How to Train Your DragonESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Family Fun
Developer: Etranges Libellules
572 KB Save Game
In-Game Dolby Digital
Activision has seemingly cornered the market on movie based games. I cannot count how many of these types of games I have reviewed over the years. Some have been entertaining, but overall I have learned to keep my expectations realistic and take the game for what it is worth. It is unfortunate that many movie based games arrive on store shelves rushed, full of glitches, and unfinished. Heaven forbid that publishers release this type of game following a movie’s release, and not on or prior to the theatrical debut. So along comes How to Train your Dragon for the Xbox 360 which is released just in time for the Dreamworks animated film. So how does How to Train your Dragon play out compared to some of the other movie based games already on the market?
As far as the graphics are concerned, How to Train your Dragon for the Xbox 360 presents as a bit of a ‘mixed bag’. On one hand the developers did a fabulous job with the game's characters. Hiccup, Astrid, Gobbler, Fishlegs, and all the other notable characters from the Dreamworks movie are wonderfully presented. They look nearly as good as they do on the big screen and are easily recognizable. The facial expressions and character movements are all very good and life like; well as life like as these fantasy characters and dragons can be. From cut-scene to in-game play, the transition is very smooth and not much is lost in the switch.
On the other hand the game’s environments lack detail and come across as very last generation looking. Granted many of the levels are bright and the colours pop out of the screen at times, but for the most part objects appear blocky and the game’s landscapes are nowhere on par with the movie.
Bottomline, you cannot go into this game expecting the environmental detail you would see in the movie, or even some other movie-based games that are on store shelves. In the end though the young ones will likely overlook the shortcomings as it is certainly on par with previous released games in this genre.
As far as the sound is concerned, How to Train your Dragon is decent, but it is not the best we have seen in recent months. On the positive side of things, some of the character voices are very good as they sound clear and very similar to their on-screen movie counterparts. Some of the actor’s voices from the film are featured in the game and the voice-doubles of others do a formidable job. On the downside I did notice that the dialog was out of sync at times with the characters mouth movements. It was not a major issue but was quite noticeable early on the in the game. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, How to Train your Dragon is solid but somewhat forgettable. Essentially, it is your typical dynamic paced action based soundtrack which features tunes we have all heard before. Finally, the games sound effects are very strong. Sounds such as dragons roaring, delivering thrashing blows, dragons gasping fire, and other in game effects all pack a punch. At the end of the day however the games overall sound package is very average.
How to Train your Dragon Dawn picks up where the movie left off, and is an all-new post movie adventure of sorts. It is a third person action-adventure game, but do not kid yourself, How to Train your Dragon is a fighter game in disguise; but more on that later. The single player experience gives gamers the option of jumping into battle as either Hiccup or Astrid. The goal of the game is to become the ultimate dragon trainer. Why you ask? Well, the main objective is to power up your dragon by training him. Once your dragon is trained, you are ready to battle other dragons. Collecting items, interacting with characters, training your dragon, fighting dragons and then repeat; that is what you basically do in How to Train your Dragon.
The game takes place on the vast Island of Berk, which features locales from the film including Vikings’ Village, Wild Zone, Training Zone, and Fight Arena. You interact with the island's villagers, collect and purchase items to take care of your dragon, or simply explore your surroundings. It can be entertaining exploring the island but does get old real fast. After you rounded up some sheep and pulled some plants from the ground, which gives you collectable items for your dragon, you are ready for action. But wait, you need to make a pit stop to the Dragon’s Den.
The Dragon's Den is where you customize and essentially nurture your dragon. You can customize the dragons look, check your inventory, or check your recipe book. The Dragon Den becomes critical as understanding how to take care of your dragon will allow you to be better prepared for battle. Once you enter the Den you notice five bars in the upper right hand corner. These bars show you dragon’s attributes including food, trust, heal, mood, and rest. For those that enjoy tinkering with your dragon’s attributes and customizing your dragon, you will enjoy this RPG element to the game. Nevertheless, I really question whether 8-year olds, for instance, will dig this aspect of the game which is a critical one.
Once you have spent some time in the Dragon’s Den you will likely need to train your beast. The only problem is the training portion of the game is tedious and not that fun. You end up having to pull off the same moves over and over again. The training teaches you some basic combos but then makes you repeat those very same moves four or five times which is flat out ridiculous and zaps the fun out the game, not to mention my 7-year old daughter could not be bothered with this aspect of the game, which given the target audience causes me some concern.
Once you have your dragon all powered up you are ready for battle. Unfortunately, the dragon fights are not a heck of a lot more interesting either. Granted there is some enjoyment initially; however, after the first few fights it gets monotonous and I sadly started craving for a typical story and action based movie game experience. I should also mention winning the one-on-one fights with the dragons was not all about who had better command of the combos either. This leads me to ask "So why do they spend so much time teaching you combos when simple button mashing does the trick more often than not?".
The games controls are pretty straightforward and it doesn't take long to get used to the control scheme, especially after the grating training sessions. The in-game camera on the other hand seems to have a mind of its own. The problematic camera control is very noticeable when exploring the island. It was so 'wonky' that I often went into the menu screens to see if the game had the axis inverted only to find out this was not the case.
In addition to the single player mode, How to Train your Dragon features a simple head-to-head multiplayer mode called Arcade mode. Here you can select your dream team of four individually customized dragons, or predetermined dragons chosen from the arcade roster, then jump in and battle against each other. In addition to Astrid and Hiccup, additional characters are playable in multiplayer mode including Tuffnut T., Ruffnut T., Fishlegs, and Snotlout. It is an enjoyable mode and is one of the redeeming qualities of the game. Playing against my daughter one- on-one was a treat and we both had a blast.
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