What is it about dragons that makes them so damn cool? Is it their scaly green skin, enormous stature, or their penchant for destroying everything by making it rain with fire? Perhaps it’s all of the above, but we always get pumped to take them down, as they’re typically positioned as formidable end bosses. In Earth Dragon, you get to be the dragon and get all medieval on everything in your path. It’s not often you get to play as the bad guy, so that role reversal already earns Earth Dragon some brownie points.
Root for the underdog.
Put simply, Earth Dragon is a hodgepodge of action-oriented gameplay scenarios strung together by a loose storyline. While the task of destroying everything onscreen makes up the overwhelming majority of the game’s 15 short levels, it stays interesting based on the smooth reveal of new gameplay mechanics.
Early on, you’ll crush buildings and incinerate landscapes using fireballs to complete stages. Midway through the game, smashing down on archers and wizards using your dragon’s butt-stomp adds a humorous new wrinkle. Based on performance, you earn letter grades that indicate how great your run was. There are no local or online leaderboards to keep track of your ranking, though, and we found this to be a bit disappointing.
Flying around is awesome in Earth Dragon. Movement is all based on the iPhone’s accelerometer, and the control scheme is very smart and thoughtful. Flapping the device initiates an upward ascent, and tilting moves your dragon left and right. Sharply angling the iPhone downwards moves the creature down, and it all feels intuitive and satisfying.
Om nom nom.
Sights and sounds in this game come off like an excellent 8-bit era game. The 2D backgrounds and sprites are detailed with a deliberate aliasing effect to give it that NES feel. Your dragon glides around smoothly, and the death animations are awesome. Collecting coins and spewing fire sounds like it was ripped directly from a Super Mario title, and that’s a good thing. For a one-man team, Earth Dragon’s presentation is quite charming.
As much as we’re digging Earth Dragon, the huge dragon in the middle of the room can’t be ignored. This game is unbelievably short. We were able to blow through the game in about 25 minutes. Granted, it was an entertaining ride, but we can see folks being underwhelmed by the amount of gameplay here.
Except for its length, Earth Dragon is solid across the board. It’s cute, it’s mechanically sound, and it’s a joy to play while it lasts. Let’s just hope the developers can pad it out further in an update.