Precisely 1000 years ago today – as all great legends tend to go – there was a giant black evil dragon that ravaged the countryside, no human could do anything at all about his evil reign of terror. Then one day all of the other dragons in the world rose up to stop him, but could only seal the evil beast away instead of destroying him forever. Of course – as is the fate of all binding spells placed upon ancient evils – the horrible monstrosity broke free and is once more causing chaos throughout the lands, prompting you to journey the world to find the necessary dragons to form an army that will stop the beast this time once and for all.

Haypi Co’s self titled Haypi Dragon (out now, free) successfully takes gameplay elements from Worms and Angry Birds and blends them together into a very appealing online experience. The game also features a variety of in-app purchases, as one would expect from a game being offered completely free of charge, yet is admittedly less aggressive about them than are some iOS games that have to first be purchased. Unfortunately – as I will cover later in the review – this game also has some rough edges that are currently marring the product’s luster, all of which I hope will be fixed in the future.

In the PVE portion of the game you go alone against stage after stage of dragon armies, your mission being to somehow take them all out before they do the same to you with their overwhelming numbers. The controls here are very reminiscent of games like Worms, with you controlling the angle and power of the cannon on your baby dragon’s back in respect to wind conditions (why a dragon would need a cannon to fight with is beyond me). You will also need to select which armaments to use each round, all while being sure to keep in mind how special shell types have different properties that affect their trajectories compared to normal cannon balls

Obviously there is little chance of a single dragon surviving an onslaught of similarly powered dragons all lobbing various ordinance at it each and every round, so this is where the Angry Birds aspect of the game’s set up comes into play. Rather than having an environment that receives impact craters each and every time there is an explosion, we instead have structures built out of blocks that are subject to the rules of physics if any of the parts receive enough damage for them to break. Bringing down the house on half the opposing army – such that they’re stuck trying to blast their way out while you eliminate the weakened forces caught outside the rubble – is always a sound strategy, especially if you can manage to do it via your very first opening attack.

The physics at play during everything are accurate and fun to watch, especially when you successfully cause a domino effect within an enemy dragon installation that causes the entire thing to come crashing down. To help with aiming, a dotted line will show the exact path of your last shell so that you can better grasp what the newest wind changes will do to your next attack if you simply reproduced your last attack. There will also be a red mark that shows you the exact value of your last power and angle choice, so you will never miss simply because you have no clue what you did for your last shot. You can furthermore zoom in and out at will to make sure that you can always see your target should you ever find yourself attempting to take out at a dragon at the complete opposite end of the battlefield.

Unfortunately your ability to aim – as well as your skill in collapsing structures – are not the only things that affect your chances to win any given battle, there are also the stats of your currently selected dragon that must be accounted for. If your opposition far exceeds you in terms of fire power – defense – and over all hit points, then no amount of cleverness in the world will enable you to overcome the statistical advantage that they hold over you. Simply playing through all the stages in order will never net you experience points fast enough, and this will force you to replay stages you have already completed – many times over – in order to build up your dragons.

The game actually does have a way to make replaying stages interesting, but it is unfortunately directly tied to the exp system in a way that will make you at times despise it when you’re trying to level up a dragon. Your performance in a stage is graded on a scale of 0 to 3 stars, with your precision in a variety of categories being taken into account in determining your final grade (as well as the quality of rewards on the wheel you get to spin every time you finish a level). The amount of exp your currently selected dragon receives is determined by how many stars you get at a stage’s completion – with you getting nothing at all if you fail the stage – as well as the difficulty of the stage itself, so the only efficient way to pursue exp is to grind good performances in areas where the opposition’s stats make that difficult.

There is – however – one other way to increase a dragon’s exp, and this is by putting the dragon in the training eyrie for a lengthy period of time. The longer you set the dragon’s training period for, which is measured either in hours or days, the more exp it will receive when the selected training period finally ends. So under normal usage this won’t so much let you get exp faster as it will let you get some exp while you are away from the game, or while actively playing with a different dragon in your personal army.

The reason that I said this can’t level you up faster under normal usage is because this is one of the places where the game’s in-app purchases come into play, letting you instantly fast forward any period of training time to its conclusion for a real world fee. However, even if someone does artificially advance their stats rapidly through fast forwarded training sessions, they will still have to grind levels to get the in-game currency needed to pay for the upgraded abilities that become available at higher levels. So – ultimately – everyone still has to do the same amount of stage grinding to be at the same effectiveness level, especially if they want to keep up in PVP where your enemies can potentially be far smarter than any of the computer controlled forces.

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