you soak in beautifully rendered environments like Cape Claw, an ocean-side oasis. Even after 15 or 20 hours of play, new scenarios (how can you not love flying on the back of a pterodactyl?) will have even the most jaded of players curious about what might still be in store. This ever-changing gameplay and great pacing put the game in a class all its own. Star Fox might not be about blowing up a planet, but it sure works at blowing away the biggest problem associated with so many games today: boredom.

STRATEGY Can’t find enough scarabs to pay for items at the shop? Save and reload your game. When you return, scarab pick-up locations will be freshly stocked.

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