Games that Don’t Suck: DragonVale
Today’s game that doesn’t suck is DragonVale (free/universal) , a Freemium title from BackFlip Studios. Before I go into why it doesn’t suck, let me just point out that this game actually came DANGEROUSLY close to getting a “Suck” rating, solely for the one fatal flaw that I will go into later in this review. However the awesomeness was ultimately able to beat out the suckage, so If you’re into Sim-like time wasters to help you escape the tedium that Is your real life, there is much to like in DragonVale.
Watch the above video if you don’t feel like reading anymore. It should give you a decent idea of the gameplay.
Long story short, DragonVale is a Sim-like game where you are put in charge of creating a (hopefully) successful Dragon Zoo. In order to bring in visitors to your park (or more importantly, your visitor’s MONEY into the park) you will need Dragons, and the bigger the better. There’s a quick tutorial that does an excellent job walking you through the basics of the game, and gets you set up with your first dragon, dragon habitat, and goes over the basics of how to feed and breed your dragons.
Two of the biggest things DragonVale has going for it is that unlike other similar games, like God Finger, there is no real downside to not playing DragonVale for a couple of days. Your gold does not “spoil” or anything if you neglect your park, you simply don’t make any more money than each exhibit can generate until you collect that money. But second, and more central to what makes DragonVale so fun to play, is the ability to cross breed your dragons and create entirely new races of dragons. For example, you might decide to cross a Fire Dragon with an Earth Dragon and create a Lava type dragon, or a Plant and Fire Dragon to create a Poison type Dragon. For some reason there’s a very Pokemon feel to the game in that each of your dragons starts out so adorably cute that you might not want to evolve them, but bigger dragons bring in bigger paydays, so feed them you will until they turn into very cool-looking adults.
Another big plus is the level design and art work. DragonVale is extremely colorful, and the animations are fluid and oddly fun to watch given how repetitive they ultimately are. There is much more to the game than I am going into here, but you probably will need to invest a good 6 or so hours playing in order to unlock some of the cooler achievements. Similar to other freemium games like Tiny Tower, you can speed things along by using the game’s “real money” currency of gems. However, you do not need to spend any money at all if you’re patient, and you can actually earn gems by having Game Center friends gift them to you (incidentally, my Game Center ID is “Dr Macenstein” (no period) and my iPad is “MacensteiniPad” if you have extra gems lying around…).
Kind of sucky though
Earlier I mentioned there was something about DragonVale that was so lame it almost cost it the coveted “Games that Don’t Suck” rating, and that thing is that for some reason I cannot fathom, it requires an internet connection to play. There is nothing about this game that is any different from Tiny Tower which plays fine on an iPod touch on a plane or long car ride, yet for some reason the game tells you it cannot launch without internet. The fact that DragonVale feels it needs to constantly talk to its server has me a little wary of what it’s doing and what it’s doing to my iPhone’s battery life/data usage when away from WiFi, but more importantly it alienates a HUGE potential part of the game audience – kids. If you’re an iPhone user, odds are the internet connection thing won’t be a problem, but since I got my kids addicted to the game as well, they have expressed their displeasure about this via the only way they know how – whining. And I have to listen to it.
So if BackFlip can just switch the way the game handles internet requirements (and again, I suggest the Tiny Tower method of check-in when you can, but play fine when away from internet as well) this game will be the perfect colorful timewaster.