Review: 'dʒrægɛn: A game about a Dragon'
As I was looking for a furry game to review this month, I didn't have to go too far before I ran into a promotional video that caught my attention. Despite the simplistic voice acting there was something about the aesthetic and the sense of humor that dʒrægɛn: A game about a Dragon held about itself that seemed to garner immediate interest and curiosity.
So what is this game about a dragon? Let's take a look and find out.
It turns out you play as a dragon! Go figure.
The tropes within this story are very standard for video games. You have to rescue your girlfriend from being kidnapped. You have to collect 4 orbs to get through a magical barrier to rescue her.
It has a plot but doesn't take itself too seriously. You are introduced to this interesting world where human and dragons exist together. It has some medieval tropes, but also seems to have some very modern set pieces as well. One moment you'll be fighting a knight in armor, the next you'll be using lightning breath to charge up a motor vehicle to make it move.
There is a distinct mix between the "immature" style clashing intriguingly with the more "mature" humor, which, the promotional video prepared me for. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was my dragon whipping out a pipe to smoke at the end of each level, given the child-friendly appearance of a crayon drawn world. I found it kind of ironic that in a game where mature and innuendo laced humor abounds that it would be these instances of tobacco use that would probably raise more parental eyebrows than things like this. But so it goes.
Action Platformer with RPG Elements
What the promotional video does not explain though is the type of game this is, or more importantly, what it is not.
While this game is a role-playing game, it is more heavily an action RPG than a character or team management RPG. You are playing a defined character whose moves and abilities are pretty much pre-determined from start to finish. In other words it's more Super Paper Mario for the Wii than anything (or Tails Adventure on GameGear for the more Sonic affiliated). It's more a platformer with RPG elements than a traditional RPG. The way you power up your character is by exploring the world and finding the hidden goodies by solving puzzles or being generally curious.
That is not to say the game itself wasn't enjoyable despite not really being able to do much unique with the character. I enjoyed playing it enough to want to try and collect everything. In doing so you have to be prepared to discover. They give you indications that you're missing something in a level without holding your hand and telling you how to get them or where they are. I liked the way in certain puzzles they used symbolism instead of text to give you hints about what you had to do.
Some of their "symbolic hints" were a lot more difficult to decipher than others, but none were impossible.
As far as I know, there are no walkthroughs to this game out there. This created the unique feeling I haven't experienced since my earlier days gaming. Complete isolation in figuring things out, knowing I couldn't ask the audience if I got stuck. And it made figuring things out all the more rewarding when things eventually clicked and I was able to collect all the items.
As you explore more and find more goodies you level up and the horde in your house increases. In later stages, it begins overflowing past the walls. Adding the items collected out in the field to the home base was a quaint touch and gives you a feeling of progression. As we all know, a dragon's power is determined by the amount of stuff they can collect!
Of course the main thing that stands out for the game isn't really the gameplay, but the crayon style artistic direction. Though on the surface it may seem a very gimmicky style, designed to draw attention, I am hard pressed to think of them going with any other aesthetic and it working.
The game isn't retro enough or difficult enough to mesh well with a pixel style. The story doesn't take itself seriously enough that would warrant a more smooth style. The crayon actually does something that meshes with the game presented quite well. It gives one a sense of child-like nostalgia of creativity without the expectations of intensity that comes with the pixel design.
The music also works well in this regard. It relies heavily on songs that have a few well defined instruments that play songs that have the same core to them arranged in different manners of intensity to fit with the mood of the particular stage. The simplistic arrangement works well with the visual aesthetic.
If you’re looking for an epic RPG where you get to play a dragon which you define, then it's best to look elsewhere. This is a game about a dragon, not your dragon.
If you're looking for a game that is going to challenge your platforming prowess this may also not be a game for you. I never found any of the platforming challenges too difficult.
However, if you're looking for to explore a strange place where dragons and humans interact in a world that is modern yet medieval, if you like trying to make little discoveries, if you like surprises, if you don't mind more emphasis on exploration than challenge, and if you don't mind a story which has more tounge-in-cheek pokes than serious story beats, then you will find a lot of enjoyment here.
My main piece of advice would be, don't give up on yourself. If you can't figure out a puzzle or how to get to an item, take a break and think it out. Like many puzzles, figuring it out yourself is better than having someone else do it for you.