Chaim Gingold, the lead designer behind the creature creator tools found in EA's Spore, along with Brutal Legend artist Jane Ng, has released Earth Dragon for the iPhone. In the game, which appeared on the App Store yesterday, you play the role of a smash-and-roar green dragon tasked to claim revenge against humanity on behalf of Mother Earth for their transgressions against her world. You can chomp enemies and buildings, slam into them, or set them on fire with your flame-breath.
I picked it up on the credentials of the developers alone, even though I made a bit of a frown seeing controls were all accelerometer based. I won't spend too much time complaining about it because I haven't felt accelerometer-based controls have really worked in any iPhone game I've played, so it's not a complaint specific to this title. I hate their inclusion in many titles on the App Store and Earth Dragon didn't change my opinion. I tend to find "tilt your device to move!" a really lackluster gimmick and combined with the iPhone's poor viewing angle on the LCD screen, it doesn't really lead to a compelling control scheme in my opinion. Nevertheless this isn't specifically a knock against Earth Dragon (though I do feel it would have been improved without it) since in typical usage I wouldn't be the target market.
The game has fifteen levels which were really pathetically easy, even with my fumbling inadequacies with tilting the iPhone appropriately. I beat it in about twenty minutes, and the majority of that time was spent on the last two levels– which also brought me to the first time I ended up getting killed. The first couple of levels explore your various moves and how to execute them, and gameplay from that point forward is basically the same repetition of attacking bigger castles and more enemies. Levels are interspersed with quick side-scrolling challenges to collect coins as they slide past you, but other than that there's not much to the game until the last level. Archer units can shoot you and wizards can cast a magical fireball towards you, but the archers are more or less irrelevant if you're out of range and the fireball is so slow moving that it's easy to dodge unless there's a lot of wizards flailing their wands at you.
This game is an iPhone app so I'm not expecting a forty hour gameplay escapade here, but I was surprised with just how quickly it finished. I have spent literal days playing other games available on the App Store at the same price or cheaper than Earth Dragon– Sentinel and Sentinel 2 come to mind as titles that took me a while to beat, both because of content and because they were actually challenging– so I do think the experience could have been fleshed out a bit further when there are games at similar price points with more to do (and more of a replayability factor) available for purchase. The repetition behind each level was also irksome for me; in a game that took me twenty minutes to complete, I don't think I should be getting bored.
The graphics, on the other hand, are cute and fit the comical fantasy setting well, even if according to Chaim the game has "the most intense level of cartoon violence Apple allows." I didn't consider them that violent but they were definitely appropriate– I especially liked the way my dragon exploded into a watercolor smear of colors when killed.
Overall it was an amusing debut game and the graphics were a bonus in its favor, but the short experience and extremely repetitive levels felt under par to me compared to other similar titles available on the iPhone platform.