'How To Train Your Dragon' is Dreamworks’ latest box office smash and it’s also receiving some great reviews from the critics. Let’s find out if the video game version can live up to its big screen next of kin.
From the silver screen to the TV my wife makes me keep in the Basement
I always approach licensed games with great trepidation. Some of my favourite franchises have been marred by sub-par video games (ie. E.T. - if you don’t remember that game - consider yourself lucky). On occasion though, a licensed game manages to shine through all the cash-grabbing nonsense that perpetuates most of these titles and is actually a worthwhile experience. Unfortunately 'How To Train Your Dragon' falls into the former category and not the latter.
Does age really make a difference?
Now I know what you’re all thinking “If this guys old enough to remember playing Atari 2600 games, then he’s definitely not part of the target market this game is intended for”. While that may be true - this game has so many flaws that I doubt any self-respecting 10 year-old would play this for more than 15 minutes.
The game starts out great, with an intro video that looks like it could have been part of the movie. It gives a quick introduction to all of the characters and is actually pretty funny. On top of all that - it looks fantastic, because its pure CGI. You get to choose whether to play as Hiccup or Astrid and the game fades into its standard in-game graphics. The graphics are actually pretty, good, but its the animations that are a little funny looking. Your character kind of does this funny bounce when you walk and there’s tons of clipping throughout the game. Once again, you’re probably going to say that animations aren’t really that important to a kid, but I think it’s simply lazy on the part of the developers.
Street Fightin’ Tamagotchi
The goal of the game is to train your dragon up to be able to fight in the big final tournament and prove yourself to all the other vikings as the most uber pwnage dragon trainer. You start out with a level 1 dragon and have to work your way up the ranks. This is where the game immediately falls flat on it’s face.
You see, this game is actually a fighter in the disguise of an action adventure game. All the tournaments consist of one on one fights that have you working your way up a ladder to a final match to take the top prize. The issue is that the actual fights themselves are incredibly boring and mind numbing - and training your dragon to be able to compete is even worse.
Let me explain this a little further so you can get the whole picture. The first place you’re going to want to go when you start the game is the dragons den. Here you can customize the look of your dragon, including the horns it has on its nose all the way down to the colour of its scales and markings. More customization options will pop up as your dragon levels. I actually think kids will get a real kick out of this - and I even found myself having fun trying to make my dragon look like he could pass for the 'Montreal Canadians' mascot.
You also discover that you have to keep your dragon happy in order to keep him competitive. Each dragon has 4 attributes - Food, Trust, Mood, and Rest - and its in your best interest to have all of these attributes maxed out before entering a tournament because they determine its health level. Its kind of like a tamagotchi pet, and I can see why the developers went for it, considering the target market. In order to raise up these meters and keep ol’ scaly happy, you need to go out into town and catch chickens, or push over rocks to find treasure. Unfortunately, I think they made these tasks a little too boring. It would have been great if they had turned them into little mini-games, but instead, you just walk through town and press a button when you’re near a chicken, and..... you catch it. Overall though, I think the target audience would enjoy taking care of their dragon.
The real tedium comes in the training. As I mentioned earlier, the tournaments are comprised of one on one fights using a pretty basic fighting engine. The purpose of the training is to level up your dragon and at the same time teach you combos to use in combat. The problem is that they make you do them over and over and over and over and over again.
On top of that - the timing in the combat system is messed up and I never really found the perfect rhythm to pull off the combos. After all of that nonsense, when you finally enter combat, the combos are useless anyway. Just mash one button and you’ll win every bout. By the time you finish that game you’ll have 4 dragons, and each dragon has to be taken through the exact same training from start to finish. Its such a chore, and it takes any small glimmer of fun that existed in this game and dragon stomps it to death. There’s an arcade mode as well, which allows you to battle friends and customize your dragons talents and attributes, which is great, but its comprised of same boring fighting mechanics.
Another thing that really cheesed me about this game is the complete lack of voiceover. Fans of the film are going to want to be able to hear their favourite characters from the movie talk to each other and emote, but they recorded approximately 2 lines of dialog for each viking, and they just keep repeating those lines over and over again.
The big issue with game based on movie licenses is that there’s a big push to have the release coincide with the movie, which usually means the games are rushed. This game has a lot of potential and with another year of development could have been a great game for someone of any age. What we’re left with is a boring, stale, tedious shell of a game that simply won’t appeal to anyone. If you know someone that really loved this movie and wants to experience it in video game form, do not make the mistake of getting this game for them. Go out and get the DS game instead. We’ll have a review for that coming in the coming days.
Gameplay:4.0, Graphics:6.5, Sound:5.0, Innovation:6.0, Mojo:4.5 Final: 5.2 / 10
Reviewed by Mike Baggley | 04.26.10
- interesting concept
- game feels rushed
- gameplay is so tedious that a person of any age would quickly get bored
- almost no dialogue, which is a real shame for a game based on a movie
Similar Games: How to Train Your Dragon DS (7.2) | Toy Story 3 (8.6)