Review: Dragon's Lore


Remember the good old days when handheld gaming was synonymous with sliding block puzzles? That’s a trend that has never gone away, as evidenced by Dragon’s Lore, a puzzle game that draws from the classic Columns genre and brings it into the third dimension, along with a bunch of other tricks. Read on to find out how well the formula works.

Author: HeroCraft

Version Reviewed: 1.0.21

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Title screen

Dragon’s Lore is presented with appealing Chinese artwork. The backgrounds to each level are beautifully painted, with so much detail you can lose yourself for a while just taking it in. The game music is similarly themed, but sounds like a badly coded midi track, which really grates. As with most games, it’s best to disable all sounds.

The object of the game, just as with the original Columns game, is to destroy blocks, by sliding new blocks along the grid, so that they’ll stop adjacent to like-coloured blocks and thus disappear, creating more space on the grid.

Beautiful artwork in Dragon’s Lore

The game plays out on a stone grid, viewed from an isometric perspective. That is, you’re looking down from a fixed angle, along one of the diagonals of the grid. This would present no problem to the player were the blocks not sometimes stacked up. Some levels come with blocks mounted on immovable stone blocks; the rest of the time, blocks can be stacked up via special wedge shaped blocks. (More on special blocks later). Since you cannot change your viewing angle, this means that some blocks will be hidden from view behind stacks.

As with similar games, the player is given the first block to be added to the grid, along with a preview of the next three blocks along to help with planning their strategy. By dragging across the screen the current block can be positioned at the desired row of blocks, prior to sliding. The block can be positioned at the end of any of the front-facing rows, which means up-left and up-right directions are possible.

Levels are always presented with clear instructions and objectives

To make things more interesting, there are a range of special blocks with which to mix up the gameplay. Wedge shaped blocks will slide underneath the first block they hit, raising it up. Cracked blocks can be smashed through. Similarly, blocks dropped by having the block beneath them removed can become cracked too. Spherical ‘blocks’ (yes, I know) will colour all blocks adjacent to where they hit and thus make them vanish. Fireballs will destroy everything adjacent, including those immovable stone blocks. All of these allow for you to vary your tactics and make you think differently about the game. Lastly, if an ordinary block hits a single block, it will push it along one unit on the grid.

In addition, there are five single player modes. Story mode gives a narrated story between two characters (a dragon and a goddess), and in each level you can collect gold from special blocks, which in turn enables you to buy more special blocks with which to do all manner of tricks. Next along is Classic, which has no time limit, and just requires you to destroy a set number of blocks. Arcade mode is the same as Classic, but with a time limit. Puzzle mode asks you to destroy a set number of blocks without a time limit, but the initial configuration of blocks is highly complex and elaborate, making it difficult to solve - hence the name! Finally, Infinity mode is a survival type game. There is no target number, you just have to keep destroying blocks for as long as you can without filling up the grid and hence having no remaining moves left.

Some of the puzzle levels

The ‘Hotseat’ mode is Dragon’s Lore two player mode, though there’s no networked play, the phone just has to be passed back and forth. Each player gets to play three blocks per turn.

My only functional criticism with Dragon’s Lore is that the input for positioning each block prior to launch is very fiddly. I spent most of my time trying to get the row I wanted; either overshooting or stopping short. The touch input is just not sensitive enough in this game, which actually made me wish for some virtual left/right buttons. Ironically, this means those playing on Symbian devices with physical cursor keys (e.g. N97 mini) will be better off.

Control gripes aside, this is a solid puzzle game, which I’m happy to suggest to anyone who enjoys the genre.

Dragon’s Lore is in the Ovi Store for £1.50, and has a free trial.

David Gilson for All About Symbian and Ovi Gaming, 23rd August 2011.

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