DSiWare has already seen plenty of "A Little Bit of..." games, which are basically smaller, budget-sized (And priced!) versions of Nintendo-published DS retail games. It seems that other developers are now taking similar advantage of the service - Mitchell recently released Sujin Taisen, and now Ubisoft has released this, a miniature version of their recent DS release Combat of Giants: Dragons.
The game title pretty much reveals all - the game involves nothing more than combat between dragons, and it's the "bronze" version of a retail game. You play as the last heir of a line of noble dragons; over the years, rogue dragons have attacked and killed each of your relatives and stolen their precious gems. As you might expect, your mission is simply to go out and defeat each rogue dragon in order to recover all of those lovely jewels.
After a short introduction sequence in which you are taught the basics of combat, you can alter the appearance of your dragon and give him a name. At first, the customization seems completely pointless - the only thing you can really change is how thin or fat your dragon is. It has a bit more use later, as throughout the game you can find body parts which you can use instead (sounds a bit gruesome to us). There are no associated stats or anything, so it's a purely cosmetic feature.
The game world is divided into various regions, which you'll visit one by one. Each has 2 to 3 gems to recover, with 25 to collect in all. Of course, that doesn't mean there are just 25 opponents, because there's also a bunch of gem-less rogue dragons wandering around which might get in your way.
In each region, you get to wander around an over world as you search for dragons to fight. Although we must say the locations look very good for a DSiWare game, as the game is based around combat, these places offer almost nothing to do - you can take flight and burn down trees to find health or power refills, but moving around is rather slow and you're likely to get bored of this at the end of the first region.
Combat itself is disappointingly simplistic; once you get close enough to an enemy dragon, the both of you are taken to a battlefield. Both you and your opponent get 6 spaces to move around on as you launch attacks at each other. As far as we could see, moving around is absolutely pointless; granted, standing in the back row lets you shoot fireballs while standing in the front lets you tackle, but what's the point when both get the job done regardless?
Battles pretty much wind down to nothing but rapidly making a sliding movement on the touch screen towards your opponent - your dragon will then attack, after which you can select one of your collected gems to launch a special attack with (each has a different one). Alternatively, you can opt to wait instead, which will make your power bar fill rather fast, enabling you to select a stronger "super attack" the next round.
Once you've selected a gem, you don't automatically execute the special move. Dots will appear on the screen, and you must rapidly draw lines from one to the other to strengthen your attack. If your opponent launches a special attack (which should never happen if you just keep attacking) then you can weaken it by instead wiping away the lines he draws.
You also have a block move, but attacks are executed so fast that this is pretty much completely pointless. Battles basically come down to drawing lines, and then drawing more lines, ad nauseum!
That's pretty much all you do in the game - wander around, get into fights, and beat opponents with little to no resistance. Between battles, you'll be held up by something which is rather out of place in a digital download title: loading screens! These occur very frequently and usually last at least 5 seconds, which can get annoying very fast. All dialogue and cutscenes in the game are also unskippable - and text cannot be sped up - which makes things even slower.
The game also has a multiplayer mode, in which you and up to 3 friends can battle it out with each other. This uses the same mechanics as the single-player game; it's just a bit more hectic as your opponents will actually try to win!
As already mentioned, it must be said that the game's graphics are quite impressive. Sadly, visuals mean nothing if the rest of the game isn't as good, which is the case here. The music is pretty generic stuff and is highly forgettable.
If you find the prospect of dragons fighting each other intriguing and you have money to blow, then it might be worth looking into this title, even though it's a bit of a steep gamble at 800 DSi Points. If, somehow, you're absolutely confident that you'll like it, you should instead buy the retail game, as it features 125 gems rather than 25, a lot more places to explore and more dragons to fight. If you're only slightly interested, then we recommend you to stay away.