There are two types of mobile games that usually catch my eye. There’s the physics games like Stair Dismount… and there are coin dozers. Why are coin dozer games so captivating? Maybe it’s because I never, ever wasted my arcade tokens on them when I was younger. That’s not to say I didn’t want to watch my hard earned token set off a shower of coins that would enable my crippling wax bottle candy addiction. It just always seemed like a better value to keep playing shooters and brawlers. While arcades with physical coin dozer games have mostly fizzled out, the coin dropping fire from my youth never has.
First it was Game Circus’ Coin Dozer on iPad and their many variations. Then Coins vs Zombies which added all kinds of weird wrinkles. Now Sega has gone and combined coin dozers, collectible card games and role-playing games in the questionably dubious Dragon Coins. Why so uncertain about its dubiousness? Being a mobile game, Dragon Coins is naturally bogged down by stamina timers, friends lists, consumable items, and no less than four different currencies. That said, I have yet to be bombarded with ads or requests to spend real money. They’re both in there but the game doesn’t assault you with them which is good because there’s a lot going on in this game.
Forget about that mobile stuff and let’s focus on the gameplay. You’re some kind of hero in charge of a team of five monsters represented as collectible cards. Each has an elemental affinity, unique health and attack ratings and special skills. You choose four monsters, designate a Leader (which unlocks a unique skill of its own) and pick another players’ monster to fill in the fifth slot before heading into battle. Coin Battle!
The game is broken up into an array of chapters and areas and battles but there’s no story to tie any of it together. Basically, poke the Mission button and then the Start button. You’ll see the familiar coin dozer interface with your five monsters at the bottom of the screen and waves of enemies at the top. Your goal is to strategically drop coins in the upper area and hope they push coins off the bottom edge to charge up your monsters’ attacks. Some monsters take multiple coins to charge up so there always seems to be something kicking off as the momentum builds and the coins slide around.
As you attack with multiple monsters you’ll build up a combo causing enemies to spill gold and health coins and skill cubes across the board. This is where Dragon Coins feels the most satisfying. You can only drop a prescribed number of coins before the enemies attack but with combos you can keep filling the board with coins and tearing them apart. Collect the skill cubes and you can unleash all kinds of powerful, temporary boosts like making the pusher move faster, bringing up walls on the sides of the board and doing double damage. There’s a great tension to battles as you build up a glut of coins until they’re teetering on the edge and then try to manage your boosts as everything explodes with a single drop.
It’s a coin dozer game you guys! It’s not especially hard and you’re encouraged to grind past missions to build your team but that’s where the mobile stuff kicks in. Leveling up monsters requires you to Fuse and Evolve them with other random monsters you find while battling. This costs Gold Coins but you’ll never get that many coins without grinding old missions. Playing missions costs Stamina which slowly recharges over time or can be refilled with a consumable item. These items also cost coins but these are Rainbow coins, the really rare currency you can buy with cash. I’m several dozen missions into it now and have yet to be cut off. I usually do a few rounds at a time and quit just as I’d run out of Stamina for the hour. But I know it’s coming, the moment when the enemies get so hard or the Stamina drains so fast that the game offers that simple solution: hey man, you’ve got all those Rainbow coins, get a fix, I’m here for ya.
It’s icky. I hate those mobile game “features” but Dragon Coins is a strategic and fun evolution of the coin dozer. It’s got permanence and progression — quite a bit with 758 monsters — and for that I’m willing to deal with energy and currencies. Will I ever catch ‘em all? Doubtful, but for the time being it sure is fun (and free) to try.