A Nostalgic But Basic Platformer
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a nostalgic, charming platform game that highlights how to do a remake properly by sticking to the original concept whilst improving aesthetically. However, Wonder Boy also highlights some of the limitations with the bygone era of old platform games with a simplistic control scheme and basic AI for enemies. Despite this, the game looks great and the ability to switch between hand-drawn animations and the retro 8 bit look is certainly a welcome addition. Wonder Boy does rely a little heavily on its nostalgia though and those unfamiliar with this IP may well fail to see what makes this game so special.
The story begins with a basic cut scene and a prequel set in a torch-lit castle. After a series of simple platform sections, you’re greeted by the first of many boss fights before being turned into a lizard and tasked with navigating various lands to try and find a cure to your condition. The game then follows a semi-linear pattern as you navigate through various levels including deserts, caves and dreaded underwater sections.
Aesthetically, Dragon’s Trap looks great and the enhancements from the original are impressive
For those unfamiliar with the original Wonder Boy, this retro platformer will probably feel overly frustrating and simple given the advancements in the platforming genre as of late. A basic attack can be dished out with square, X is used for jumping and circle for executing a variety of special attacks picked up as a random drops from enemies. To try and give a little more variety to the gameplay, there’s also the option to pick up coins from dropped enemies that can be exchanged for weapons or armour to prevent the amount of damage caused and increase your attack power. Whilst the mechanics are easy to learn and even easier to execute, the lack of variety with the controls rests solely on the enemy design and although there’s a wide array of enemies to beat, the simple AI takes the shine off an otherwise solid line-up of enemies.
This is especially evident during the boss fights that rely heavily on repeatedly hitting a weak spot (usually the head) to wear them down before eventually beating them. Most have a very simple attack pattern that require you to get close and dish damage but in doing so, can result in difficult to dodge counter attacks from the boss you’re facing. It’s especially disappointing too as some of the design for these enemies are really nicely implemented and in defeating enemies you’re rewarded with a new form that can help you reach areas you couldn’t before but this pattern of gameplay repeats until the end of the game.
The ability to switch between 8 bit and hand drawn animations is a really nice touch
Wonder Boy certainly hits those nostalgic peaks and the ability to switch views between 8 bit and gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops is a really nice touch, helping to give some much needed variety to the game. Similarly, there’s the option to switch between retro and updated music too and all of this can be done on the fly in real time while playing. Seeing the difference between the original and updated aesthetics really drives home just what a great job the art team have done to bring this into the modern era and for that, the game must be applauded.
There’s no denying that despite all the good work done into bringing this remake into the 21st Century, navigating the world can be a little confusing at times, given the non-linear approach to the world map. Often you’ll find yourself travelling in one direction on the map only to come up against an obstacle or an impassable section meaning some extensive backtracking to get back to the hub area called The Village. From here you can upgrade your weapons and buy health potions but it would have been nice to give some guidance as to where to go from here, especially for those new to the game and not familiar with the original.
Boss Fights are imaginatively designed but sadly basic in execution
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is not without its problems. The control scheme, gameplay and platforming oozes nostalgia but also highlights the simplicity of platform games of old. The unforgiving checkpoint system can sometimes result in a lot of repetition through long sections of platforming and the random nature of special abilities from enemies is a little disappointing too. In terms of game time, you’re probably looking at around 4-7 hours to complete depending on the difficulty chosen and how familiar you are with the game.
For those who remember the original, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a lovingly crafted remake that manages to nail the right level of nostalgia whilst updating the aesthetic in an impressive way. For those unfamiliar with the original though, Wonder Boy lacks enough originality in its basic gameplay and platforming sections meaning its unlikely to be remembered for years to come or gain new fans in an ever evolving genre of games.