How To Train Your Dragon: The Game

How To Blame Your Dragon

"How To Train Your Dragon: The Game" reminds me that video games might not always be that fun...
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: July 1, 2010
When my copy of How To Train Your Dragon: The Game arrived in my mailbox, I thought to myself "Hot Shit! I am going to go home and train my dragon to do some barrel rolls and some Immelmans! We'll be shooting MiG's out of the sky in no time!" Well... imagine my disappointment when I got home and found that rather than some aerial acrobatics, I was going to be engaging in a boring fighting game that lacked the depth of Technos seminal Karate Champ. Come ON!


For those of you that have seen the movie, I suspect that this game will do nothing to recreate that experience, unless that experience involved collect-a-thons for fruit and other "training supplies" that led to repetitive training exercises culminating in uninspired fight scenes. Somehow I imagine that the movie might have been more involved, and might have had dragons, you know, flying and shit. It did, right?

How To Train Your Dragon starts out with a simple choice. Do you want to play as the little boy or the little girl. Choose carefully, because which one you choose determines what you look like when you run around the world for a mindnumbingly long time. Also it determines which Dragon you start with, although really it doesn't matter except for aesthetic purposes. Once your are secure in your gender preference, you are dropped into "generic Viking village" that is about as populated as the levels in Oni. You are met there and taught the basics (which is all there are in this game) about how to train and fight your dragon.

Training is essentially a dumbed down Nintendogs or Tamagotchi. Your dragon has four attributes (Food, Trust, Mood, and Rest) that determine his health at the start of any fight, and you keep these up by finding the appropriate item for said dragon (chickens, flowers, rainbows and positive vibes... well something like that anyway) which are located in boxes or graves or just lying around. Collecting that stuff involves walking up to the container and pushing X. Fun. These attributes drain each time you enter a training session or fight, requiring you to go collect after each task.

The training exercises themselves involve you sparring with an opponent with no AI or very limited AI while some moves are flashed on the screen and you execute them. Or at least you try to. The game has very poor controller response, and the combos that require you to push square 4 times almost always miss a press no matter how good your timing is. So you have to repeat it over and over again until you do it the required number of times, and your dragon gets a little more experience. Making the task even more tedious, there are only a handful of different training regimens, but they each must be repeated a dozen times to fully train a dragon, then done three more times to fully train your eventual stable of four dragons.

So what do you do when you aren't traipsing through bland environs and mashing buttons in training? Well thats when you get down and dirty in the "meat" of the game, the arena combat. This is just a series of one-on-one encounters against AI dragons that are marginally more difficult than the brainless ones you fight in training. Your move set boils down to one button for attacking and another to breathe fire. You only have a limited amount of fire, but it is recharged each time you land a successful combo (i.e. push square three time without the control timing out) and every fight can be won by breathing fire then mashing attack until you build up more fire and breathe again. Every fight. Nothing changes from fight to fight except the color of the dragon you are battling. Arenas are bland and tiny, and the rewards are just more experience to fight more dragons. After 30 minutes you have seen everything the game has to offer, but sadly the experience takes 12 hours to grind through.

Clearly jaded old gamers who cut their teeth on vector graphics are not the intended audience for this title. Alas, it proved to be too boring and simple even for my 4 year old daughter. We all know to expect very little from movie tie-in games, but it feels like they didn't even try with How To Train Your Dragon. At least let me FLY for the love of Christ! After finishing this game, I felt like I didn't want to touch another game for a week, lest the taint influence my experience. I'm not even kidding here.
The Verdict
3.5

This game shows what video games will become in our cold bleak future (think "The Road") when all vestiges of fun from are gone from gaming. This is the video game equivalent of waterboarding. Unless you need tips for training your IRL dragon, stay away!

5.0Graphics:

Colorful I suppose, but still reminiscent of PlayStation 2 era graphics, especially with the notable lack of objects in the world.

6.0Sound:

The voice acting was decent, but the dialogue was painful. The sound effects truly conveyed what a dragon would say if fed a live chicken.

2.5Control:

Horrible. The controls are simple and limited to three buttons total, but the response is horrendous. If you are going to represent yourself as a fighting game, the one thing you need is precise control, right? Good luck pulling any combos here...

2.0Gameplay:

Awful. Boring. Crappy. Dumb. Enervating. Folly. Grating. Horrid. Insipid. Joyless. Kruddy. Lousy. Mortifying. Nonexistent. Offal. Penis. Quixotic. Rotten. Salacious. Terrible. Unplayable. Vile. Weak. Xasperating. Yellowbellied. Zaxxon (is better).