Brick break games aren't all that common nowadays. One of the modern standouts with a fantastic twist is PopCap Games' long-running Peggle series, which is exceptionally addictive and sets a considerably high standard for the classic genre. Like Peggle, Dragon Skills draws on arcade gameplay inspired by well-known brick break video games of the 1970s and modernises it for Nintendo's latest home console, with the assistance of the Wii U GamePad.
Dragon Skills - like generally every other puzzle game in existence - is easy to learn but hard to master. The aim of the title is to destroy all of the stones in each level, in a similar fashion to retro hits of the same concept. Dragon Skills puts a distinctively subtle spin on the classic gameplay, with the ball featuring a tail which grows longer and longer; crossing the tail over the ball earns additional rewards, helping to prolong each session. The ball also has five different levels of speed that increases the score overall. Despite the twist, there are still one too many dull moments where the ball struggles to make contact with stones towards the end of a play session. Well executed games in this genre avoid such lulls in play in order to maintain a sense of flow, and to keep the player hooked.
Better high scores can be obtained by using "dragon skills" whenever possible. These powerful abilities can have positive and negative effects on a run, and are either instantaneous or activated at a more suitable time. Building upon this idea, these skills can also be enhanced by collecting emeralds. Some of these power-ups add more balls to a run, create portals that consume bricks and allow the player to place items on-screen - like mines that explode. There are also bones that can be placed on a particular angle to rebound the ball. The only setback with a number of these skills is how the player is required to activate them via their in-game bag and then place them on the screen with the stylus. Often this becomes a struggle when the ball is flying about haphazardly. The sluggish nature of the touch screen controls in the title does not make this action any easier to perform.
In terms of how the action plays out, the same display is streamed simultaneously across the GamePad and television screen. Either screen can be used to view the game, however the GamePad is the only controller that can be used. The title requires the controller to be held in a vertical position, and the stylus is needed to move the platform on the touch screen left and right. The motion feature in the GamePad also allows the platform the ball bounces off to be angled. Strangely, though the chunky controller can adjust sound levels with button presses, sound and music only comes out of the television speakers.
In general the production values aren't exactly the greatest, but they are sufficient. The tribal island setting is supported by appropriately themed music, which becomes repetitive quickly, and the backdrops for each level are just as orthodox. The green dragon fits in with all of this, though has no sense of character.
Dragon Skills is far from being the greatest brick break title available. It does not feel anywhere near as refined as a modern kingpin such as Peggle, and it's not half as addictive, either. The optimum level of control responsiveness one would expect from a game like this is also not quite present. In saying this, if you are craving an experience on Wii U that falls under this classic genre, Dragon Skills provides a reasonable experience.