The original How To Train Your Dragon is still something of an anomaly in the world of computer animated movies. Much like the recently released The LEGO Movie and nostalgic tear-jerker Toy Story 3, the film appeals to both children and adults alike thanks to gorgeous visuals and an extremely entertaining story. After a rough start at the box office ($43.7 million opening weekend), it would go onto to achieve massive success and spawn a sequel, which was just released this past weekend. And, as expected, releasing alongside it is How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game.
In How To Train Your Dragon 2, viewers are once again transported to the Viking village of Berk. Taking place five years after the events of the first film, the village has achieved peaceful cohabitation between dragons and humans, mostly thanks to the efforts of Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless. However, this peace is soon threatened by a mysterious new foe who has the ability to place dragons under his control. If you’re like me, you are probably thinking that this sounds like it could make a pretty entertaining video game. So what does developer Little Orbit choose to focus on instead? Why, the Dragon Games segment that makes up the opening of the film, of course!
Yes, rather than focus on the main storyline of the film (and, once again, the fact that it lends itself perfectly to a game), we instead get a glorified mini-game compilation for How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game. This isn’t a lengthy set of mini-games, either. HTTYD2: The Game only features five different competitions, and they’re all repeated over a series of different levels. There’s a target blasting game, which has you honing your skills against viking cutouts, a game where you pick color coordinated sheep and drop them off in their respective pens, two games that require you to fly through a series of rings in a set amount of time and finally, the major tournament that groups together all four previous games. As you can see, there is not a whole lot of variety to be had with the content here.
Besides the main Dragon Games component of How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game, adventure seeking players can also explore the world of Berk and its surrounding areas. If there was one point where this title manages to shine, it was here, as there is a solid amount of content here to play around with. There are various collectibles to be found, challenges from Stoick to be completed and even hidden bonus quests. While this additional content is not enough to save the game, I can definitely see children enjoying their time spent flying around the world in search of new adventures.
Although the actual content of the game may be lacking, Little Orbit did do a relatively solid job with the controls here. It is no easy feat to make a game that requires dragon riding control in any way other than garbage (See: Lair), so the fact that they aren’t terrible here is a minor miracle. However, this makes it all the more disappointing that the camera in How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game is seriously problematic. For one, it has a tendency to change focus and not give you the proper view you need, particularly when you are ascending and descending. All it needs to do is focus on your back at all times, but instead the camera likes to spin itself around and face your rider instead. So, while you have a great look at Hiccup’s face, good luck trying to avoid that wall in front of you.
While I would never expect any past-gen console game to match the graphical power of a modern animated film, How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game is far from pleasing on the eye. The graphics are blocky and ugly and remind me more of a title that would have come out closer to the launch of the Xbox 360 rather than its end. The sound work is slightly more enjoyable as the score is a solid reminder of the excellent music that has accompanied both films. I just wish I didn’t have to hear the same tired voice recordings from the film’s cast on repeat. I thought I could deal with hearing Jay Baruchel say the same phrases over and over again, but I was wrong. So very, very wrong.
Realistically, I know it is silly for me to get so upset about How To Train Your Dragon 2: The Game since it was made with children in mind. In fact, it’s the same type of game that fellow animated films such as Rio and The Croods received when they first came out. However, this doesn’t mean that every game targeted at youngsters has to be this tired and lazy. In the past few years, we’ve had a few really solid games that are not only based off animated films (Toy Story 3), but games that are also fun for both kids and adults alike (pretty much any recently released LEGO game). The additional open-world content here is definitely a plus, it’s just unfortunate that Little Orbit took a license that was ripe for a solid adaptation and completely squandered the opportunity.
This review was based off the Xbox 360 version of the title, which we were provided with.