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Activision Inc
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

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Rich Pelley
Chris Bourne

Nnnnnuurgh. Hnnnnnnnuuh. Grrrrrrrrahhh. Puff, pant, wheeze. Nope, hard as I try, I just can't help mentioning the uncanny resemblance between Activision's Dragon Breed and (dare I say) Storm's St.Dragon.

They both feature whopping great dragons flying through tons of horizontally-scrolling levels blasting things (although this one does it up and down a bit too), so you must admit there is a certain deja vu, n'est-ce pas, me petits readers? In fact, I might even say that even though Dragon Breed was without doubt the superior arcade machine (they're both coin-op conversions, you see) there's very little to actually choose between them on the Speccy. (Although maybe I won't say that 'cos Activision will probably get really cross and come over and hit me or something.)

Ahem. Anyway, viewers, let's get started and take une peek, eh? Firstly there's you, a blokie (the King Kayas of the Agamen Empire if you want the honest truth) who sits (for the most part) on the back of a dragon, bombing about blasting baddies. The actual dragon is invincible of course, so it's only you who can be killed. I say "for the most part" because while, er, for the most part you directly control the dragon around the screen, using his tail (which responds pretty convincingly to your joystick waggles) to cunningly curl around yourself as a shield or to hit and kill baddies with, there are moments when you don't. In these bits you can actually jump off and scuttle along a platform or the ground to pick up the odd add-on weapon and then, well, jump back on again.

Weapons can also be collected by flying into the relevant pod. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I could only find four different ones (a bit of a disappointment) - fire breath, yellow boomerangs which go flying from your tail, lightning bolts and, so I'm told, ones where loads of little dragons fly out of your stomach (bleugh!). You can only have one of these at a time mind (although the more you collect of each one, the more effective it becomes).

Baddy-wise, there's loads - and very R-Type-ish it all is too. (Although perhaps I should add that this isn't officially the follow-up to that well renowned game, even if the coin-op was put together by exactly the same team.) These come at you from all directions of course, and do a pretty large assortment of things (surrounding you, just sitting there and getting in the way etc etc). There's also the customary end-of-level nasty (a huge teenage mutant ninja chicken at the end of Level One for example) thrown in absolutely free of charge. The graphics are pretty decent, quite colourful, very big and well animated, though (grumble grumble) not up to R-Type standards (or arguably those of St.Drag's either for that matter).

It's not all blasting though - some bits are quite puzzley too. You often have to spend almost all your lives working out how to get past a certain bit (as in R-Type) and there's certainly loads of variety throughout the six levels, both in the baddies and the play area. Nine credits should help you to see quite a lot of the game per play but it is pretty damn hard (and can be a complete bummer 'cos it's one of those annoying 'go back miles when you die' ones).

Still, all things considered, this is all pretty good stuff. It's got bigger graphics and a larger playing than St.Dragon, and is perhaps a touch easier, though probably not quite as polished looking and certainly not as colourful. As to which you buy, well, you pays yer money and you takes yer choice I guess, and I'm still wobbling a bit between the two. I guess I might slightly lean towards Dragon Breed, if only because there's more room to manouvre than in the occasionally cramped St.D - and it's not as off-puttingly hard - but there's very little in it.

A pretty decent and original blast-'em-up - though St Dragon got there first (just about).


Screenshot Text

Eek! It's a giant end-of-level baddie thingie - or rather, it's just part of a giant end-of-level baddie thingie. Some of these monsters are massive, and need to be destroyed bit by bit R-Type-style.

Here your are (having jumped off your dragon) running about collecting icons and whatnot. (The dragon hovers helpfully overhead until you're finished.)

It's early in the game and you've not collected fiery breath for your dragon. Not to worry though - your ordinary cross-bow thingies will more than suffice for these little purple jobbies.