Fans of both video games and music are likely familiar with the work of fantasy landscape artist Roger Dean. Since the late 1960s he's been creating album artwork for countless bands, most notably for the bands Yes and Asia, and that continues to this day. In the mid-80s he also became involved with video game illustrations, and created the iconic box art for Shadow of the Beast by Psygnosis as well as numerous others.
Roger Dean is an incredible artist and a legend in the field, and now he has another feather to stick in his cap with his own iOS game called Dragons Dream [$4.99]. It's a fairly simplistic cave flyer, and if we're talking strictly in terms of back-of-the-box features it won't set any benchmarks. It's got two modes – a 2:00 minute timed mode where you collect as many orbs as possible and an endless mode where you try to get as far as possible while nabbing the occasional wisp for extra points.
However, a feature list is not the reason you get a game like Roger Dean's Dragons Dream. You get it for the overall visual and aural experience; for the immersion into incredible fantasy worlds. And Dragons Dream totally nails that. From the tiny details like the animation of the dragon and menu sound effects to the collection of unlockable artwork (which you can save straight to your Camera Roll), Dragons Dream is a fantasy enthusiast's dream.
That's not to say that the core mechanics are bad though, even if a bit basic. The physics and weight of your dragon feel incredibly well-tuned, kind of a mixture between the smooth rise-and-fall movement of Jetpack Joyride [Free] and a more "tap-to-flap" style control. Once I spent a few minutes getting the hang of it, I found myself playing over and over again, hooked on beating my previous best scores and rising up the Game Center leaderboards. There's also a number of achievements to earn, which are tied into unlocking the game's artwork bonuses.
In the timed Arcade mode, scoring is based both on distance and how many orbs you can collect. Collecting orbs consecutively will increase a multiplier which can really send your scores sky high, though it feels like there's a ceiling given that it's a timed mode. The level terrain and orb placement is random each time you play, but even still there's only so many orbs you can collect in two minutes. The endless Free Fly mode is a much better test of your endurance and skill, with a nice risk vs. reward factor that has you deciding if trying to collect wisps for bonus points in your final score tally is worth taking your focus off the safest path.
Oh, one other neat thing I almost forgot to mention is that orb collection in Arcade mode is actually tied to the music. Collecting orbs keeps the main melodies going, and missing them gives you an eerie quietness that's a good reminder that you're screwing up, kind of like missing notes in Guitar Hero. It's just another subtle way that Dragons Dream sucks you into its immersive world, which is pretty cool. Check out the official trailer for an idea of what the game is like, but keep in mind that whatever capture software was used for it doesn't do justice to the game in person, which runs incredibly smoothly.
It might not be the most full-featured game out there, but the gorgeous environments, hypnotic music and sound effects, and attention to detail all make Dragons Dream a compelling offering, especially for fans of Dean's work. Similar to the recent God of Blades [$2.99], Dragons Dream is greater than the sum of its parts thanks to excellent artistic direction and style, and something about it is just plain fun in that minimalist Canabalt [$2.99] kind of way.
I'm hoping the game's developer Appshen Limited will see fit to continue adding new levels and unlockable artwork, but even as is the two included environments which have been created by Dean are a joy to soar through. Players in our forums have been digging it too, and if you have even the slightest love for fantasy artwork or Roger Dean's work, then Dragons Dream needs to be on your radar.
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