Dragon Portals—open the door to another well-made Match 3

Posted: August 16, 2009 in Puzzle

With all the match-3 games available on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, it takes a lot to get attention. But providing a polished game without much else can also generate the wrong kind of attention. Take the case of MythPeople, the developers behind what I consider one of the more aesthetically beautiful games Azkend. Their new game for the platform Dragon Portals certainly meets and exceeds the quality I’ve come to expect from MythPeople when it comes to eye-catching visuals. So how does this game measure up?

The Asian theme resonates nicely throughout the game from the Far East melodies and richly accented visual touches to the intriguing storyline and Asian dragons on which the game played. The story involves a young girl name Mila who one day finds a strange coin. The next morning she finds herself in a land called Dragonia where she is greeted by an old man. The old man tells her she is the descendant of a dragon sentinel, a magician of sorts who helps to free dragons chained to Earth by dark magic. In order to set the dragons free, she must open dragon portals through the power of dragon orbs whose power is unleashed when three orbs are combined.

The objective is to keep the dragons in the air for as long as possible until enough energy can open the dragon portal. A power gauge fills up as matches are made, and once filled up, the portal opens, thus clearing the level. Also, height flags show how fast the dragons are descending, and when matches are made, the dragons will increase in altitude.

The game offers three modes of play: Story, Survival and Island and takes you through 80 levels of play. Progress within Story mode is illustrated on the map covering 8 islands: Empire of Drak, Bakunawan Archipelago, Mountains of Loong, Crater Isles, Ticroa, Draccio, Crescent Island, Star Island. Survival allows you to choose the power up of choice and see how long they can keep dragons in the air with stars awards based on specific scoring milestones. Island is a slight variation of Survival allowing you to choose one of the eight islands and keep for as long as you can keep the dragons in the air.

Dragon Portals changes the pace a bit with a mini-game at various points where the goal is to photograph certain types of dragons. You’re given the choice to accept the mini-game or bypass. Honestly, this became a boring exercise after a while so I would bypass and go on with the matching game. It would’ve helped if there were a variety of different mini-games rather than the same one over and over again.

Dragon Portals has 10 power ups arranged in three categories: Destructive, Creative, and Passive. These power ups can help destroy similar colored orbs, clear out a line of orbs, and even highlight matches. If you’ve played Match-3s in the past, then these power ups will look familiar. In addition, as part of the achievement system, trophies can be earned for combos, chain reactions, and stars earned.

The gameplay can be entertaining since at any given time, a number of dragons are in the air. The game can be challenging and frankly it ratchets up pretty quickly by the time you’re on level 2. Unlike typical Match-3s, matching takes place by dropping orbs from one dragon to the next in order to line up three or more like-colored balls amounts. Not as easy when the game is in motion, but still fun nonetheless. And, if the power meter can’t be filled up in time, the dragons take a nose dive, although depending on the power up, you can lose a dragon or two and still clear the level. As you earn more power ups, Story mode allows you to select up to three specific power ups to use on any given level. My main issue is that the game can be repetitious because while the objectives may change, the gameplay doesn’t. Having said that, Dragon Portals should be able to provide hours of playability given the degree of content and depth.

Dragon Portals is a solid game, and if you’re a die-hard Match-3 gamer, then this should certainly be a must have. The game is well-designed and as I mentioned, has high production values. This is a worthy casual pick-up-and-play title but for some, the gameplay can be repetitive.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for Match-3 fans, and those just starting out in the genre; repetitive gameplay may turn off some advanced players, but this is still a solid title)

Check out my impressions at http://toucharcade.com/2009/08/19/dragon-portal-another-fun-and-beautiful-match-3-from-mythpeople/

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