The first review I’ve done for Sega Addicts was Rhythm Thief on iOS. I made some pretty harsh judgement based on the micro transactions and I stand by them; so when I walked into this review for Dragon Coins, I was naturally skeptical over how it would turn out. It shares more than a couple similarities with Gung Ho’s Puzzle and Dragon, and I would wager some of the back end mechanics are virtually identical. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you’re going to blatantly lift from another popular game, you had better have some improvements to stand out. After all, sans a few hard core fans, there’s a reason Mario Kart is up to it’s 8th title release, and Crash Team Racing is a footnote to the Kart racing genre. When you’re copying, being good, or better, isn’t good enough; you have to be the best.
So with those massive standards I’ve placed on Sega’s Dragon Coins, how does it measure up? The good news is I am extremely happy with the product delivered. The bad news is, I can only review about a week’s worth of content, and when a game is prepared to deliver for much longer, it leaves me with a giant question mark over the whole review process.
While Dragon Coins technically falls into the ‘Coin-dozer’ genre, fans of portable free to play games are going to firmly place it into the collectible monster genre. It’s an interesting genre which combines light puzzle and combat for rewards of different monsters; and if you guessed this only exists as a means of getting you to throw real money into the system; you would be correct. At the micro level, these games have simple mechanics, but after zooming out, you notice the complex Rube Goldberg Machine designed to get you to spend money in the most elaborate way possible. I might be getting ahead of myself, but I feel like it’s best to open a review by telling you exactly what you’re downloading.
But, lets assume you already know these things about most free to play games. Once you work your brain past that and dig into the moment to moment play, it becomes an extremely fun and brilliantly executed mobile game. I’ve played a fair number of free to play games that have been over complicated and ruined by too many rules to track, but Dragon Coins does a fantastic job of constantly reminding you of the systems in place, and how to best leverage them; making this one of the most playable games on my phone. This is a good thing considering the coin-dozer genre itself isn’t exactly complicated either.
The translation from coin-dozer to collectible monster game is also quite natural. In fact, I would go as far to say that Dragon Coins is far better than the big dog on the street, Puzzle and Dragons. Puzzle and Dragons had gameplay that made you feel like you were playing a deep puzzle game, when it was just a means of you giving away your money. Dragon Coins feels more like a coin-dozer, and thus, is much more random, making the slot machine style play of collectible monster games more organic.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, I can sum it up in one word: tap. Tap to drop coins, tap to drop more coins, tap to activate monster powers, keep tapping because there are more coins to drop. There’s really nothing special going on here, but it works very well for the platform, and with the fast pace of games, it ends up feeling really addictive. Outside of the game, is your ability to evolve and raise monsters; which after a brief tutorial will become like clockwork. You will regularly be gifted bonus coins to get random monster drops. Rinse and repeat. Keep tapping.
While everything is simple, that isn’t a bad thing either. Like a finely cooked dish, when every ingredient is already good, simplicity lets it shine. The presentation keeps things moving, is pleasing to look at, and most importantly, uncluttered. Even though this is a free to play money grabbing machine, I can’t help but feel like the developers put a lot of genuine care into the final product; crafting something you want to keep playing, and hopefully, dropping some coin in as well. That said, the same simplicity does no favors for the lackluster sounds and music, but if you’re playing it on a smartphone, you have your own music for this stuff.
If you were expecting me to do a rant about the microtransaction and digital currency nonsense, I really can’t. I haven’t spent a penny into this machine and I’ve been continuing along happily. So yeah, I have no real anger here to rant about, which is probably the highest complement I can pay to a free to play game. Cheers Dragon Coins team! Way to save me a few more grey hairs.
All in all, I like what I’ve played of Dragon Coins, and I continue playing without popping a cent into it. With no real pay wall in sight, this will be one review game that will stay on my phone well after this gets published. I’m still wary of what the future will bring for it, but I can only review what exists now, and what exists now is damn good. Is it better than Puzzle and Dragons? I sure like it more. It’s an iteration on some very good ideas, and hopefully will be supported for a long time. It’s absolutely better, but I still think the best is yet to come.