The year is 2037 and there's an asteroid as large as the moon headed directly for Earth. Since there is no weapon known to man that is powerful enough to eradicate such a massive rock, salvation can only be achieved by harvesting an all powerful energy that resides outside of the solar system. No need to call Bruce Willis, it’s up to you – a chick in a bikini – to hop on your trusty dragon and venture forth into the unknown with the hopes of saving the world.
This is the premise in Armageddon Operation Dragon, a vertical overhead runner from developer EnjoyUp Games, which recently released similar games like Crazy Hunter and Zombie Skape. By referencing those reviews you’d notice that they aren’t exactly our most beloved games here at Nintendo Life – Crazy Hunter in particular scored our lowest of marks – and Operation Dragon not only unabashedly follows suit, but makes a strong run for worst game of the lot.
Like those before it, the action unfolds on both screens of the DS as the obstacles scroll from the top and down towards your character, who's confined to the bottom. You’ll need to avoid all incoming obstructions and projectiles while collecting red energy orbs scattered throughout the perilous landscape; doing so will fill a meter on the top of the screen that will allow advancement to the next stage.
Movement is reliant on using the stylus to drag the character side-to-side, and to jump you simply lift the stylus from the touch screen. This control scheme had us skeptical at first, but it’s an accessible setup that actually works better than one might expect. Despite this there are still moments where the controls aren’t quite up to the task at hand, but in those situations it’s the level generator’s nonsensical placement of obstacles that’s to blame.
Whenever you restart a level, things will be sent at you in a completely different order, and it’s obvious from the early going that the game has no idea what it’s doing. On a far too frequent basis we came across energy orbs that were embedded inside of formations that you cannot touch without taking damage. Considering the energy meter depletes when there's too much time between the collected orbs, this can become a very big problem that extends the length of the level and may contribute to your demise.
Mix in some truly inconsistent collision detection, and the luxury of taking a chance on the orbs commonly nestled closely to the base of obstacles is too risky of a proposition. You see, you can only sustain three hits before dying and having to start the stage all over again; when it becomes impossible to navigate sequences of volcanoes, tornadoes, fire, and other various objects due to their incompetently randomized placement, it’s going to take more than three hits to successfully trek through some environments.
During the more difficult stages there will be situations where you have no choice but to take damage; it’s these unacceptable moments that render the game largely unplayable and lend further to an infuriating experience. For example, there are electric rods that intermittently generate on the bottom screen and stay fixed in place for irregular intervals of time. Jumping over these nuisances can be a challenge of patience in its own right, which is exacerbated when one congests the only available opening on an upcoming wall. There’s nothing you can do besides take damage – absolutely nothing. This is a testament to the overall haphazard level of quality displayed throughout the entire game.
On the third planet – there are four in total, each comprised of eight levels – the developer introduces a Rubik’s Cube as a new obstacle to avoid. We can’t help but wonder if this is a way of subliminally delivering the message that you’d have better odds of solving the real thing than making it through to the end.
Suffice to say, this is a hideous experience all around. It's even highlighted by the title screen and menus, which are some of the worst to ever occupy the frames of our beloved handheld. While the repetitive music isn’t completely atrocious, it’s the tinny and static-y sound effects that had us turning the volume all the way down on numerous occasions.
Every now and again we’d experience a level or two that flowed relatively well, which gave us hope that things would be better from there on out. Sadly, it never got any better, only worse, and even more convoluted in the later stages, to the point of halted progression. To be blunt, don’t expect any redemptive qualities here – there are none.
We’re not halfway into the year and we already have a serious contender for one of the worst games of 2013. Armageddon Operation Dragon is a mess of a game that regularly puts the player in situations where it’s nearly impossible to succeed. Poor presentation, incompetent level generation, and cringe-worthy sound effects – along with many other significant issues – make this an experience to avoid. It feels as if Armageddon had already devastated this one before we ever had a chance to save it — there’s no need for a hero, so just sit back and watch the world burn.