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Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

App review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap App Poster Image
Classic 2D action game has monsters and mild violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Ease of Play

Three difficulty levels allow players to set their own challenge. The touch controls are straightforward and customizable, but may prove frustrating to players used to playing action games with controllers. Enemies are predictable, though it takes time to learn their patterns.

Violence

The player's small cartoon character uses a sword to chop at fantastical enemies -- crabs, cyclops, bats, ninjas -- that flash for a second and then disappear once defeated.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

This is a remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, a Sega Master System game from 1989.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is a cartoonish side-scrolling action game for iOS and Android devices. Players control Wonder Boy -- or, optionally, Wonder Girl -- a young knight who sets out to battle a dragon. During his journey, the hero uses a sword to attack bats, crabs, cyclops, and ninjas, all of which simply flash white and then disappear once defeated. The action is highly cartoonish, and there's no blood or gore. Little in the way of character background is provided; players are simply meant to understand that monsters and dragons are evil, and we control a courageous hero intent on defeating them. Though it's a very straightforward run-and-jump action game, the touch controls can be a bit finicky and may require some customization and fine-tuning in the options menu.

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What's it about?

WONDER BOY: THE DRAGON'S TRAP is a recreation of the classic 1989 two-dimensional side-scrolling action game Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap for the Sega Master System. It focuses on a young knight who takes it upon himself to journey through a land of monsters to confront a wicked dragon. It painstakingly recreates each level from the original game -- monster by monster, obstacle by obstacle -- with modern hand-drawn cartoon visuals and a new soundtrack (though players can opt to experience the game in its original highly pixelated format, if they choose). Like most games from the era, it's pretty simple to play. Players move their hero left and right using a virtual thumbpad and tap virtual buttons to jump, attack, and use items. The placement of these touch controls on screen is customizable. As the game goes on, players earn the power to transform into a variety of animals, each of which has its own special ability -- such as a hawk that can fly and a mouse that can climb walls -- that allows players to overcome obstacles that were once impassable. While the original experience has been faithfully preserved, the developers have added the ability for players to choose a female hero called Wonder Girl, which changes not just the hero's gender, but also the game's name on the title screen.

Is it any good?

Players may need some experience with, or an appreciation of, retro side-scrolling games to get the most out of this remake. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is undeniably pretty, with a colorful cartoon presentation that breathes new life into the original's static world. Switching between the new and old graphics shows just how much of a difference this makes. The new environments pop with vibrancy and once-pixelated characters have whole new personalities. The updated music and sound effects are similarly impressive, though the tinny 8-bit score of the original is still pretty catchy. And the thoughtfully inclusive decision to allow players to choose to be Wonder Girl rather than Wonder Boy should give this edition a broader audience than the original. It's exactly the same game, just with a female hero in place of a male one.

But the potential downside of maintaining such reverence for a 30-plus year old game is that the action feels a bit dated. Enemy movements and patterns sometimes seem overly stiff, and rigid, and the square-ish geometry of obstacles within the environment is at odds with the flowing, natural looking backgrounds. Perhaps most problematic is that our hero sometimes moves and attacks in awkward, imprecise fashion -- at least by today's standards. Once you get a ways into the game, these issues will likely begin to fade as you grow used to the enemies, the world, and the controls, but it could prove a stumbling block for some -- especially those who may not have experienced any older games. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is bound to prove an absolute delight for fans of retro side-scrollers -- particularly those who played the decades-old original -- but younger players may find its unabashed passion for the past just a tad off-putting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Is Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap the sort of game you want to spend a few minutes with at a time, or a lot longer?

  • Have you ever done something that someone else might consider heroic? Perhaps helping someone in need, or doing a good deed just because you could?

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