Indie developer Lizardcube had a passion project. It took Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (1989) from Sega’s Master System and remade it good. It’s a positively scintillating passion project, too! A lot of love went into what is an absolutely stunning looking 2D platformer, with some beautiful musical flourishes to boot. But… does it deliver on a gameplay level?
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Omar Cornut planned the idea of a remake back in 1998, but the technology wasn’t around at the time. With the explosion of the indie game scene circa 2004, though, many talented sorts have been able to contribute to the gaming scene. Bit Entertainment created the original and, tellingly, on Lizardcube’s site they call it a “cult classic” and a “masterpiece”.
Cornut reverse engineered the Master System code and started working away (that was 2013), with Lizardcube stepping in to help. The French developer, set in Paris, hasn’t altered the plot and gameplay mechanics – it’s the same experience, it’s just a massive technical overhaul – the game is quite breathtaking artistically, with the backgrounds in particular being worthy of a place in a frame on your wall.
You star as an unnamed adventurer. At the start, you defeat a mechanical dragon monster but, after winning, you’re stricken with a curse and turned into a dragon. To return to your much desired human form, you must journey across the gaming land to defeat other evil dragons. During this time, you’re morphed into various other animals, including a lion, mouse, and bird.
It’s classic 2D platforming fun with some highly inventive features – the fact these were in place in 1989 is impressive. With the different set of characters, you have new abilities and can reach new areas – that makes it a rather multifaceted experience, complemented by its hand-drawn graphics and rearranged soundtrack.
It’s great! Highly engaging. Downsides? First time you play, it’s confusing what you’re supposed to do. Plus the difficulty setting (we ran through it on “easy”, but it was still difficult) can be bloody frustrating. But a challenge is nothing to be baulked at – ultimately, this is a fun and inventive indie title. Like the look of it? It’s out on Steam, the PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
One of the grooviest features to Dragon’s Trap is the option to switch between retro and modern visuals and sound. At the press of a button, you can turn back to 1989 and play in 8-bit mode. You can also interchange 8-bit music with the updated soundtrack, so it’s possible to play with modern graphics with the old music overlayed (and vice versa).
It’s a neat little feature we enjoyed trying out. For fans of the old game, it means you can play the original if you so wish. However, for most gamers it’s a chance to see the love that’s gone in to overhauling the experience with all the new visual flourishes. It’s a shining example of how to perfectly integrate the graphical experience in with the gameplay elements, so kudos to Lizardcube on a job well done.