Welcome to Dragon Bros, the platforming bullet-hell you didn’t know you wanted.
Although that might be stretching the truth. By a lot. This game is more of a shoulder shrug than anything; a brief little motion that hints at something more, but never really goes anywhere, leaving you wondering what’s next. But unfortunately ‘next’ never comes. There are very few levels in the game, and you can pedal through them in a few minutes each – at least if you can cope with simple platforming action, and are able to shoot things.
Story-wise and Dragon Bros is told without any words, just scrolling pictures in a PowerPoint style. There was once a dragon that laid four eggs, but these were then taken by robots. The eggs hatch, and the dragon babies decide to take their mom back, even if they have to gun their way to her. Which is exactly what you are left to do.
The level selection process is done through a map, similar to how other platformers have done it previously, with obligatory mini-game levels sprinkled throughout each region – the two main ones being remakes of Space Invaders and Bubble Trouble. Each region has a few mandatory levels, and two mini-game levels, giving you about twenty levels of gameplay in all and is set as a platformer with increasing amounts of enemies and traps that aim to defeat you. My biggest issue with the play structure however is in the fixed scrolling, which prevents you from going back into a level and exploring. This kills any hope of finding interesting secrets that might give more context/history to what is going on. You just walk through each level, shoot the things the game wants you to shoot, and hit checkpoints that refill your health.
The checkpoint system itself is alright, but it just feels like there needs to be a few more sprinkled out. I know part of the difficulty comes from fighting through enemies and wondering if you’ll make it to a new checkpoint, but it just feels more drawn out then it needs to be, especially in the later levels. The issue primarily comes from when you respawn; you don’t get your second gun or special move back, and so you’ll actually be worse off than before. Granted, you might still find a new weapon in-between the checkpoint and the next fighting arena, but you might not get something as useful if you were saving up your previous one.
One thing that did hit me is that the difficulty isn’t really prevalent at the start of the game, but it slowly ramps up with each boss fight, giving the player a decent test with the final set of levels. The issues I have run into though centre around the fact that the enemies are just a bit, well, dull. You fight the same enemies throughout the whole game, the only thing changing being the background and design of textures for scenery. There are a few enemies thrown into the end game which are interesting, but they are usually surrounded by a swarm of opponents which just blend together to form a fairly forgettable experience. The bosses at the end of each set are pretty decent though, giving an interesting challenge to topple with each one. But it doesn’t offset the fact that you’ll only really remember the boss fights. Everything in between may as well be a big long loading time.
Part of the monotony comes from the actually shooting aspect of the game. You have a starter pistol that hits out a single shot, or if you get enough coins you can activate a special move which shoots three shots for a few seconds. The other guns include an automatic rifle, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, and a laser beam cannon. There is a sniper rifle and gun from the Bubble Trouble game too. Each has an alternative firing mode with a special ability, which isn’t all that special considering how fast the bar fills up. It also never really feels like there is anything much better than the starter pistol, especially when you throw in the fact that everything but the starter pistol has limited ammo. There really isn’t much of a point behind using the better weapons.
Dragon Bros is pretty nice to look at though, and the music is more than decent – if you think electronic music is decent. The levels actually activate traps based off of certain notes that play, bringing a tiny amount of rhythm skills to your experience. This does get a little annoying when you get to the heavy electro-beats, and the game becomes a gamble as to whether or not you’ll actually make it through unscathed. Add this to the fact that the last area of the game is the electro portion, and the game just becomes obnoxious to play.
With all of that said, Dragon Bros just doesn’t seem like it has much bang for the buck. Granted, it does initially come at a reduced price, but still seems disappointing – it’s primarily a fairly average, generic shooting-platformer. The game does have some redeeming qualities, such as the pixel-art, or the gall to try bullet-hell platforming, but it still needs to flesh out those ideas before being truly worth the time and money.
Dragon Bros takes very few hours to beat, and it doesn’t really have lengthy enough levels to constitute having only 20 or so of them. Maybe more of it will come down the chute post game release, but at the moment, it feels more like a start-up rather than a fully developed title.