New from Liverpool-based indie developers Space Lizard Studio, Dragon Bros is a gloriously old school platformer.
Here the player becomes a ‘dragon teenager’ on an intense quest to save his mother from marauding extraterrestrial robots. Clearly inspired by classic run-and-gun games of the past, this also plays like recent games such Broforce, by echoing timeless classics but with unique new twists. In this case, the playable ‘dragons’ are armed with a whole range of weapons which provide various new ways to pass a level or defeat a difficult enemy.
Visually, the game is a riot of retro pixel art. Each level is brilliantly designed and the flow between different gameplay sections feels fluid and natural. After traversing through a particularly challenging platforming area, for instance, you pass through into a much calmer area with just a couple of enemies and guns. With your newly acquired weapons, you’re ready to meet a building filled with enemies head on. This provides a genuine sense of satisfaction between the assorted sections.
Unfortunately, though, the difficulty in Dragon Bros is also perhaps its biggest downside. Intially, players are set up with levels which introduce the basic mechanics of the game – namely running, jumping and shooting. This provides a good sense of the difficulty involved, which, throughout the first few stages, is very nicely balanced. However, upon reaching the first boss battle, the player is faced with a bullet-ridden hell which is barely passable when playing solo (the game is easier, and much more fun, with two players). It’s hard to adjust to being thrown into a stage that’s suddenly significantly more difficult like this. The likes of Broforce increased the degree of difficulty very gradually. In this way, by the time a boss battle came, players had acquired the skills and abilities required to beat it. As a result the frustration of dying over and over again didn’t feel cheap or the result of luck. The player knew they had brought defeat upon themselves.
Overall the bosses could probably do with being a little more spectacular, while the boss fights themselves sometimes feel stuffy and uncomfortable. Unlike in other games, there’s a feeling of relief when a boss is beaten where there ought to be a sense of satisfaction.
Playable with a controller or with a keyboard, the Dragon Bros controls are fairly smooth. However, players aren’t introduced to the more complicated controls by the game itself. Instead, they’re just expected to learn the controls themselves. It could be argued that this is meant to mirror the classics, but then, tutorials are now standard in modern games. It should be noted, though, that Dragon Bros is currently part of Steam‘s Early Access program, which allows players to play the game while it’s in early development and lets them watch as it evolves. As such, everything here is subject to change.
In short, Dragon Bros is a game which starts out as extremely fun, but becomes a little stale as the player progresses. Despite some flaws, though, Dragon Bros has the potential to become another entry in the current wave of nostalgic throwbacks for long-time gamers, while simultaneously introducing games for a new generation which hark back to the all-time classics.
By Michael Murray (aged 13)
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