How to Train Your Dragon Game Review: No Substance or Style

How to Train Your Dragon has proven itself to be another successful film from DreamWorks Animation at the box office. Funny colorful characters, adventure, and above all dragons should translate seamlessly to an engaging video game experience, right? Let’s just say How to Train Your Dragon for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii stole 10 hours of my life that I will never get back and a little bit of my gaming soul in the process.

Where to begin with this epic gaming experience? First and foremost, if you have not seen the movie you will not know what the heck is going on as close to zero back-story is presented. The game takes players to the Viking Island of Berk, where they assume the roles of either a boy named Hiccup or the slightly spunky girl, Astrid. Hiccup and Astrid can talk to local villagers and explore a bit, but in the end the goal is to collect and level up dragons to take into battle.

Sounds like decent fun for a game targeted at children, but even young ones will have a hard time discovering any enjoyment. Every core game feature and mechanic is either too boring or too tedious for the younger gamer this title is obviously geared towards, while being too flawed for anyone over age 7. Leveling up your dragon during training is outright boring. Younger kids may appreciate the ability to unlock and customize the look of their dragons but even that becomes an unfulfilling chore.

As you take a dragon into the game’s training modes, you earn experience points that go toward the dragon’s individual experience level. Although this brings some RPG elements to the table, none of this leveling and combo learning really affects the outcome of the tournaments and it takes forever. Players see more direct results from collecting chickens and flowers to heal and feed the beasts. When the real battles begin, more often then not you will be hitting the same attack button over and over until the battle ends. Combos are frustrating, non responsive and quickly thrown aside. When victory is obtained you are warped back to the Viking village to start the collecting, training and search process over again for another dragon parked in the stable.

If you like the look of bargain bin games from 2003 then you may be impressed with How to Train Your Dragon’s visuals. I was hoping for at least Kameo graphics, but this game looks poor from every angle. Character models are blurry, textures are non existent, load times are long and frequent, and expect frame rate stutters every time you swing the camera. I can only assume nothing graphic-wise was upgraded from the Wii version to the HD consoles to explain how poor the visuals present themselves.

How to Train You Dragon hurls itself to the top of the near endless heap of poor film-to-game adaptations. It is nothing more then an insult to expect gamers – or parents – to pay full price for what you get. Younger gamers will likely be confused with the poor menus and dragon leveling while being disappointed with what’s left. The game play is painful and would have greatly benefited from more platforming, story and just plain substance. Stay away from this one, and keep your Dragon fun for the theater and upcoming Blu-ray and DVD release.

– Jason Krahn

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