You are Mila and it is your quest to help free the dragons from their evil curse. You need to travel throughout the islands getting all of the dragons through the portals to safety. In game terms this means traveling through some 70 levels (ten levels for each of the seven islands) in Adventure mode with a vast array of 15 power-ups to aid you in your quest.
The gameplay in this, while at first might look like it would be something similar to Stone Loops or Zuma, is fairly unique. All you need to do is tap one of the balls in a dragon?s snaky body to have it drop into the body of the dragon below in such a way so as to make a group of three or more same colored balls in one of the dragons involved in this exchange. So either the dropping dragon needs to now form a group of three or more from the spot where the ball was dropped from or the receiving dragon now needs to form a group. If you?re lucky enough you might actually work it that by dropping the one ball both the dropping and receiving dragon form groups for a nice bonus! Off to the far right of the screen you?ll see your dragons? current height and probably notice that they?re continuously losing altitude. The only way to keep them afloat is to constantly make matches with larger matches (lot of pieces or part of a chain reaction) helping them gain more air. If you fail in your quest to keep the dragons afloat to the end of level, no worry, you can simply try the level again until you get it right. If you do make it to the end of a level you?ll enter a brief bonus mode where you?re given a few seconds to just add some extra points to your end of level score with no chance of failing the level. As an added bonus (well, not really as I cover in Cons), once you?ve liberated all of the dragons from an island (so every ten levels) you?re invited on a bonus photo hunt where you are tasked with grabbing pictures of specifically indicated dragons.
To aid you in your quest for dragon liberation are a large array of 15 power-ups broken up into three categories, Destructive (power-ups that destroy balls), Creative (power-ups that usually re-color or re-arrange the balls), and Passive (a power-up that, unlike the other two categories, introduces some rule change continuously in effect). As you progress through the stages you?ll unlock more and more of these power-ups and you can decide which three (one from each category) you want to use when you enter each game level. While discussing power-ups it only makes sense to now bring up the alternative game mode, Survival. In Survival Mode you choose one of the game?s Destructive or Creative power-ups and try to see how long you can last with only the one chosen power-up to aid you. Your records with each power-up are tracked individually. This is a great way to really see how to make the most of each power-up in the game.
Dragon Portals features nicely animated 2D graphics. The game has a definitive Asian theme from the dragons, balls, and background scenery.
The sounds are great. There is an appropriately sounding Classic Asian soundtrack with great sound effects for each of the power-ups and game events.
Pros: -Original pickup and play fun for match three fans (especially for those Stoneloop fans). -Very slick and polished presentation (practically identical to its computer counterpart version). -A cool customizable power-up system featuring some 15 different power-ups. -Two different game modes (Adventure and Survival). -Achievements and detailed statistics tracked in Adventure Mode. -Best scores and times tracked separately for each power-up in Survival Mode.
Cons: -The Photo Hunt mini-game didn?t make the transfer to the small screen very well. It looks fine and is playable but trying to use touch controls to simultaneously drag your photo frame around while simultaneously tapping to take a picture is INCREDIBLY awkward. It was an okay diversion in the computer version but, as it stands, just a tedious chore on the iDevices. -While it probably would never have been clear if you didn?t already know of the computer version, the developers left out the Islands Mode in the iPhone port. This Islands Mode was by far my favorite mode which was just like the Survival Mode with the big difference being that ALL power-ups you?ve unlocked so far have a chance of appearing in play. I loved how it made each session a very unique experience as you never knew which power-ups would show up as tried to survive in the ever increasingly difficult environment.
I like it. The developers behind Azkend have another hit on their hands. It?s very polished and a dead-on port of the computer version of this game. If you are looking for a game with match 3 type of gameplay but infused with original ideas, you can?t go wrong with Dragon Portals. My only hope is they will address my two biggest issues so it can go from a pretty decent game to a great title.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -5- Bright and smoothly animated 2D with a distinctive Classical Asian theme. Sound: -5- Classical Asian themed music with unique sound effects for each power-up and game event. Controls: -4- The controls are intuitive and spot on in the main game but pretty awkward in the optional little mini-game played every ten levels. Gameplay: -5- The folk behind Azkend are back with another very polished port of one of their very successful computer puzzlers. A novel take on match 3 gameplay.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Pick your level power-ups carefully! Figure out how you play the game and then figure out power-ups that will enhance that. Do you just make all the matches you can as quick as possible or carefully setup big combinations? There is a combination of power-ups perfectly suited to you and don?t ever be fooled into thinking the later accessed power-ups are necessarily better. -Don't make a match and watch the nice effects... Make one after another even tho the first one is still in process! (thanks goes to CarlosZ for this one).
Game Facts: Developer: MythPeople Release Date: August 16th 2009 Version: 1.0 (OS 3.0 Tested) Genre: Match 3/Casual File Size: 8.1 MB Price: $4.99 Buy Game: iTunes App Store