How to Train Your Dragon Review
As with most computer animated movies these days, How To Train Your Dragon is not without a small arsenal of video game compliments across the console multiverse. Luckily for Activision the movie plot left open a number of avenues to explore when making the video game counterpart, and having never seen the movie I think they made a decent choice. Most of the time a studio will simply put out an over glorified movie trailer, sometimes with a few more layers of depth to bring the game's play time up to an acceptable level, but often following right along with the movie script. That's not to say that How To Train Your Dragon doesn't have its fair share of influence from the movie, because why even bother if youíre not going to try and relate the two, but this title goes a bit beyond the training aspect and dives right into full on cage fighting with dragons.
You begin your journey by talking to a few of the townsfolk and quickly learn that your first skill, which is finding food and precious stones, will become a recurring event in between battles. From there it's off to the dragon's lair where you get to choose your first dragon and begin to understand which foods and gems he/she prefers, and which of those in your inventory provide the best replenishment of health. The controls during these stages work, but the tasks can become repetitive very quickly. The game also expects you to wait out the entire animation of whatever is going on at the time (i.e. picking vegetables out of a field) before moving on, which can cause some drag on the clock. After a few short trips to the lair, you can take your dragon out for his/her first spin where a very nice tutorial awaits to explain all the intricacies of which button does what during a fight. The controls for this portion of the game respond very well, and just like any fighting game you have to figure out the cadence of everything before you can become a truly effective player.
Throughout the rest of the game you will travel to a few different battle areas, encountered many characters drawn in the goofy style of the film, and battle a host of dragons with ever increasing visual complexity (not to mention difficulty). Like most licensed titles, How To Train Your Dragon aims to match the visual style and quality of its master, and for the most part succeeds in doing so. Style was an easy kill, executed with many of the visual staples you've undoubtedly seen from the film (or at least the trailer). Quality was a tossup for me though, and maybe it's because I expect more out of a PS3 title, but aside from the attention to detail with the dragons themselves I didn't notice anything spectacular. Another peeve I had while playing was that everything took an ungodly amount of time to load. I get it, the PS3 isn't the fastest or most efficient at loading up its memory banks, and I expect that behavior for most games. But when itís only tossing in a few hastily thrown together models with a map made out of simple geometry, I have to start wondering what in God's name is trying to load that takes so long.
As I've said before I haven't had a chance to view the movie this title is based on, but I have seen the assortment of trailers enough times to recognize the voice acting that carried over. I'm not sure if they used the same actors or not, but I imagine it's close enough that most children who play this game because they loved the film won't notice. Everything else audio-wise runs pretty smooth and there were never any glaring oddities that left me shaking my head at the audio director. I don't think the sound bites captured for most events throughout the title are the highest quality I've ever heard, but again the target audience is probably at a level that will never recognize things like the ambient noises changing with your surroundings, so they work just fine. I also felt like the background music selection was fitting and executed well.
When I first started playing and realized this game was part adventure, part street fighter, I thought for sure they had found a winning formula. And even after an hour I was still pleasantly surprised at how well the game was holding my attention; something I wouldn't have bet on when it showed up on my doorstep. You can easily spend a good 20 minutes or so just customizing the look of your dragon, and that's before you ever get into upgrades and unlocking special attacks. The online mode lets you find and challenge other players to a round of fiery mayhem. That's about it though, which is unfortunate and kind of kills whatever replay value it might have been trying for. I can see the appeal lasting about as long as it takes the movie to be released on Blu-ray, but probably not much after that.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 64%. The first rule of dragon fight club is: You do not talk about dragon fight club.