May 31, 2010

Dragon Fire

It's no secret that I have a passion for board gaming (and more specifically Euro style games). In this niche hobby the abstract strategy genre doesn't get much love. There are some excellent abstract games, but often games with similar mechanics and a theme do much better at the retail level. People love pirates and zombies and so forth much better than simply being black or white. And yes, this will tie in to this game review...

Dragon Fire makes the claim that if you like traffic control games (hinting at Flight Control) then you're a good candidate for this game. I fully understand why and it's a reasonable parallel. In Dragon Fire a dragon's head that could have just as easily been a paint can or a square box fires different colored streaks and then you have to navigate them to a receptacle of the same color. You'll be toggling directional arrows to achieve this goal and there are three basic objects in the game: receptacles of different colors (and they change color and eventually go away as they are filled), the arrows that allow you to control where these streaks go, and turns which change the direction of the streaks. If you fail to get one of these color streaks to a like colored receptacle then you lose a life... lose three and it's game over.

The game includes 26 levels and a speed adjustment option. Make no mistake... the game is hard. Once you get past the first couple of confidence builder levels it'll have you stressing out and making mistakes. That reminds me that one thing I didn't like was if a streak entered an arrow and I change the direction of the arrow before it exited then the streak would continue in the arrow's original direction. From what I know about game design that kind of behavior is recommended against as it's frustrating (it's recommended to err in the player's favor)... and I find it to be unnatural. Just as I make a brilliant move the carpet is pulled from under me.

Dragon Fire's graphics are at par for this kind of game and it's got a nice audio track. The controls are decent, but I do find myself missing the smallish touch points for controlling the arrows now and again. It would be nice if those were bigger when they weren't adjacent to other arrows as there's no ambiguity as to what my intent is.

I think the game, despite being well done, has a couple of strikes against it that might not have been there had it been released before Flight Control. First up is the abstract nature of the game. I find it far more enjoyable landing planes or parking cars or docking ships versus controlling streaks of color. Second, in the 'traffic control games' the whole screen is my playground. I can change directions of a vehicle whenever I want by dragging a new path, whereas in Dragon Fire I'm limited to affecting just a handful of spots on the screen. Perhaps it's a good thing that the developers didn't just make yet another Flight Control copy (I think the Android Market has four direct copies already) and gave us something different. Unfortunately, I find the original to be the more enjoyable diversion. 3.5/5 stars for a quality title that falls a bit short of the competition.

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