Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap
I’d been hearing about this Wonderboy game for quite some time, and that’s largely due to the fact that it’s a remake of a nearly 30-year-old game, but Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap has been an indie game on the radar for many gamers (both old and new) for quite some time. 2017’s Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap, a remake of the well-received Master System original certainly shows signs of age, but a really solid foundation, a gorgeous aesthetic refurbishment and some subtle, but much appreciated upgrades, ensure that the game is just as appealing as it once was some 28 years ago.
As Wonderboy, or Wondergirl, you find yourself struck down by a curse, one that transforms you into a fire-breathing lizard, with the curse only lifted if you can rid the land of a series of Dragon’s that occupy the land. While this, a fairly simplistic narrative thread, it provides more than enough of a scaffold for all that is to come next.
If you’re at all familiar the Metroidvania games then you’ll feel very much at home with Wonderboy. Beginning with nothing, your inventory will gradually fill with handy tools and skills to advance you in your quest; and as you slay each Dragon you unlock the ability to transform into a new creature. Some like the mouse and the fish-man-thing allow you to access previously inaccessible portions of the map, while all have different perks that make them efficient in combat in differing ways. Players who attempt to play Wonderboy like many other Metroidvania games may find the going tough at first; there are certain Souls-like aspects present here that result in reckless players being heavily punished for their haste. The best approach to Wonderboy is a slower, more methodical one, one which sees you assess the movements and potential weaknesses of the opponent before exploiting those to benefit your own progression.
Wonderboy’s impressive hand-drawn aesthetic is striking, especially given the ability to revert to the 1987 aesthetic with the simple tap of a trigger. Your playable cast exudes charm and personality, while your opposition, despite being nasty in nature, is also incredibly endearing. Each environment has been vibrantly detailed, and feel as though they have all been lived in and possess their own stories; this is once again highlighted with Wonderboy’s Retro mode. Wonderboy III’s original chiptune score has been re-recorded as an orchestral one in one of the more impressive adaptations in many years. In one final display of impressive love and devotion to the original game, checkpoint codes from the original game can transfer to the new game allowing you to pick up exactly from where you left off many years ago. All these little touches add so much to an already nostalgia-rich title and make the game an instantly attractive option to fans of both the genre and the era.
This unwavering willingness to keep true to the form of the original release does also carry some obvious, and far less excusable downsides. Grinding for randomly dropped items doesn’t fly as it once did in 1987, while the hitboxes work as well as they should in the modern day, despite improvements having been made to this system. Neither of these flaws are so extreme that they should push you away from the game, but they’re noticeable and their inconsistency does make Wonderboy a more frustrating experience to play than it ought to be.
Dated in some respects, polished and refined to a bright sheen in others, Wonderboy still manages to engage the player thanks to a solid foundational core of simplistic but challenging combat, and a vast landscape to explore. There’s a charm present that will ensnare the hearts of potential new buyers and recapture those of long-time fans. This was my first exposure to the franchise but I’m intrigued to see and learn more, a sentiment I’m sure that many others will come to feel having played it as well.
Born and bred on the Super Nintendo era, Paul relishes any opportunity to sink his teeth into an RPG, action or platformer. Despite being an owner of all major platforms, Paul does have a particular love of the Playstation family of consoles – take only a few minutes to skim through his Twitter and you’ll see him ranting about the next big thing on PS4. We swear he’s sane.