Available on Nintendo DS and 3DS comes the latest movie game – How to Train Your Dragon 2. Not mould-breaking, but definitely inventive with the concept, HTTYD2 manages to give players a chance that every fan of the film franchise wants: a chance to train a dragon.
Plot-wise, this is a very simplistic game. There is a racing competition and your dragons have to compete in various types of race in order to win. A bit like Need For Speed Underground 2 – minus the ability to mod or upgrade – you travel around playing various training exercises, before doing the big competitions where you are expected to win to defend your reputation as the best dragon trainer in the Viking world. This is a completely different take from the film, which is more about the idea that the dragons are being threatened, mixed with Darth Mutter realness thrown in just for fun.
The game seems to explore what would be happening with the dragons outside of the film plot, which is an interesting idea to play with, seeing as the films are so iconic in their attack of the concept of raising a dragon. Although moving past the original concept was going to have to happen (we learnt how to train a dragon by watching the first film), the game is still interesting as it takes the concept from the film one step further. So you have learnt how to train your dragon, but what do you do next? This makes the game designers deserving of a little more kudos than is usually applied to sequel-makers.
Gameplay on this lovely, well-thought-out game, however, sucks harder than a Dyson in a black hole. The controls are not as responsive as you would expect from a normal driving game, and just because they are dragons does not mean they shouldn’t be able to turn just as easily.
Also, the fact that you have access to a three-dimensional environment, regardless of the platform being played upon, means that you have to focus a lot harder than normal, as you don’t just have the left and right to deal with, but also rising and falling.
Whilst you go forward automatically, acceleration is only added with a burst forward, with an extra level of difficulty added to the championships, where you can only burst forward if you have passed through the rings. This is to be expected, but you get automatically penalised with a drop in speed by missing one or two.
You can try the responses with different dragons and riders throughout, but fans of the franchise will obviously want to stick with Toothless. As a sidebar, whilst testing this game, we got thrown off our dragon more times than a trainee dragon rider – the spatial orientations are either completely off (we so didn’t hit the mountain as many times as it said) or the rider is too sensitive (way too possible).
Aesthetically this game is stunning, and finally shows scenes worthy of a 3D handheld console, as other games we have seen don’t really match up to the same standards usually presented in films or on 3D TVs. The clouds look thick and fluffy until you start to fly through them, the waves have ripples if you fly too close to them, and even the sheep are appropriate sizes for the dragons. You can imagine Daenerys Targaryen sitting ladylike screaming for murder, and Toothless licking her all over. It’s a shame the same thinking wasn’t applied to the music effects, but that can’t be helped when the standard is set this high.
Overall, this is a significantly more impressive feat than originally anticipated, and we were very pleasantly surprised. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is never going to be our bag as a racing game, but it is fun if you are into the other elements of the game, and you will be tearing your hair out trying to win the championships (although there are probably people who have already got 100% completion and are taunting us).