Wonder Boy (or Wonder Girl if you chose the female character) is a fun little platformer based on an original Sega Master System game. And it is adorably cute!
As Wonder Boy (or Girl, who I played as), you are tasked with defeating dragons. But defeating a dragon comes with a curse. You are turned into one of five different forms: lizard-man, mouse-man, piranha-man, lion-man and hawk-man. Each form has it’s own abilities; for example, mouse-man can climb walls and ceilings.
There are also stores littered around the game where you can buy armour, shields, and swords. These can give you extra powers (like the ability to withstand lava). There are also power up items dropped by bad guys. I recommend the boomerang as your weapon of choice.
Technically you can get to all areas of the game right from the start but only in certain forms, or by using certain items. At the end of each area is a new dragon to beat, and a new form to gain.
The areas are themed (the tower, the beach etc) and each have their own catchy background music. As this is an old school platform game (even with a nice new paint job), each area is made up of sections. If you walk from one section to the next and then back, all the bad guys will have reset. This can lead to groans of frustration if you miss a jump multiple times and are forced to fight the same enemies over and over.
Annoyingly the game offers little in the way of guidance. I often found myself stuck and wondering exactly where I should be going next. A fortune-telling pig in the church at the starting village will give you some advice, but usually it’s a terrible joke instead. Looking back at that sentence, I also realise how great writing about video games can be.
The lack of a map or clear directions means you need to have a good memory about where you found an area that was previously inaccessible and for what reason. Like a door that you couldn’t reach with swimming so you need Piranha-man.
This might be the only game where I would recommend watching a playthrough on YouTube to find out where to go next, and also what certain items do. For example, at one point you pick up an item that lets you smash bricks. It sits in your inventory with no instructions and it was by accident that I discovered what it did.
Other items that you purchase have varying attributes; some work better with some animal forms than others. This means you need to monitor what you’re wearing after changing forms.
The bosses are all dragons and they are annoying. You have to hit them in the head (a useful piece of information the game didn’t tell me until I was halfway dead) and they have a habit of bouncing around randomly. The Pirate Dragon in particular had me yelling at the TV while he hit me with hooks over and over.
The art however is some of the best I’ve seen in a game of this calibre. It’s smoothly animated, and each character feels unique. The backgrounds are excellent and the enemies move fluidly, if a little oddly disjointed. I also have no idea why a cloud would wear sunglasses.
And with a flick of the right trigger, the game wipes to the original 8-bit version, perfectly overlaid. Sometimes, the 8-bit version is actually easier to navigate the platforms, due to its blocky nature. Oddly, while the enemies are updated version of their 8-bit incarnations, your animal forms are not. Piranha-man and mouse man especially don’t look at all like their 1980s versions – which is a good thing.
I actually had quite a bit of fun switching back and forth between the two versions. You can change the sound back to the original as well, but the higher fidelity audio of the newer game is much better.
Wonder Boy (Girl): The Dragon’s Trap is an excellent throwback to old school gaming but with a wonderfully adapted new paint job. You feel all the highs and lows of platformers in a family-friendly and super cute environment.
Hadyn received a digital copy of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap from DotEmu for review.