If you thought getting on the wrong side of birds was a bad move for iOS antagonists, just imagine what happens when dragons get fired up! A horde of wizards have just encaged all the little dragon pups, and now they’ll have to answer to some big Snappy Dragons (Out Now, $0.99).
This debut title from Extensive Studios will suffer no end of comparison to Angry Birds, but it also feels like it’s got a little Burn the City stirred in along with a magic touch all its own. Birds love using slingshots the player has to pull back on, but Snappy carries on the pull-forward tradition that seems to be associated with fire breathing lizards on iOS. If you’ve played either of the above-mentioned physics puzzlers already, you know the drill here: the player’s dragon is perched on one end of a destructible landscape and needs to pick off targets – namely wizards – subject to a limited fireball supply. Once the player gets used to the arc physics applied to fireballs, the game serves up tons of additional nuance as expected.
One thing that really ups the ante here compared to the original Angry Birds formula is that the player has to be cautious lest he or she burn up the dragon pups or accidentally send them into the drink. The minimum victory condition is eliminating all wizards on the field; the player’s level rating equals the number of dragon pups that are freed and make it through the explosive ordeal alive.
The developer has not integrated Game Center or OpenFeint support yet as far as I’ve been able to discern, and nor does it feel all that needed, frankly! Flawless victories are their own reward here; performance feeds directly back into gameplay by unlocking bonus levels that give the player a nice break from the usual formula. Rather than fling fireballs during bonus levels, the player seizes them directly with a finger and guides them through side-scrolling mazes until they have a clear shot at targets. Even regular levels give the player a breather once in a while. Every so often Snappy lets the player go hog wild with an infinite fireball supply, the level rating determined by the time it takes to set a whole gaggle of wizards ablaze.
Snappy also sets itself apart from the crowd in its reliance on moving environment elements. Unbreakable pillars float around to block shots in real time, and my favorite level has the player rushing to destroy obstacles before they scrape the dragon pups right off a floating platform. Other surprises include complex wind currents that add a heavier logic element, and black holes that can suck up wizards, fireballs, and dragon pups alike! In later levels the player even gets multiple dragons to work with, each possessing unique fireball properties and a dedicated supply. There are 83 levels on offer at release by my count, with more on the way, and suffice it to say Snappy‘s gameplay evolves at a comfortable rate throughout. Also keeping things fresh is the player’s ability to tackle Snappy’s worlds out of order.
One flaw Snappy shares with its genre elders is the player’s inability to scroll the field while aiming a fireball. The solution – still an imperfect one in my opinion – is to use a previous fireball’s onscreen path as a guide for ranging. Snappy also draws even with the rest of the crowd when it comes to aesthetic presentation; there are few surprises to be found in its utterly cute hand-drawn sprites, vivid environments, or ambiance-heavy soundtrack.
iFanzine Verdict: Snappy Dragons manages something pretty special — it captures the essence of what made Angry Birds great while distinguishing itself with exciting new elements. Tipping the scales further in its favor than most competitors is the way that it internalizes performance rewards, bucking the leaderboard trend and giving the excellent player new challenges to look forward to instead. This is a title physics puzzle fans won’t be disappointed with in the least, and its interesting challenges should appeal to the casual and hardcore gamer alike.