How To Be A Dragon: Portable Edition
Well, last year, Big Sandwich Games let us fulfill the fever-dream of being a dragon in a game that didn't control like garbage. The original Hoard on the PSN was an enjoyable game that added some interesting strategies to achieve: get mad money. With a straight-forward title, Hoard brought us as much-needed genre to the PSN.
Less than a year later, Hoard comes to the PSP in a quaint, 54MB package. The game is essentially a port of its older brother, with a few notable exceptions.
Previously, four friends could get together and torch the countryside. This time around, you can't roll with your homies... “dragonies”? Whatever. It is a little disappointing that you can't play in ad-hoc mode, let alone wifi. Considering the state of the PSP market in the U.S., it seems almost understandable. Almost.
While I'm being understanding, I might as well mention how the game looks. On the PS3, Hoard didn't exactly turn heads. As a PSP game, it continues that trend to a T. In developing a portable version, it seems like Big Sandwich Games did not consider how small the game would look. Even though the game's zoomed out mode does a good job of keeping you informed, the game is still very hard to see. Your dragon is very small, and anything smaller than it (namely, those damnable thieves) are even harder to deal with. The only enhancements, graphically, are that arrows are a bit more distinct when they are fired at you, and it certainly helps.
But if you were expecting an entirely different experience from the PS3 version, you will be slapped upside your furry heads. Because, like it or not (and, you should like it), Hoard remains the same. Although you don't have two analog sticks to control your dragon's movement or attack direction, you don't really need it. You will just spin in a circle until you release your attack, and it works just fine. Frankly, the game wouldn't work as a dual-stick shooter, given the physics around dragons. You know, science and mythological beings are totally relevant in this review.
The game has a rather unpredictable A.I. when it comes to other dragons. It is hard to tell exactly how aggressive they will act at any given time, and that is probably for the best. Their tactics aren't going to impress you, and you should have no problem beating at least one of them under any given map, but they can be difficult to read. Most arcade games suffer from too simplistic A.I., but the winged monsters will not over or underwhelm the more skilled players (and I think that is just dandy).
For a top-down shooter, Hoard has a nice feature set to keep you playing. While, again, there is no multiplayer with friends to be had, there are plenty of maps of varying sizes, level objectives, and medals (the game's own trophy system) to nudge you along. Like in the previous game, you might find that all of the game-types are the same. If you play anyway like I do (which is burn everything and kidnap princesses from your enemies before they can get the ransom), the game objective might not add the variety you are looking for.
Hoard really hasn't changed much since it was first released, and I can't help but like it that capacity. In some ways, given the 10 minute format of each game, I prefer it on the PSP. The game translates pretty well to the handheld, but the experience is largely the same. Multiplayer, or lack thereof, is a pretty big black mark on an otherwise solid game. Arcade games are truly lacking on the PSP, but Hoard is an admirable effort for an ailing platform. Here's to seeing more games like this on the NGP! But please, leave Lair out of the picture.