Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 (reviewed)
Publisher: DotEmu (digital), Headup Games, Nicals (physical)
Release: 27th April 2018 (physical)
Price: 19.99 / 39.99 (physical
Remasteres and Remakes, often misused as lazy excuses to re-release old games, they occasionally enable for some truly wonderful craftsmanship. One of the best examples is Wonderboy The Dragon´s Trap, a remake of a 20 years old game. Originally released last year, Headup Games and Nicalis decided to bring the game to shelves this spring and I was lucky enough to get sent a copy. So, let´s check out the physical goodies and experience itself!
As expected form a game released in 1989, there isn´t a whole lot of story. Starting out as a brave warrior on his final push to kill a feared dragon, we quickly find ourselves confronted with an unexpected development: Instead of slaying the dragon, we became one too. Now both gifted and cursed with the ability to transform into this fearsome creature we start our journey over again.
Wonderboy The Dragon´s Trap could best be described as an early Metroidvania, boasting nearly everything this genre is known for. Instead of items, the hero can transform into all sorts of animals during the course of the game, allowing him to unlock new passages or areas. A fire dragon can destroy other obstacles than a mouse knight after all. However, the game never really uses this mechanic to its fullest, one of the best indicators of its age. Since Lizardcube remastered the game 1 to 1, nothing about the world is changed, leading to a surprisingly tiny area compared to other titles in the genre. While there still are plenty of hidden areas, the whole thing never feels like a true Metroidvania but like something in-between, fitting for the time it was released.
Rather, the focus of Wonderboy The Dragon´s Trap is the gameplay, best described as your typical Metroidvaniagameplayas well. On the one hand we have a typical jump´n run gameplay mixed with combat as a base, which plays pretty damn great. Jumps, controls, everything feels tight. The age only shows at one particular moment: Turning. As previously said Lizardcube changed almost nothing except the graphics and especially turning around is a consequence of that procedure, introducing a total loss of momentum, while taking around 1-2 seconds too long. Everytime I had to turn around, the whole flow of the game stopped, it just doesn´t feel good in an otherwise so tightly designed game.
On the other hand, every introduced form brings its own twist to the mix. The tiny mouse knight, the heavy lion or flying bird, all those little twists aren´t just neat but also serve a purpose. Certain enemies are weak to one attack, immune to others and some passages also require the unique movement quirks of every character. At no point did one feel absolutely useless or way more useful than the others, because the levels, despite their almost unaltered form, still rely on proved and working level design techniques, that manage to create an interesting and not retro feeling experience.
What´s somewhat of a let-down are the bosses, who almost never impose a challenge. Instead nearly all of them rely on their huge health bars and fast attacks, forcing way longer battles than necessary upon you. Except some in the middle, none feature neat mechanics or cool twists, just stamina consuming move-sets. Compared to more modern titles, they´re definitely the weakest part of every area, nearly like an anti-climatic closure to a great experience.
Though what initially caught my attention was the quite amazing artstyle. Recreating a 20 years old game in a perfect way but with a totally different style is hard enough on its own, yet, Lizardcube managed to invent one of the most colourful, beautiful game of past years. From animations, backgrounds or sprites, everything looks amazing and I immediately fell in love with it. Combined with a captivating soundtrack, I still hear outside the game, just shows what a wonderful experience Wonderboy The Dragon´s Trap can be.
Speaking of the soundtrack, the newly released physical edition features some great goodies as well. First of all, a little neat soundtrack disc to listen even in your freetime. There´s also a great little keychain dragon I began to love from the second I saw it, even though the left feed looks a bit faulty. Besides the box, game itself and those two cuties, it also features a full-blown little instruction booklet, packed with colour, joke and love. Truly a great value for 19.99 if you ask me, especially for such a great game.
For a more than 20 years old game, Wonderboy The Dragon´s Trap is still a surprisingly great game. Able to stand its ground even without many changes in modern times, all thanks to a breath-taking and tight controls. If a beautiful box and game are worth the price for you, the physical release is definitely a great way to experience this gem for the first time.
[A Review Copy was provided by Headup Games]