Wonder Boy : The Dragon’s Trap Reviewed

By Ben McNeill

Publisher
DotEmu

Developer
Lizardcube

Platform
PS4,NS,Xbox One, PC

Release Date
April 18, 2017

Wonderboy is back! Nearly two decades since the original release, Lizardcube has  remade this classic, 2-d, side scrolling, retro game and it’s had a complete makeover. This is, Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap.

First things first, you can now choose to play the game as either a male hero or female hero. It’s good to see that the developers at Lizardcube have decided to modernise the game by giving the player a choice in gender. They even had the forethought to change the title screen to Wondergirl: The Dragon’s Trap, which is a nice little touch.

The game starts off exactly where the original did. The hero enters the monster’s castle to defeat the evil dragon. This is all briefly and simply explained via hand drawn pictures and text, depicting the young hero making his way into the castle.

As the game starts, my eye is immediately treated to the beautiful animation.Every character has been hand drawn and each movement of the hero has a fluid cartoon like motion to it, rather than just a regular cardboard cut-out look. Clearly, the animators have put in a lot of work to make it look this way and I’m eager to go and explore the colourful and vibrant world that awaits. As I make my way down the castle corridors, I swipe my sword at snakes and cyclops’s who look like they’ve stepped right out of a colourful graphic novel or manga.

The controls are tight and simple. Playing on PS4, I can use either the D-pad or the left joystick to move. X is to jump, square to attack and circle to use an item or magic. Items, such as arrows that I can shoot upwards or fireballs that I can hurl at enemies, amongst other magical abilities, are sometimes dropped by enemies when defeated. But mostly they drop coins and occasionally a heart that fills up the heart containers and your life, neatly aligned to the top left of the screen. Triangle opens the inventory menu. It contains four sections; Items, Swords, Shields and Armour. It is easy to use, I simply push left to navigate through each section and press down to cycle through the items.

 

Eventually, after making my way down a maze of corridors, I come face to face with the evil Meka Dragon. After successfully dodging its fireball and several well-timed swipes of my sword, the evil dragon is defeated. However, the curse is set upon the hero and he is transformed into a Lizard-man. Gone are the sword and shield, all I have is my fire breath to defend myself. Gone also is the ten or so heart containers, now all I have is one. I’ll have to spend the rest of the game looking for hidden treasure chests with heart containers in them. The castle starts to crumble and I flee to the safety of the village. Now the adventure begins.

A pure joy to play. You will be charmed by its animation, swept away by its music and enthralled by its gameplay.

This village will serve as the main hub of the game. Whenever you die, no matter where you are, you will automatically respawn here, having lost all items and magic but not your coin or equipment. The village contains a shop, a Hospital and a Church. Both shops and hospitals are spread out throughout the land. In the shops, you can buy a sword, a shield, a set of armour and sometimes an item. Each shop only ever sells one type of equipment, once. Therefore, you’ll want to find all the shops (and some are very well hidden) to acquire all the equipment the game has to offer. As for hospitals, you can refill your heart meter for a certain price and they are generally found near the dragon bosses.

It is in the brief interactions with the shopkeepers and nurses that the games sense of humour really comes through. For example, the shops are run by a nonchalant looking pig, leaning on the counter with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He tells me the sword is the best kind money can buy. Once I buy it and hand over my hard-earned coin, he casually states “Ok, maybe not the best”. The hospital is run by a smart mouthed, young nurse. At one point, I came across a hospital inside a pyramid, as I came through the door the nurse says: “Yes, I have bandages, we have a lot of mummies.” Yes, it’s a Dad joke, but it made me chuckle none the less.

 

The church in the village is run by a pig who will give you cryptic hints as to where to go next. This can be very helpful at times, as the game never actually indicates where I should be going. I must explore and discover where I am able to go. There’s a doorway atop a windmill or I can enter that house and jump down a well. I must pick one and head out.

Where the game really shines is after defeating a dragon. Each time a new curse is laid upon the hero and he takes on a new form. Each form comes with an ability which can be used to gain access to a new area. However, I can never change form on the fly, I must work with what I’ve got. At least, until I find specific rooms that let me change back into the other previous forms.

There are a handful of different settings to explore such as; deserts, underwater shipwrecks, cursed forests and more. Each transformation is a joy to play. It’s fun and easy to run around as mouse-man and climb up walls and ceilings, or to swim in the ocean as Piranha-man, or sore in the sky as Hawk-man. Each transformation comes with a unique animation that is very endearing to the character. My personal favourite is Hawk-man. When not flying, instead of walking, he hops just like a real bird. It’s a small detail but really adds character.

The game isn’t particularly hard but it can be rather challenging at times. As mentioned before, when you die, you respawn at the village and have to make your way back. There are potions that automatically refill the heart containers when depleted. Some shops sell them, but for a high price and only three in total. Every so often an enemy drops one, but it’s very rare. The most interesting way to gain a potion comes in the form of a mini game. When the hero dies, an angel rises into the sky where a potion levitates around a ring of hearts, some full and some empty. Press X and the potion will start slowing down and eventually stop, if it falls on a red heart, you gain a potion!

The game is rather short. My completion time was about five and a half hours and this is counting about an hour of grinding for coins. However, it’s shortness can only be accounted for how faithfully the developers have stuck to the original. Back in the day, video games were short. The games length is boosted by three different difficulty levels. You can gain a Trophy/Achievement for completing it on Hard, in which a timer constantly drains your hearts, adding a big challenge to the game. There is also a brilliant option that allows you to play the game with the original retro graphics, music and sound effects.

The music is a joy to listen to. Faithfully recreated from the original master system title, only this time fully orchestrated. Many times, I found myself tapping my foot or bobbing my head as I made my way through the game.

Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap is a pure joy to play. You will be charmed by its animation, swept away by its music and enthralled by its gameplay. This game has been lovingly recreated by the developers at Lizardcube, who clearly have a lot of love and respect for the original. If a little short, it is still well worth at least a couple of playthroughs. I’m on my third now and this time I’ve gone full retro. A nice trip down memory lane.

Score: 8/10

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