|System: X360, PS3, Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Étranges Libellules||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 23, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
All of these individual problems come together to make the game not only tedious, but disjointed. One minute you're caring for your pet like a doting father, the next you're riding it and making it claw another dragon (what is this, the Michael Vick School of Animal Care?), and the next you're trying to fly through airborne rings Pilotwings-style.
Nonetheless, How to Train Your Dragon does some things right. The fighting isn't first-rate by any means, but it's a decent introduction to the genre for young newcomers. The combos are simple enough for children to manage, though sometimes they require you to push the buttons with awkward timing, and the button sequences remain on the screen during the (admittedly boring) training. The difficulty builds up slowly enough that the young ones won't throw temper tantrums or give up.
The arena fights here are all about evading and blocking, and attacking with a swipe or a fire breath where appropriate. There's a bit of button-mashing involved, of course, but even the most complicated fighting games have never found a way around that. Health doesn't regenerate, so when a dragon runs out of energy, you move to the next one in your brood. If you lose entirely, you have to rest your dragons and start again.
Playing the "arcade" mode, especially with a friend, one gets a taste of what this title could have been. When the game is restricted to fighting and mini-games, it's a lot more exciting. Had the developers focused on these elements and kept the role-playing and pet care to some brief allocations of points and food carried out in between battles, this could have been a lot of fun. As Primal Rage proved so many years ago, it's a lot of fun to make mythical creatures bash each other around. There just needs to be much more of it in the story mode, along with a deeper fighting system. And God knows kids love mini-games, even the rehashed ones.
How to Train Your Dragon is ambitious for a movie game, but it's a little too ambitious for its own good. It combines lots of different types of gameplay that could have been successful on their own, but as a whole, the game just feels fractured, tedious, and not enjoyable. The arcade mode is a highlight, but it doesn't justify buying the whole game.
CCC Freelance Writer