DragoDino is served up as a roguelike platformer that tasks its players with a challenging adventure that largely revolves around collecting every gem in sight. It doesn’t nearly sound as interesting on paper as it is in practice, but don’t let that put you off. DragoDino is surprisingly endearing, if somewhat overly taxing at times. I wont go so far as to say that it’s a revolutionary offering, but it does provide some initial moments of good fun nevertheless. That being said, the story in this game is very light and barely does anything other than to set a premise for what follows on via the gameplay. It’s simple and straightforward, yet ultimately suffers from repetition due to the lack of innovation.
The game houses two difficulty settings to choose from. Normal, which allows for three lives with checkpoints. Then there’s hardcore, which allows for just one life and removes all checkpoints. Players can also choose from a set portion of characters, each coming with minor unique statistics ranging from health, speed and weight. Additional characters can indeed be unlocked through natural play and the game can also be enjoyed via two player local co-op. The aim of the game is to scale each level vertically while collecting gems along the way. Each level typically comes padded with enemies and tricky platforms, with a steady and gradual difficulty curve the lean on throughout.
Shooting is achieved via the right trigger while aiming with the left stick, which is something that will come in handy when trying to take care of enemies that hold onto some of the aforementioned gems. Once a gem has been obtained, players will be able to utilize a power jump. This jump will typically take you to the next section of your level. There’s a glide feature in place which can be triggered when holding the jump button down. On top of this, each level comes with hidden power-ups that can picked up. Single use power-ups are automatically assigned to the D-Pad depending in which order you pick them up in. There’s a total of three different variations of power-ups in total.
Outside of the single use power-ups, there’s active power-ups that will grant a brand new skill. Then there’s passive power-ups, which improves a core skill. Currency can also be picked up throughout which can be spent on a small range of helpful assists over at the in-game merchant. Furthermore there are additional collectibles that be located in each level too, which throws in another layer of replay value. Enemies that have a blue aura surrounding them signify that they are holding on to the gem that you need to collect. It’s very hard to miss but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t at least try to clear out the other enemies as well. In fact doing this will usually make for an easier exit to the higher section and it helps that the enemies don’t tend to be overly aggressive to begin with.
One thing has to be said, DragoDino caters for a wide portion of play styles. This much is made apparent by the several buffs that be picked up on top of the stat-varying characters. You can choose to speed-run your way through the adventure, or take your time and pick up everything in sight. Regardless as to how you play, the game remains precise in its platforming and execution from beginning to end. It would have been nice to see some more enemy variation, but given the game’s generous price tag, this is easy to overlook. To begin with, enemies usually amount to hedgehogs and evil-looking purple rocks. It’s not at all hard to suss out their movement parameters, but when you get deeper into the game and it starts throwing more capable foes at you, it’s wise to play it safe.
One of my biggest problems with the game isn’t with its difficulty, but with its complete lack of leniency. You see, the theme and design of this game seems to be focused on the younger audience, but the overarching formula is quite the opposite. Dying will send you straight back to the beginning of the campaign, removing all power-ups and items in the process. It’s a very confusing design choice given the target audience and something I don’t see younger players tolerating for too long. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the game was smaller, though as it stands, you can lose hours of work for simply stepping on the wrong side of a foe at the wrong time. It doesn’t help matters at all that the loading screens can be in excess of a full minute. Sure, this isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s not like DragoDino is taxing on the hardware.
Still, when all is said and done, DragoDino still goes on to provide a worthwhile experience. It’s very easy to pick up and understand and doesn’t demand that the player learns a wide collection of mechanics. If you can overlook these niggling frustrations, this game will be more than worth the investment of both your time and money. I quite enjoyed the diverse colorful level design, which can indeed be said about the boss encounters too. The soundtrack is a bit hit and miss but again, it’s easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. Safe to say that if you enjoy the classic collect-a-thon titles and long for a new game that houses that element first and foremost, DragoDino will scratch that itch. Just be prepared to tolerate its shortcomings.
DragoDino is a cute and colorful collect-a-thon adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The price-tag is well set and there’s no denying that you’re getting your money’s worth. Though issues with its punishing death penalty, lengthy loading screens and somewhat repetitive gameplay, will inevitably test your patience in the long run.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.