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Tagin' Dragon (NES) artwork

Tagin' Dragon (NES) review

"When you eat warm food, you feel warmer, especially if it is a juicy, mouth-watering sirloin steak you just took a bite out of. "

When you eat warm food, you feel warmer, especially if it is a juicy, mouth-watering sirloin steak you just took a bite out of.

When you watch a sad movie, you feel sadder, especially if the movie you are watching is Simon Birch. You just wish the priest would cut the poor kid a break every now and then.

When you play a dumb game, you feel dumber, especially if the game you are playing is Taggin' Dragon (Sachen, 1990), a game so awful in all its intricacies that the very coding might well have been programmed by Rhesus monkeys on crack.

I have a friend who can take a Rubik's cube in any state and complete it in less than five minutes, but I doubt even his intellect - or yours - can withstand the devastating onslaught of horrendous gameplay it brings forth and the magnitude of utter pointlessness it reaches. It's just that bad. If it was all the rage in 1990 to cram as much hacked-up sputum and methanous secretion into a plastic cartridge as possible, Taggin' Dragon would take home the spoils of war in a heartbeat. There's no excusing it in the slightest. Looking at it and trying my hardest to hold back the tears in my eyes, I can safely say it's the worst game I've ever had the displeasure of reviewing. Don't dare to test the truth of my words. Many diseases will plague you and your household if you attempt to do so.

I thought that maybe Taggin' Dragon would be one of those off-beat kiddie titles that a reviewer like me would find somewhere, sit down with it for a while, and seek out the redemptive qualities in it once I looked past the childish façade. Alas, there are no redemptive qualities to be found here, and any façade that might be there is thinner than a wet T-shirt on spring break in Florida. What I gather from the short spell that I sat down with it is that you are a green dragon, and the object of the game is taggin' the red dragons that antagonize you in order to proceed through the levels. How do you tag the other dragons? That's a good question! I was about to ask you the same thing!

You see, in the first level, you start in the lower right-hand corner, a green dragon in a field of red bullies. There is an object somewhat like an oil lamp nearby. As best as I could determine, eating that oil lamp (by pressing A when your mouth is on top of it) is the key to doing anything even remotely productive. Through a process of intense study, I found that with that oil lamp in my digestive system I could break through the many blocks in the stage so long as I approached them head-on, but could not put so much as a dent in them without it. Under some of the blocks you find some power-ups, which is in itself a misnomer because they don't have any real enhancing powers. When I ate them, nothing happened, except for once when I got one that made me turn yellow and allow me to upchuck a small yellow pellet onto the playing field. One of the red dragons ate it. I hoped it would explode when it entered his stomach á la Dodongo from Legend of Zelda, but no such thing happened. In fact, judging from the lack of noticeable change in his demeanor, I'd say he actually could have enjoyed eating it. Would you like to sample the FREAKING WINE LIST, GARÇON???

I tried to determine the object of the first level in a number of ways. At first I thought maybe clearing all the blocks might do it. This took several lives to accomplish, and even then all I had was a blank field of play where I was summarily bulldozed by the red dragons. Once I tried eating the red dragons at close-range, but they plowed over me like a cat in the road. Suppose the black and purple tiles on the floor that look a little like skulls have a purpose. If so, what is it? Is the key to the game in those tiles? If it is, you not only have to have the key, you probably also have to jiggle the handle and know the password and the secret knock. For the forty minutes that I invested in the game, I tried all sorts of crazy crap in an attempt to grasp even the simplest facet of the game, that being how to beat ONE LEVEL. I failed badly.

You'd understand if you played it.

But don't play it. You're too young to die so shamefully.

The graphics are bad, but not bad enough that you'll be mulling over them more than you do the tepid gameplay. The title screen is certainly a harbinger of the doom to come, what with the ugly color-changing king dragon over to the right and the words that are bright enough to give purpose to the epilepsy warning in the instruction manual. Once you get into the game, the colors are actually a bit easy on the eyes, and everything can be seen clearly, even the power-ups once you root them out from under the blocks. The mix of colors is not a total abomination unto your eyesight, but tacky, the way a leisure suit or a mullet is tacky. The sprites are small and have very little animation, which perhaps best suits this particular sin against nature. What you see before you when you play this is a palette of colors that are not quite pure tones, but off-shades and tints that make you scratch your head. It's easy to make yourself forget what a game looks like when you spend the same amount of time playing it as you do watching one episode of any given sitcom. Blocking all memory of this game is definitely the best possible course of action if you ever decide to play it.

By far the absolute worst part, the thing that makes you want to stick your face in a pot of boiling water and drive a meat tenderizer through the back of your skull, is the control. The first level's layout provides a fair share of claustrophobic spaces to get trapped in, and you'll see the evidence once you try to cram your dragon's body through one of those tiny corridors. You can't turn in any direction unless you are evenly lined up with the open space in the direction you want to turn, and therefore you end up smacking into things and leaving your useless body as carrion for the red dragons. Similarly, blocks can only be destroyed if you approach them directly in the middle. Not a little to the left, not a little to the right. In the middle. Aiming yourself properly of course leaves you open to a red dragon assault, and they always seem to know their way around the premises better than you do. They turn corners with an ice skater's grace that you can't hope to emulate in two lifetimes and even plod around a little faster than you do (or at least when you don't want them to). Worst of all, no button busts out any kind of attack to allow you to defend yourself. You are forced to run away endlessly, hoping that you turn all the right corners and make all the right moves. And all the while you wax philosophical about if there is a game to be found in all this mess.

The sound is absolutely terrible. When you get to the title screen, press Start as fast as you can to keep the theme song from making your ears bleed. From there, it's the same song over and over, because you'll only be playing the first level. Sachen probably only made one level in this game; they figured if you triumph over their impossible wonder, you can beat practically anything the gaming world dares to throw at you and don't need to endure anymore of their hell in pixels. Some dumb sound effects play when you get trampled by those omnipresent red dragons and break your way through a block. Don't save space in your brain for these. They all suck. A baby crying in an elevator receives a better welcome.

Two other modes of play made their way into Taggin' Dragon - a ''double'' mode whose reason for being totally eludes my grasp, and a two-player cooperative effort. Subjecting a friend to this torture doesn't make you a very good pal, now does it? Everything in Taggin' Dragon crashes and burns without receiving any points for style. The graphics are of a mismatched color scheme, and I've seen better control in a car with four flat tires driving on the rims. The sound will leave your mind as quickly as your third cousin's birthday. After even the shortest amount of time, you'll never even want to know the fact that a game called Taggin' Dragon exists ever again.

You always hear about innocent people in other countries who unwittingly step on active land mines and are horribly dismembered in the span of a single second. If you ever see a Taggin' Dragon cartridge lying on the ground, go out of your way to step well around it. Or else the same thing could happen to you.

-- There is not a single thing in this game that could be considered well-done or finely crafted. This is as close to suicide as a game will ever drive you.

-- Did you not just read the review? It's one big con list all by itself.

The less said about Taggin' Dragon, the better. I'm sorry, but if I hadn't played it, someone else would have had to. I just can't let that happen.

snowdragon's avatar
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)

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