Joust. It is a classic video arcade game from the 1980′s. Your character flies around the screen on what could have been a dragon, but also could have been an ostrich, bird, or flying horse. Regardless of what type of creature you rode, the object of the game was to knock other players off of their mystical flying creatures, before you got knocked off yourself. Knock them all off and you advance to the next round.
The first time I saw Atomic Battle Dragons, I though, "Cool. An updated clone of Joust." Once I started playing, however, I found that to be the biggest understatement since The Emperor referred to the Rebellion as a "pitiful little band" in Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. Yes, gameplay resembles the classic Joust game, but with the addition of a full backstory, updated graphics, a role playing game type character builder, and many more features, this is much more than just an update of the classic game. This is a classic game unto itself.
Installation and Registration: Installation is fairly easy. There are two different versions available for download: a demo version and the full version. The demo version can be downloaded for free and allows only limited game play. The full version, which can be downloaded only after your order has been processed, consists of the full game, with unlimited play, and numerous additional items to aid you in your quest. To install either version, simply download the file and click on the desktop icon. The full version will ask for a registration code (you must be connected to the Internet to process the code). Within minutes, you will be ready to play.
The Story: The lands are under siege from a powerful dragon army, led by Belzom, a fierce, three-headed dragon king. The Magistrate sent the best knights in the land to defeat Belzom. Only one returned. Now you are all that is left. The best knights in the land, including their leader, your brother William, were all slain or grievously injured. You have vowed to avenge your brother’s death by defeating Belzom yourself. Fortunately, the magistrate quickly arranges an alliance with the elves who will guide and assist you on your journey.
Gameplay: Mount your dragon and take to the skies as you search for the magical items necessary to defeat Belzom. Watch out though, Belzom’s minions have also mounted their own dragons, and will stop at nothing to defeat you. Try to knock them off of their dragons by striking them with your lance (jousting). Once you have knocked an enemy off of his dragon, though,you’ll still want to kill the soldier by eating him, stomping on him or chasing him into the lava pit. If he reaches a regeneration platform (marked by two flags) before you catch him, then he will grow a new dragon and continue fighting. Likewise, though, if you are knocked off of your dragon, you can attempt to reach a regeneration station and grow your own dragon. In addition to the dragon army, you will also face giant insects, poisonous rocks, deadly crystals, and many more enemies on your quest to face Belzom.
As you progress through the game, your enemies will grow consistently stronger. Likewise, however, every action you take earns experience points. Earn enough points and your character will advance to the next skill level. Each time you advance to a new skill level, you will be given points which can be used to increase your health, speed, attack, or strength.
Additionally, when you are done playing just hit quit; no need to save or remember complicated passcodes. Every time you quit, the game will be automatically saved at the beginning of the last level you played. As someone who grew up with complicated save codes, which resulted in numerous games being lost and started over from the beginning, I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this simple feature.
Finally, if you want to play the game, without the complicated backstory and character building, just click on "Arcade Mode". This mode provides you with over 100 levels of battle with no missions or quests to get in your way of destroying enemies.
Customized View and Controls: Atomic Battle Dragons offers dozens of user settings which can be modified or tweaked to enhance and customize the game. Whether you like landscape mode or portrait mode, you can choose the orientation of the screen. Likewise, while I prefer the default controls, and found them very intuitive, you may want to change these to fit your needs or the needs of your device. Every button and control in the game is fully customizable. You can even select whether to control your dragon with D-Pad buttons or the stylus (as an aside I prefer a combination of the two). Finally, you can add a map to the corner of your screen which serves as a radar to help you identify enemies on that level.
Graphics: Isotope 244 has established a reputation for outstanding graphics, and Atomic Battle Dragons clearly lives up to this expectation. The backgrounds are nothing short of spectacular, looking more like paintings than digital images. There are also over 40 distinct levels, each of which provides its own personality to the game. Finally, what is remarkable about this game is that the various distinct dragons, each with different attributes. The graphics in Atomic Battle Dragons are beautifully rendered, and outstanding to view. There were times, in fact, when I became so engrossed in the graphics, I forgot I was supposed to be playing the game as well.
In Game Tips: One thing Atomic Battle Dragons does exceptionally well is keep you apprised of what is going on as the game progresses. First, each time you encounter something new, a dialogue appears on the screen explaining it to you. If you find a new weapon, and the dialogue will tell you how to use it. The first time you encounter a precious gems, the dialogue appears to tell you that every time you collect 20 gems, you will be given one skill point to distribute. I found this feature to be a great learning tool for beginner players.
Additionally, between levels, Briannah, your elven friend (shown below) will provide you with any information you need for the next level of play. Finally, as each level loads, a game tip will appear on the top of the screen. This may tell you something to look for, or how to defeat enemies. There are several different tips, all of which are relevant and helpful for successfully completing the game.
Other characters and Items: As your quest proceeds, you will encounter numerous characters who will help you discover the tools necessary to defeat Belzom. The most prominent is Briannah, an elf who will help you along the way. She frequently provides you with tips to help guide you through the levels, as well as items such as special shields, weapons, or potions, to help you defeat enemies. Additionally, various other characters throughout the game who will require your assistance (for example, a group of villagers who have been attacked by marauders from Belzom’s army). Help them and you will typically be rewarded.
In addition to your friends, the game offers 13 unique enemies, including dragon riding soldiers, flying insects, deadly crystals, and four huge zone bosses. Each enemy attacks in a different manner, and will require all of your accumulated skills to defeat.
Conclusion: Atomic Battle Dragons is not your parents’ video game. It is an ideal mix of arcade style action and role playing adventure. The result is a fast-paced, exciting game, that takes you through a myriad of colorful worlds. Fight off the minions of Belzom, and you will find yourself inside Belzom’s inner sanctuary. What you find there, you’ll have to play the game to find out. This is a masterpiece of finely rendered graphics, certain to please gamers of all skill levels.
Atomic Battle Dragons is available from Isotope 244. It costs $19.95