If you’ve been browsing popular items on the iTunes Marketplace lately, then it’s highly probable that you’ve recently stumbled across Dragon Coins (out now, free), by SEGA. One certainly would not blame you if your immediate reaction was to write off the entire affair and run away screaming, the game was — after all — entirely based on those coin pusher machines that are little more than glorified physics based gambling devices. Although Dragon Coins isn’t necessarily 100% free from exploitative IAP concerns, I am here to say that SEGA’s coin pusher — with its monster collecting conceit thrown on top — still manages to have an oddly addictive quality about it.
While I would normally begin a review by explaining the storied premise set forth by the developers, I will skip that step as Dragon Coins made no attempts to pretend that it ever had a plot — paper thin, or otherwise — during the time I spent with it. The entire game involves leading your team of monsters, positioned below the omnipresent coin pushing machine, to absolute victory against the other team sitting atop the coin pusher machine. During all of this the player will — by and large — have no direct control over the actions of his monsters, instead choosing when and where he drops dragon coins onto the play field.
As the coin pusher slowly shoves coins off of the playing field — entirely at the cold whims of physics — they will eventually fall upon your various coin hungry monsters, all of whom are eagerly awaiting their chance to unleash their inner fury. Each monster has a set number of coins that must fall upon them before they can initiate their next strike, which will then be targeted at the enemy monster whom you most recently tapped. Although your minions will — in general — perform better when they attack opposing monsters with the properly aligned elemental weaknesses, they will furthermore perform even better still if they all lash out at the same target in a rapid-fire combo.
While the existence of these combos may make players at first believe that their best course of action is to rapid fire drop coins all over the place, and this certainly is true to an extent, one must make sure to keep in mind the enemy’s attack counter as they do this. Each coin dropped by the player will cause the enemies’ attack counters to reduce by one, and when an enemy’s attack counter finally reaches zero they will personally rush forward and attack the player. It should also be noted that most enemy monsters will have a slight wind up transpire before most of their attacks, during which time their onslaught can usually be circumvented if they are destroyed before their plans can reach fruition.
Occasionally these defeated enemies will drop special coins and orbs on the field that can either heal the player — or give them rewards upon a stage’s completion — assuming they safely reach the bottom of the playing field, rather than falling off the stage’s edges. Some of these items — which are specifically cube shaped — will grant the monsters they fall upon the chance to use his or her special ability, which can generate a powerful effect for a fix amount of time. These abilities — which can be game changing when used judiciously — include things such as: erecting walls that prevent coins from falling off the sides, changing your entire team to one element, speeding up the pusher, and much more.
While a player may freely choose the first four members of their team from their own line-up each and every time, the fifth monster that they take into battle must be selected from the available leaders of other players whom recently tackled that very same mission. If both players in the game have mutually befriended each other, then you’ll get access to the leadership skill belonging to the other player’s monster (assuming they’re actually maxed out enough to have one). Furthermore, the number of people whom can be on your friends list at any given moment — versus strangers whom you won’t get additional perks for selecting — will increase over time as your account’s level is slowly raised.
Speaking of the leadership skill itself, the monster that you have elected to be your team’s leader will — assuming he has been properly evolved — give your entire team a special buff at each mission’s start. A monster can only be evolved after it’s own personal level has already been maxed out, which will first require you to feed them a good number of unwanted extra monsters — ideally of the same element — in order to do so. Once a monster has finally capped out their level, they can then be evolved by sacrificing up a requisite number of the same creature (whom themselves don’t have to also be maxed out).
It is specifically herein where my concerns for Dragon Coins balance primarily takes place, for — although many lesser monsters can simply be found in randomly dropped orbs — many of the higher tier creatures need to be found by paying to open mystery eggs. While the currency needed to open these eggs can be acquired by finishing missions – playing with people already on your friend’s list — and even by being someone else’s first friend ever, they are obviously meant by SEGA to be obtained by IAPs above all else. When Dragon Coins’ top tier monsters are already obtained entirely via pure luck, having the required quantum of additional rare monsters — all of whom are gated by luck as well — is not exactly an easy or cheap thing to do when it comes time to evolve your warriors.
My concerns aside, Dragons Coins — despite the fact you never have direct control over your monsters — definitely has an enthrallingly addictive quality to it that will leave you eager to keep plowing forward (or at least as much as the cool down clocks will permit). The game’s artwork is also — despite the fact it has absolutely zero animation to speak of whatsoever — aesthetically pleasing, with a plethora of diverse and interesting monsters present. There are — despite the fact that I didn’t personally get far enough into the game to see it happen — unfortunately still some grounds for concern, as high level evolved monsters may eventually become very vital (and are basically acquired via gambling).
iFanzine Verdict: Even though it is certainly true to say that Dragon Coins isn’t really a game of which you have direct control over, flinging your Dragon Coins about — and hoping for victory — is still somehow an oddly enthralling process. My only concern — in the end — is that if the game ever makes it absolutely vital to have a team of predominantly rare evolved monsters, Dragon Coins would then devolve into pure evil. For — if this ever transpired — then the only way to progress forward would be via IAP driven gambling, and lots of it, which is certainly a reasonable concern to have when dealing with a game that was already based on gambling machines to begin with.