Gaming is a wide medium, spanning high-budget experiences from big-name studios to smaller, more humble offerings. Nostatic Software’s Fat Dragons, an homage to William Electronics’ Joust and Nintendo’s Balloon Fight, firmly falls into the latter camp. The Xbox One, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS all have the game on their digital storefronts, and though it’s the latter iteration I experienced, I imagine the differences between the three are negligible.
FAT DRAGONS (3DS) REVIEW
Befitting of the game’s title, you play as an overweight dragon, one aiming to prove its superiority over the other overweight dragons who soar the skies. Fat Dragons’ controls are simple, becoming of its arcade-esque nature. Pressing the A Button makes your dragon fly in one spurt, and repeatedly pressing the button allows you to fly faster. You use the D-Pad to move left or right while airborne or on the ground. The Nintendo 3DS’s bottom screen, as one would expect, keeps track of your score, lives and how far you are. A tutorial is included that teaches the basics.
As its major enhancement over the works that inspired it, Fat Dragons has four diverse environments (two of which need to be unlocked) to play on. All four follow the same progression formula; you spend three waves in one stage layout, each with enemies spawning in at the start of the round, and after every third wave you teleport to a new layout. As you advance in waves, the position of the platforms changes, generally making it harder to maneuver.
So, how do you defeat your enemies? If you’re flying higher than an opposing dragon, touching it will cause it to descend to the ground. If you knock into it again shortly afterwards while it’s stationary, it will be knocked out. However, grounded dragons will eventually regain their bearings, giving a visual cue once it’s alert, and will then retake to the skies, starting the cycle anew. Conversely, if you get hit once by a dragon who’s elevated above you, you’re knocked out. You only have three lives, so make them count.
While the differences between the four biomes are largely cosmetic, they do each have their unique environmental hazards that integrate their aesthetic into the gameplay, such as how the Jungle’s trees can impair your ability to see yourself and your enemies, or how the Volcano’s deadly volcanic rocks can rain from the sky. Ultimately, however, while it was nice to see an effort to make the locales distinct from one another, it doesn’t go far enough in doing so.
Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of content, especially for those who enjoy score-attacking. No online or local leaderboards are supported, with Fat Dragons only keeping a record of your personal best score in each stage. As the game’s draw is earning a new high score, it’s an oversight that Nostatic didn’t give you an option to share and compare your scores with friends and strangers. Fat Dragons is similarly flat in terms of its presentation; there’s no music to speak of, sound effects are inoffensive but lack a satisfying oomph, and the graphics are standard fare for an 8-bit throwback.
Ultimately, Fat Dragons’ fundamental problem isn’t incompetency, it’s that it’s unambitious; honoring classic titles and aiming to build upon their foundations is a cornerstone of this industry, yet Fat Dragons makes little effort to meaningfully improve upon its forbears. It’s a passable game to keep on-hand if you want a time killer to play in spurts, and Nostatic priced Fat Dragons appropriately. However, Balloon Fight, which hosts a more appreciable personality and two flight movement speeds, is nevertheless the better, richer choice on the eShop for a game in this style.