How To Hate Your Time Playing Video Games.
I went to the theater and saw How To Train Your Dragon in anticipation of reviewing this game. Makes sense, right? I thought that seeing the movie would give it a bit more weight and that I’d enjoy the title on the same level as any kid who’s going to want to play with their favorite dragon from the movie. But what was a brisk and enjoyable film has been turned into the most monotonous and boring cash-in game I’ve ever played.
[image1]If you’ve seen the movie, you can already picture what the adaptation might be like. There are several allusions to gaming morays in the film, like the limited number of "shots" (of fire breath) a dragon can take or the massive "dragon-boss" battle at the end. In my head I was groaning at the way this would probably play out… and I’m still groaning now.
How To Train Your Dragon smartly takes place after the end of the movie. I say "smartly" half-mockingly because then players are missing out on the massive dragon boss battle (in my head at least). Still, the developers probably had a much easier time salvaging what they could of the brand into what can only be called an amalgam of genres that Activision decided made sense together. HTTYD mixes fighting, training, and mini-game genres to keep players as entertained as possible as they climb the ranks to be the champion of the island. Unfortunately, that "entertainment" is an incredible disappointment.
With so many different genres stumbling over each other, it’s no wonder none of them turn out to be worthwhile. The essential problem of most movie games is that the suits need video game projects to be done in time for the movie, but don’t give the developers enough time to make something good.
[image2]The mini-games are bland, ranging from Simon-like button matching to a steer-your-dragon-through-the-hoops race. There are varying levels of difficulty and you do get experience for your dragon by completing them, but I pray you don’t suffer through these mini-games for Achievements like I did.
The bulk of gameplay is the fighting game Activision strapped to this poor sloth’s back. There’s an arcade mode to play against friends in, but don’t do it, not even as a prank. The tournaments in the story mode are the equivalent to slogging through knee-high mud.
All of the dragons move slowly and are either way over-powered or way under-powered. Some dragons can hit their opponents from all the way across the map, while others can simply paw the ground in front of them. On hit detection, if a dragon is in the air, the opponent can easily do a fast horizontal swipe and knock them out of the sky without actually making contact. This is the kind of flaw will frustrate younger players and be completely abused by everyone else (who will make them cry).
[image3]And unlike the movie, the graphics are crap. There is a ton of detail and color packed into that film – everything looks lively and bright. The game, on the other hand, is grainy, dull, blurry, and lifeless. It’s like they gave all of the amazing visual fidelity of the film the Nordic equivalent of a lobotomy. This was all frustrating to say the least. The visual experience of the game, spread out over 10 hours, is so horrible that it actually erases the from the film’s experience. All I remember now is fire, ash, and sadness.
Beyond all of these glaring flaws is also a dragon maintenance mechanic that might as well have you shuffling around picking up fiery excrement. You have to feed your dragon and make sure it’s happy before heading into battle. Um… yippee?
I recognize that I’m just some hoity-toity game reviewer sitting in my ivory tower constructed out of the best games of the past 20 years. I also recognize that there are a ton of gamers out there these days who go to the store and pick out a game from the shelf based purely on a recognizable IP or the back of the box. My message to those people is one of truth, justice, and thrift. Don’t spend your money on How To Train Your Dragon, no matter how much you enjoyed the movie. You can easily do better than this terrible, movie-tie-in, mad grab for cash.