Jumping into Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap by DotEmu will feel familiar. It doesn’t take long to know that the bones of this game are the same as the platform action-adventure games it was based on, specifically Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap from 1989. This new Wonder Boy (or Wonder Girl if you prefer – one way the game has updated to the 21st century) makes no attempt to hide its roots. The foundation is built on the simplistic left-right-up-down-attack-duck model of platform games from the 80s and 90s, but it manages to give this old gaming style a boost of new blood and energy.
A lot of that new blood comes from the hand drawn graphics. Traveling from the central village hub, you unlock new areas of gameplay, from dry, volcanic wastelands to underwater lagoons. These graphics, combined with a dynamic and interesting score, gives Monster Land a new, beautiful, yet somehow still raw, look and feel. But Wonderboy is all about paying tribute to the old. If the new graphics feel a little too polished for you, the click of a single button with transform your world into 8-bit in the blink of an eye, and with it, the score becomes a nostalgic arcade ditty to accompany your pixelated hero. You can be in the middle of a boss fight, suddenly long for the days of old, and transform your battle into the 90s platform game that you know and love.
Underneath the pretty new graphics, the game is still fundamentally the same. As you journey through Monster Land, you battle new dragons and transform into different creatures (because of course you’ve been cursed by the Meka-Dragon). You begin as a lizard that spits fire, but as you unlock new creatures, you unlock new abilities. The mouse-human can climb walls, the hawk-human can fly, and so on.
Fighting consists of a few basic attacks, which vary slightly depending on which cursed animal-human you happen to be. Starting off with low health and low armor, these fights require a certain level of patience and caution at first. It’s a matter of figuring out the rhythm, getting used to different tools at your disposal, and a bit of luck. It’s that last part that can get frustrating. Especially during the boss fights (when the stakes are at their highest), leaping in for an attack has to be so perfectly timed that it starts to feel a bit like a guessing game. Be prepared for a test of patience, especially since dying sends you, yet again, back to your main village hub.
During your travels, you’ll also come across some helpful tools like arrows, which allow you to shoot up at the sky, or potions, which give you a second life for when you get trampled by a giant red frog. The only way to get these items is stumbling upon them either in treasure chests or after killing an enemy. Die, and these items will disappear again. Though you have the option of buying armor and visiting a flirtatious nurse to restore your health, the endless amount of coins you procure from killing fish and snakes starts to feel pointless if you can’t spend it on useful weapons. It would have been a nice touch to be able to purchase some of these items in stores, rather than relying on luck dropping them into your lap.
For anyone nostalgic for these platform games, while eager to see some of the physics and kinks worked out in a modern setting, Wonder Boy won’t disappoint. It’s boldly simple and boldly new. From me, it gets an 8/10.
Check Out Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Mac & Linux Launch Trailer:
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is available for PC, Mac and Linux on Steam for 19.99$.