The Dragon 32 is often derided by other 8-bit gamers, but this is unfair as it has plenty of interesting games on it. As well as notable classics like Chuckie Egg and Jet Set Willy, it also has some great exclusives. Here are just ten games that every Dragon 32 owner needs in their collection.
The Dragon version of this classic platformer was not an afterthought; it was developed in tandem with the more famous Spectrum and BBC Micro editions. And despite what Beeb fans might say, Chuckie Egg on the Dragon just about nicks it as the best incarnation of the game. It’s vibrant (as you’d expect, seeing as it uses that classic Dragon colour set of green, yellow, blue and red), fast paced, bucket loads of fun to play and it also represents a serious long-term challenge, although we still have no idea whether or not it features the full selection of levels – mainly because our skills in the chicken shed are sadly lacking these days.
Anyone who has played Jumping Jack on the Spectrum will be familiar with this; it’s the same game only with a different name – for reasons we can’t quite grasp. Leggit is often overlooked due to its basic graphics and blip-blip sound effects, but to ignore it on these ground would be madness. The basic premise is to reach the top of each screen by jumping through the gaps in the moving platforms. However, if you bang your head or clash with an enemy it’s very likely that you’ll get bumped down to the bottom of the screen. So it’s try, try and try again. Brilliantly simple and simply brilliant.
The Dragon was home to hundreds of coin-op clones, which was only to be expected in those heady days of the early-Eighties. Of them all, Donkey King is the most blatant – not to mention the best. It’s almost a carbon copy of Nintendo’s original, only with everything viewed in lurid Dragon-o-vision. All four levels are featured, Mario and Kong are there, and the manic gameplay is exactly the same. In fact, we’d go as far as saying that it’s better than many of the official home conversions. Realising that it was sailing a little too close to the wind, Microdeal later changed the title to ‘The King.’
Released in 1987, Airball proved that there was still a market for quality Dragon software. This isometric adventure sees you rolling a ball around a series of tricky 3D levels, trying to find a mysterious spell book (or something like that – we were always too busy gawping at the graphics to try and figure out what the hell was actually going on). You need only to compare this to any game released on the Dragon in 1982 or 1983 to release what a giant leap forward it represented. It was later ported to several superior systems, including the Amiga, Atari ST, PC and (unofficially) the Game Boy Advance.
Devil Assault is a clone of Imagic’s Demon Attack – see what they did with the name? If you’re unfamiliar with the original, it’s basically a trippy version of Space Invaders, with the player having to shoot down a number of fast-moving enemies. Devil Assault retains the original’s speed and silenced any accusations that the Dragon could only cope with slow-paced platformers and maze games. A unique feature is that, once fired, your shot follows the path of your ship so you’re able to effectively home in on enemies. It’s as hectic as hell and one of the best arcade shooters on the machine.
Jet Set Willy
This is something of a curiosity in the Jet Set Willy canon, and not just because it’s the only monochrome version (the only way of successfully recreating the game was in high resolution mode). As a way of compensating Dragon owners for the absence of colour, programmer Roy Coates added 13 extra rooms to Miner Willy’s already ridiculously oversized mansion. Part of the fun is in finding the additional rooms – you’ll probably want to revisit the beach and explore the forgotten abbey. Coates obviously had a fine sense of humour as one of his additional rooms is entitled ‘Matthew’s Next Game’ – and it’s completely empty.
This deserves special mention because of how it imitates a vector graphic display. Naturally, it makes use of the Dragon’s highest resolution mode, but the black-on-green display works much better than the plain black and white. Unlike many vector conversions from back in the day. Rommel’s Revenge is genuinely a joy to play thanks to the speed and smoothness of the graphics. The gameplay is also great, nicely recreating the atmosphere and tension of the arcade original. Shooting enemy tanks and watching them explode in a shower of vector shapes is as enjoyable as ever.
Jeff Minter’s Centipede remix is a very welcome addition to the Dragon’s software catalogue. There’s nothing unique about this particular version of the game – the graphics are nice and chunky, looking a lot like the Vic-20 version – but the core gameplay lifts it above many of the competing shooters on the Dragon. Having to blast the space worms that attack from the top of the screen while dodging the debris and avoiding the laser fire from the side and rear, still makes for an intense gaming experience today. For Dragon-owning Yak fans, Salamander also released Lazer Zone for the system.
The Ket Trilogy
The Dragon wasn’t the best platform for text adventures. There was no lower-case font for a start, so everything was capped up, and because of the resolution limitations, developers couldn’t easily add location graphics to text descriptions. For adventure game fans, The Ket Trilogy was probably the best bet as it contained three challenging, well-written adventures for one very nice price (it was especially good value when you considered that the three parts were released separately as full-price games for the Spectrum). To round off this quality release, the inlay was adorned with some typically heroic Oli Frey artwork.
This little-known maze game is one of the most refreshing titles available for the Dragon. Guide the main character through a warren of interconnecting rooms, searching for the series of keys that are needed to unlock the exit. To complicate matters, the keys must be collected in the correct order, and the first one you need will usually be the last one you find – hence the backtracking of the title. There are also snakes, spiders and other nasties to avoid, and your constantly draining willpower forces you to find food. The presentation is excellent, with a psuedo-3D effect representing the movement between rooms.