HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewJack Dragon and the Stone of Peace Review

Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace Review

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Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace is such a throwback that it’s got a backwards cap and a Pog collection. It’s so reminiscent of a certain era of gaming that you can carbon-date it to a specific few years, in this case 1984-1986. Bubble Bobble, Bomb Jack and Pac-Man are all stirred in here. 

As a child of the ‘80s, I was in my element playing Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace. There’s the repetitive, ear-wormy soundtrack; some psychedelic bits between levels; and single-screen levels that don’t take more than a few seconds to complete. It’s exactly how I remember gaming from the mid-’80s.

jack dragon and the stone of peace review 1
You may just love this one

As you’d expect from this kind of game, it’s possible to describe it in a couple of sentences. Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace is about collecting all the gems in the level. Being a dragon, that means shooting up to the top of the screen with a super-jump, and then tapping the A button to glide left and right on the way back down. And there you have it: the crux of every level, from the beginning to the very end. Jack zooms to the top of the screen and nabs what he can on the way back. 

Oh alright, there are enemies and obstacles too. The number of them depends on the difficulty setting. There’s always an octopus, and he’s the mean one. He follows Jack wherever he goes, a constant barnacle that you can’t shift. And there are ghosts, with only one on lower difficulties and multiple on higher difficulties. They don’t hunt Jack: they bounce around randomly, so require some anticipation. 

And then there are platforms, with some of them blocking your zoom up and others blocking the float down. Which is which isn’t always abundantly clear. Having played through Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace, we haven’t quite mastered it, as we tend to assume that they will all block Jack Dragon in some way, and are pleasantly surprised when they don’t. It’s fair to say that Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace could have done with a better visual vocabulary around the platforms and walls. 

We almost forgot: on each level there is a snowflake (there isn’t a single theme uniting Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace: what do dragons, octopi, snowflakes and ghosts have to do with each other? It’s very ‘80s in that way), and collecting the snowflake is a once-only thing. Having been touched, it acts a little like the pills in Pac-Man. Jack Dragon is invincible for a few seconds, and the enemies fall asleep. You can collect gems in peace but cannot, unfortunately, eat the ghosts in the level. You merely pass them by. A rule of thumb is that you should save the snowflake to the end of the level, as there tend to be one or two awkward gems jealously guarded by that blooming octopus. 

jack dragon and the stone of peace review 2
Screaming 1980s

It would be perfectly valid to say that Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace is too simple. What we’ve written is pretty much all it’s got, and it’s even got the temerity to force you to play through its campaign three times over before it considers itself ‘complete’. Modern gamers might find the graphics to be a tad unfinished, and the gameplay to be one-note to say the least. Once you find a game-plan that works, it’s also not altogether challenging. You can mop up most of the gems before you start getting stuck, and then it’s snowflake time. Rinse-repeat for sixty levels. 

But we couldn’t help but play Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace with a big goofy grin on our faces. Yeah yeah, it’s one-note, and that note went out of fashion about twenty years ago. But there’s a purity about it that we liked more than we would care to admit.

Take the jump-and-float gameplay. It feels supremely silly at the start, as it leads to so many unwanted deaths. We’ve headbutted octopi more than we should. But it’s actually got a pretty lofty skill ceiling: you can interrupt the jump midway by pressing A, and start floating prematurely. It’s a tricky technique to master, but we soon became absolute beasts by learning it. There’s a similar pattern with the ghosts: they appear suddenly in the level, and we died fairly often when they spawned on top of us. At first we thought it was unfair, but once you learn to wait for the ghost-spawn, it’s another step on the path to mastery. 

Which is all to say that we got into something of a Jack Dragon flow. Sure, the levels aren’t particularly different from each other, but we danced about those arenas like a scaled ballerina. Level after level tumbled before us, as we moved through Bonus Stages and boss encounters (very occasionally in the campaign, you get to fight the boss, Moneybags, who made zero impression, as he’s ridiculously easy to defeat by boffing bags of cash back at him). After a couple of hours, Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace was done, and we felt a rising sense of disappointment. We fancied a little more of it. 

jack dragon and the stone of peace review 3
Jack Dragon loves a gem

This is not the pinnacle of game design, or something that we would recommend caveat-free to all our friends. We suspect that our love for Bubble Bobble in particular has played a part in us enjoying it so much (our age and love for the period will factor into it too). Our caveats would probably include ‘we know it’s pig ugly’ and ‘it’s a vibe’. We are aware that it’s simple to the point of self-parody. 

The thing is, we played Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace from start to finish in one go (several deaths included), and that’s a rare thing indeed. We started by hate-playing it, slowly mastered it, then found ourselves reveling in it. Not many games have generated that range of emotion in us. It somehow manages to be terrible and utterly playable at the very same time. 

We’d put it like this: if you have a fondness for retro platformers like Bubble Bobble, and you sense that you’d be more patient with some old-school game mechanics, then Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace has been made especially for you. Drop down the £3.29 and treat yourself. Everyone else can pass this one by, and that’s fine.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Its jump-and-float gimmick works wonders
  • Nails the Bubble Bobble vibe
  • Had us in a state of flow
Cons:
  • Looks like the dog’s dinner
  • Gets repetitive
  • Its simplicity will put people off
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review)
  • Release date and price - 22 December 2023 | £3.29
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Its jump-and-float gimmick works wonders</li> <li>Nails the Bubble Bobble vibe</li> <li>Had us in a state of flow</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Looks like the dog’s dinner</li> <li>Gets repetitive</li> <li>Its simplicity will put people off</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review) <li>Release date and price - 22 December 2023 | £3.29</li> </ul>Jack Dragon and the Stone of Peace Review
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