A colorful but merciless roguelike 2D platformer.
Most 2D platformers have typically shined through their level design. Recent games in this genre have abandoned this mastered formula and gone with random generation of levels and roguelike style. These games focus on different elements such as speed, combat, or defense as opposed to simply going from start to finish through levels. DragoDino is a roguelike platformer with a focus on collection and exploration. It is a masterful and challenging collect-a-thon disguised in a cute and colorful art style.
The main objective is to collect all the blue diamonds in every section of each level in this colorful forest. The levels are jam-packed with platforms and enemies. Challenge comes from the different obstacles blocking your path and because of the random level generation, a straightforward way to get through is never present. The enemies become gradually faster and more common as you progress to subsequent levels. The diamonds are hard to find, requiring a lot of searching, but that also wound up being my favorite part as I enjoyed looking through every nook and cranny.
DragoDino’s strength is in its ability to adapt to different styles of gameplay. You can choose to intricately go through each level collecting every gem and diamond or try to beat the level in the quickest time possible. If you choose to not speedrun and simply go for the exploration route, so much is there to collect. There are coins, diamonds, scrolls, and puzzle pieces that can unlock power-ups and items. Different characters and power-ups assist your personal play style, whatever that may be. Those buffs may speed you up, increase your glide distance, or heighten your jumps. The game is built for explorers and speedrunners alike.
The cartoon art style is charming, fun, and an absolute pleasure to look at. The game takes place in the same forest the entire time, but still does manage to pack in a huge assortment of different colors and backgrounds. It is brilliant how every level tackles a slightly different feel on the same type of environment and really does make you feel like you’re exploring this massive world of a forest.
This game takes no liberties on difficulty. Each hit from an enemy knocks you down one health capsule. With the characters having only three or four health capsules, they can be felled easily. This makes it difficult to learn the game initially, but once you get the hang of things, this system ensures that you master how to defend yourself from enemies. I don’t have a problem with this aspect with the health system, but I take umbrage with how the campaign punishes you. If you get a game over, which means losing all of your health three times, you are sent back to the very beginning of the campaign. You lose all your items and power-ups. This system would make sense for a short game, but these levels are long and different every time. In my opinion, I shouldn’t have to go all the way back to the first stage if I’m working on how to beat the challenges of the later stages.
DragoDino is also held back by a few missed features and bugs. There is no D-pad support, my preferred method of playing 2D platformers. Also, the load screens between levels are sometimes over three minutes long. I understand that the game is generating the levels in that time, but this is unacceptable for a 2D game. These super long load screens are only between levels and can be somewhat avoided by restarting the game.
DragoDino is an amazing 2D platformer held back by a broken health system and unacceptable load times. Besides these problems, the game is a pleasure to explore or run through. The visuals are charming and there is lots of opportunity to try different power-ups and items to see how they impact how you play. Plus, you can play through split-screen with a friend, which is a nice addition. This is a unique game that is definitely worth sinking some hours into to completely enjoy all that it has to offer.