Dragon Bobby - The Story of a Life Review
Take control of the titular character and experience an exploration-based narrative in Dragon Bobby - The Story of a Life as you go through 11 Chapters and witness the story of a man from his birth down to the bitter end.
The entire purpose of the game is to unfold the narrative of a man named Bobby — or nicknamed Dragon — as you hear how his life unfurls over the course of the title and you experience his life, filled with joys and woes. To do this, you'll need to progress by finding blue orbs scattered around large areas, and after finding a fair share, you will be able to progress to the next area or level to continue doing it. The gameplay revolves around exploring in order to be able to continue.
In theory, it should work as gameplay breaks between the narrative, but in practice, it feels like Dragon Bobby didn't quite nail the thrilling part of exploration. Though there are some levels I genuinely enjoyed, the biggest quarrel I had with the experience is that the protagonist moves very slowly, and throughout several parts, I hoped there would be an unlockable run button.
Though the running speed feels like a minor niggle at best, it becomes very prominent as the worlds continue growing larger, and your means of travel don't change in the slightest. The environments in and of themselves are great and enjoyable, and there are even hidden secrets or bonus orbs you can get for completionists, but the speed at which the dragon traverses discourages doing this too much. The large, open areas that you can travel across are vast, but it gets easy to feel discouraged when you have been looking for secrets or orbs for a while, and going back to a place you've seen before feels like a punishing experience because you'll know it'll be a long journey.
This isn't an omnipresent issue throughout the experience, as about three of the 11 levels have unique forms of travel that feel less punishing. But up to those points, walking feels like a chore, as the dragon refuses to traverse past certain points, it walks really slowly, and the world is sometimes too vast for the speeds at which you can explore it. This meant that whenever I was doing something else aside from playing Dragon Bobby, like watching my wife enjoy a game on the side or watching a video, the journey felt more enjoyable, but as a singular experience you give your all to, it starts becoming dull.
My other complaint with the game is the narrative itself. You get to learn the story of Bobby, a relatively unremarkable man who grows up living a pretty uneventful life aside from some moments that feel turbulent... for a limited time. The story itself feels slightly rushed in some scenarios, as the start feels incredibly slow (learning about his birth and early childhood), and the ending feels forced. Throughout a big chunk of the game, I didn't really care about the protagonist, and even at the end, I didn't know if I did anyway.
The narrative is told through small sections of text that appear several times throughout each level, but I struggled to find the deeper meaning or thought-provoking moments. It feels like, for a large portion of the game, life happens to Bobby, not the other way around. His decisions and memories are very unimpactful and uneventful, and the few things that might be considered impactful aren't applicable to me and likely not to most people.
It's difficult to talk about the narrative flaws without outright spoiling what happens for those who are interested, but overall, I wasn't inspired to continue experiencing his story. There isn't an initial hook or moments that are neither thought-provoking nor intriguing, making his life story very bland, causing me to fail to understand what the purpose of the story is overall.
Not all is bad with Dragon Bobby, to be fair, and props where they are due, Beni Games managed to create a stunning experience and something that is more than a proof of concept as a single developer. I have gameplay niggles that could be attributed to development oversights and insufficient feedback, and by far not things that are terrible in the slightest. Exploration and movement are smooth, if only a little slow, and the narrative could have definitely benefited from more polishing and purpose. But once you set all of that aside, Dragon Bobby is a surprising feat for a one-person development team, and I'd be eager to find out what else Beni Games will release in the future with proper feedback and more experience.
Dragon Bobby - The Story of a Life (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Dragon Bobby - The Story of a Life isn't a bad game, but it's a tad simple and uninspiring in some areas. Still, despite this, it's an impressive feat for a one-person development team.