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Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury Review

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Our Dreamland Solitaire marathon continues with Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury, the second in ChiliDog Interactive’s quickfire trilogy. They’ve been released about as fast as it’s taken to review them, and we’re determined to close the gap before any more of the things drop onto the store.

That rapid release cadence might wave some red flags, but the series is no cash grab. We handed Dreamland Solitaire an unapologetic 4 out of 5 for good reason: it was that rarest of beasts – a solitaire game on Xbox that didn’t scream ‘lazy port’ and had enough depth and arcadey charm to make it one of, if not the best, versions of the parlour classic on Xbox. Now we’re here reviewing the sequel. We may well be in for a treat.

Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury is perhaps as much of a progression as we could have expected from a game released a month after its predecessor. Which is to say that it’s an incremental nudge forward. But that nudge is forward, and on a very capable game in the first place. So hey, we will take it.

Dreamland Solitaire Dragons Fury review 2
The Dragon’s Fury builds on Dreamland Solitaire

Let’s lay those changes out so that Dreamland Solitaire fans can see what they’re getting. There are five of these changes, so it shouldn’t take all that long. The first is that we are blessed with a story. Dreamland Solitaire didn’t bother and chose to let the cards be cards. Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury opts to introduce a dragon, a Smaug who has torched the kingdom and now returned to its treasure pile. It’s your job to clean up the mess and then do a spot of dragon slaying.

The story is no Game of Thrones, but it does give a little context to why you’re doing what you’re doing. It also lets Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury give a voice and character to its fairy character, who was mostly there to pout last time out. The theme is mostly fine and does no harm.

Then there’s the stuff between the levels. In Dreamland Solitaire, you were tasked with building stuff, erecting pagodas and palaces because you have an architectural fetish. This time, you’re putting out fires, cutting down brambles, and generally returning the world to pre-dragon rights. Again. It’s mostly fine and does no harm.

It’s changes three, four and five that are the meat. These are new special card effects, in the play area for you to trigger rather than adding to your own personal arsenal. There’s fire, because dragons, and it will burn away cards until you uncover and use a water pot. Then there’s a scythe, which does the same but to brambles. And then there are hammer cards – easily confused with the axe cards – which mine away rocks.

If we were a cynic, and we are, we would complain that these effects aren’t exactly dissimilar. They are all keys and locks but with different visual effects attached. Only the hammer really gets a pass, as it mines all of the rocks in a spectacular, satisfying sweep. Why destroy one card when you can destroy them all on one layer?

Dreamland Solitaire Dragons Fury review 1
It’s Solitaire – with a difference

They are fine. They are, at the very least, different shapes of locks, so you are on the search for their relevant keys. Fire can hide hammers, and the rocks can hide the torches that clear the spiders from the first game. So, again, we value the incremental improvement, but it is merely that. 

Are there any steps back, we imagine you saying? Only a couple. We’d suggest that the curiously festive-sounding soundtrack isn’t as rousing as the Medieval Faire score from the first game. And there’s a weird visual bug on some burning huts that makes the second world almost fit-inducing. But those are details, so we will brush them off like the spiders we mentioned earlier.

For Dreamland noobs, a quick tour of what’s on offer is due. Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury is, like the first game, a 200-strong compendium of Spider Solitaire puzzles. If that number seems high it’s because it is: for your money you are getting many afternoons of entertainment, and more if you want to earn every last trinket and collectible.

The puzzles themselves are very much on the arcadey, OTT side. This is not a simulation – this has the dial turned to fun. So, while you are doing the traditional one up, one down to remove a sequence of cards, you are setting off a domino rally of different effects. Our partner watched as we were playing and wondered what had happened to Spider Solitaire when she wasn’t looking.

On the board, blocking you from cards, are vines, brambles, rocks, locks, fire and spiders. On your cards, should you happen to clear them, are axes, scythes, hammers, water and keys. There’s a very low level skill involved in knowing what reveals what, and prioritising them as targets. But get it right and you can have a veritable firework display.

Dreamland Solitaire Dragons Fury review 3
There’s a Dragon in here somewhere…

Also helping are upgrades. Swipe coins from cards and you can buy golden cards and jokers. Gold cards can be used whenever you fancy, a 2 for when a pesky Ace won’t leave the table, while jokers are wild. Then there are special powers represented as bars, filling up whenever you clear a specific suit. They can zap away cards, call down fireballs and hand you a relevant card. Once you have all upgrades, you will be giving Aang a run for his money.

It’s a bit silly but also a great deal of fun. There’s no challenge here – upgrades will clear the level for you, and you can choose to progress without clearing every card (if you’re some kind of monster). Purple potions will accumulate in your inventory and you can spend them on clearing burned villages that were pillaged by the dragon.

Everything works as well as it did in Dreamland Solitaire. Controlling a speedy, precise cursor rather than snapping from card to card works surprisingly well. There will be the odd curse as you accidentally choose the wrong gold card or press Undo when you meant to press ‘next card’, but it’s mostly on the slick side. Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury could be played by pretty much anyone, with any degree of Xbox or solitaire experience.

A little voice is grumbling in my ear saying that Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury only represents a tiny step forward, and they would be right. But, for now, we are warm to the idea of a second instalment. This represents 200 levels of watertight, overblown solitaire levels, and the satisfying flow of clearing cards, setting off explosion after explosion, has lost none of its charm.

Now, when we get to Dreamland Solitaire 3 – well – that question of fatigue might get another answer entirely.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • A crazy number of puzzles
  • Works a dream with a controller
  • Arcade sensibilities make it fun
Cons:
  • Not a huge improvement on the first game
  • Some graphical bugs
  • Hardly pulse-pounding or challenging
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 8 March 2024 | £4.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>A crazy number of puzzles</li> <li>Works a dream with a controller</li> <li>Arcade sensibilities make it fun</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Not a huge improvement on the first game</li> <li>Some graphical bugs</li> <li>Hardly pulse-pounding or challenging</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 8 March 2024 | £4.99</li> </ul>Dreamland Solitaire: Dragon’s Fury Review
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