Developer – Space Lizard Studio
Publisher – Space Lizard Studio
PEGI – 7
Developed by Liverpool-based indie outfit Space Lizard Studio, Dragon Bros is a run and gun side scroller drawing influence from many old-school NES classics such as Contra and Blaster Master, offering new generation gamers an insight into the tropes of the generation, whilst also offering older gamer’s with an appreciation for their routes a great sense of nostalgia; also catering to players of all skill levels with varying degrees of challenge. Though I had some issues with this title, I was pretty impressed with it, as it had a lot to offer that I could appreciate in terms of nostalgia value and the future of the indie scene.
Graphics – 9/10
Rendered in wonderfully detailed 8-BIT graphics, the game’s scenery and characters are overwhelmingly diverse without becoming too repetitive over the course of the game. There are four worlds each with its own themes, and new enemies introduced to keep things fresh on a conceptual level. The game’s soundtrack is also stellar. Composed by Gabriel Caruso, it blends 8-BIT music with rock and roll, complementing the feel of the game brilliantly; in particular, I was blown away by the game’s main theme, which is used in the first two boss fights.
Gameplay – 7.5/10
There are no unnecessary complications with the game’s control scheme, which was always going to be important in a game that can demand as much as it does of players in the higher difficulty settings. Some of the mechanics involved with controlling certain weapons also add to that challenge in an unprecedented way. The laser cannon is probably the best example of which, as it causes the enemy to gradually recoil over time, so they must, therefore, be careful to make sure not to fall off any platforms as a result of not paying attention.
Lifespan – 2/10
Where I had the biggest issue with this game is how criminally short the main story is; even taking into account the mini-games as well as the main levels. In total, the game can take there around 2 to 3 hours to complete to 100%. Whilst more intrepid players will get more than that out of it replaying it on the higher difficulty settings, many other players will most likely be left wanting more. But to me, even with bearing this in mind in addition, I was still left wanting more. That’s why I think a possible sequel would work well as a Metroidvania game, with elements like leveling up, or an even bigger arsenal of weapons to choose from.
Storyline – 5/10
The game’s story is also only vaguely touched upon, being portrayed through two cutscenes; one at the start, and the other after finishing it. It follows four infant dragons looking to save their home planet from the invading Mechaliches, whilst also trying to rescue their mother from their leader. While it may be reminiscent of the old way of telling stories within games, like what was done with NES games telling the story mostly through the game’s manual (the same effect of which perhaps intended by the developers), very little of that is actually told within the game, so if players want the details of the plot, they need to read the game’s Steam page. But regardless, the story does retain a slight feel of uniqueness about it, so I can appreciate it for that to an extent.
Originality – 6/10
By far the most unique thing about Dragon Bros is its conceptual design; very few indie games have stunned me in this respect as much as this game has, and it shows the vast amount of effort the developers put into making it. It also works well for me in particular because I’ve loved dragons ever since I was a kid, but bias aside, the 8-BIT renderings are as fantastically detailed as the likes of Rogue Legacy or Titan Souls. The one gripe I have in terms of uniqueness is that it arguably follows the tropes of its influences too much and that I think even more could’ve been added to make the gameplay to make it stand out among others.
However, criticisms aside, Dragon Bros is quite an enjoyable game, and it comes recommended from me for any fans of old-school games out there, and players looking to experience these styles of play for the first time. It’s entertaining throughout for how long it lasts, and players looking for a challenge will certainly not be disappointed.