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Dragon Portals

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Breath of fire

Product: Dragon Portals | Developer: MythPeople | Publisher: 10tons | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.00
Dragon Portals iPhone, thumbnail 1
Dragon Portals brings innovation to an ages-old genre. This beautiful puzzler breaks through the great wall of tired match-three play to tread new territory.

Transported to a mystical archipelago off mainland China, you're tasked with sending dragons back to their otherworldly home. Only by breaking dragon orbs of various colours can the portals be opened to send them back. It naturally follows that breaking these orbs is a function of matching three or more together.

Unlike in a traditional match-three puzzler, however, you're far more limited in how you move these orbs. Four dragons soar onto the screen with a line of orbs trailing behind. You can only drop orbs down to make matches - never up.

Since movement is so restricted, tapping an orb is enough to move it. There's no need to slide it into place, as the game automatically recognises your intended move.

You only have so much time to make matches before the dragons lose altitude and crash into the ground. A gauge lining the bottom of the screen must be filled before the altitude flag on the right reaches zero. Successful matches buoy the flag, but if you fail to fill the gauge in time it's Game Over.

While you're eased into the action, later levels are about as tough as catching a fly with a pair of chopsticks. Fortunately, special powers give you the upper hand. Unlocked through the course of the main Adventure mode, these powers range from bombastic fireworks that obliterate orbs to a passive sight that highlights possible moves.

A well balanced combo mechanic also helps you keep the dragons flying. Double matches that clear two sets of orbs on two different lines from a single move and chains reward you with extra altitude, tonnes of points, and fill up the progress gauge faster than standard matches. Setting up combos is a real challenge when you're forced to work quickly against fast-falling dragons.

The only area in which Dragon Portals lacks innovation is in its small selection of modes. Survival mode, which dares you to keep the dragons soaring with matches for as long as possible, is the only alternative to the story-driven Adventure mode. An additional puzzle mode requiring careful matches to eliminate each dragon's line of orbs without any coming in to replace them would be an interesting variation.

High scores for each mode are stored exclusively on your handset, with no option for uploading them to an online leaderboard. There's more than enough gameplay between the main Adventure and Survival modes, though comparing scores online would add further competitive flair to the game.

These are but minor complaints. Dragon Portals achieves innovation where dozens of games have failed, brilliantly taking the familiar match-three formula and breathing fire into it.
Dragon Portals
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 26 August 2009
A phenomenal puzzler that fires up match-three gameplay with inventive new mechanics and wonderful sense of style
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