There are times when games challenge you to learn their tricks in order to conquer them. In most of these games, learning the tricks can be rewarding, leading to an addictive type of love that keeps you coming back for more. DragoDino is not one of those games. Originally released in 2017 on Steam, DragoDino makes its way to Nintendo Switch and Xbox One with less than stellar results.
In DragoDino you play as Bob or Lola, a DragoDino who must make it through 10 levels of the Forest Kingdom in order to get back their lost egg stuck on the top of a giant tree. The game introduces this brief bit of story in an animated cutscene to begin the game and then immediately throws you into the action. DragoDino is a 2D roguelike platformer that, through use of its visuals, tricks you into thinking it will be an easy game. It is not.
DragoDino is by no means easy on you as you only have a limited number of hits per level before you lose a life. The main objective of each section of a level is to collect all the blue shards before the next section can be opened up. Each section is loaded with tons of platforms to move around on, and there are plenty of enemies, with each section adding more difficult enemies. The challenge of the game really comes from the different obstacles blocking your path in each level. The enemies become faster and deal more damage as each level progresses, and the blue shards needed to progress become harder to find. DragoDino really shines in how it adapts to your playstyle. Maybe you’re someone who simply wants to race through the levels to get to the end. DragoDino lets you do that, you can concentrate on only acquiring the blue shards to progress, if you wish. Maybe you’re someone who loves taking their time and collecting every item in each level. Again, DragoDino lets you do that, and it’s surprising how well these two different playstyles work.
However, DragoDino is a flawed game and at times can be very frustrating to play. Whichever character you choose to play as (Bob or Lola), you only have a limited health bar that depletes after just 2-4 hits. This would be fine if the game had a more forgiving checkpoint system….which it doesn’t. Losing your health restarts you from the very beginning of that level which, depending on your playstyle, could mean losing 10-15 minutes of progress and collected extras. This makes playing the game early on very frustrating as the game punishes you for losing health, which is incredibly easy in this game. I like challenging games, and losing health easily would be fine for me if the campaign wasn’t so awfully punishing. If you get a game over, which means losing all three of your character’s lives, you are sent back to the very beginning of the game. It doesn’t matter how far you made it, doesn’t matter what you have collected. You lose everything. This would be okay if the levels you play through were fairly short, but each level in DragoDino is long. Even worse, DragoDino changes the level designs every time you die, meaning you can’t even learn from your mistakes and adjust for next time.
The other major issue with DragoDino is the insanely long loading times. I don’t normally keep track of the length of loading times for games I review, but so bad were the loading times for this game that I felt compelled to do so. On average the game takes about 3 minutes to load from one level to the next, and even at its best moments, the loading times can be as little as 37 seconds. This is unacceptable for a 2D game. It is by no means pushing system hardware to the max. For the Nintendo Switch version, I’ve been told that resetting the game can fix some of the loading times; however, I tried this on my Switch and found the loading times were unchanged. In fact, the long loading times seem to be the same on the PC version, which has received more improvements and bug fixes over the last year. The issue with the loading times is a real problem and takes you out of whatever fun you might be having. DragoDino is one of those rare games where I really don’t know what to do as far as a recommendation goes. The game can be fun, and its visuals are quite nice, but the punishing difficulty, long loading times and easy loss of life make it frustrating to even the most hardcore fans of the genre.
Developer: TealRocks Studio
Publisher: TealRocks Studio
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 27th April 2018 (Nintendo Switch, Xbox One), 20th June 2017 (PC)