STAFF REVIEW of How To Train Your Dragon 2 (Xbox 360)

Friday, June 13, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

How To Train Your Dragon 2 Box art There’s always a cautious optimism I have when a movie based game releases alongside its silver screen counterpart. I know, after this many years and reviewing so many of them I should know better, but I always hold a slight glimmer of hope that it won’t be atrocious, as there have been a handful of licensed movie games that didn’t fall into the category of being a complete waste of time and money. Most games in the genre fall into this category, usually because it’s quickly approved and needs to be out the door by the time the movie releases, regardless of its quality, length, or what have you.

Developed by Torus Games, who surprisingly has been around for quite some time and seems to mainly do the movie licensed games, I had a slight glimmer of hope that maybe How To Train Your Dragon 2 for Xbox 360 would at least be a passible game where I could at least recommend it to fans of the movie; but sadly I report that I’m unable to do so in good conscience which I’ll get into shortly.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 the video game lets you choose your favorite rider and dragon combination from the movies, participate in flying events, tournaments, mini-games, challenges, and free flying all across the Viking Isle of Berk. It’s been five years since the conclusion of the first movie and now Dragon Racing is THE prestigious sporting event for all Vikings that all want to partake in.

Key characters from the previous movie returns, as you’ll get to choose from flying with Fishlegs and Meatlug, Ruffnut and Tuffnut along with Barf and Belch, Snotlout and Hookfang, Astrid and Stormfly, and of course, Hiccup and Toothless to determine who the ultimate Dragon Rider is. Once you choose your favorite racer and dragon (you don’t get to mix and match riders and dragons, and there’s no performance difference in which you choose) you’ll be set free on the Isle of Berk and can soar from the water to the top of the highest mountain.

Now normally here is where I would inform you that this adaptation from the movie plays out somewhat similar and that you’ll see events from the newest movie in the game, but that’s not the case here at all. How To Train Your Dragon 2 really has nothing to do with the movie of the same name aside from key characters. You’re not going to play out the events that will happen in the new movie, or anything even close to it. This game is simply a dragon flying game where you’ll participate in numerous and tedious events, earning medals and finding a huge amount of hidden collectables. Yup, that’s it. There’s no story within either aside from ‘win all the events’, so some of the younger kids that get this hoping to see what happens in the movie might be disappointed.

Once you choose your racer you’ll be set free to either explore and find hidden collectables or partake in the numerous events and try to earn the best medals you can. There are quite a large amount of hidden collectables to find, not just on the ground and hidden away, but also challenges such as flying underneath every archway on the island or lighting every torch. Given that there’s no way to see where these are on the overview map (which really doesn’t give you any information at all), it’s all guesswork and you’ll simply have to explore every inch of the island and remember where you have and haven’t been. One archway away from completing the challenge and have no idea which ones you’ve done or not? Good luck because you’re going to have to figure it out on your own. Not sure where that final collectable is? Better start searching every inch of the island, because there’s nothing that will show you even an area to begin looking.

There are multiple types of events that you’ll partake in, ranging from simple checkpoint races where you fly through circles of fire (that are created by tiny dragons which is a cute touch), to having to pick up sheep and dropping them off in the corresponding colored pens. There are target shooting events where the winner is the one to reach the number of targets shot first, but with no radar or anything to assist, it’s simply guesswork of where the best place for targets are. There are sheep races, where you need to follow the circles of fire and do laps, but you pick up a sheep along the ‘track’ and drop it off as you complete a lap; the first racers to 10 sheep wins, though there’s a black sheep worth five that can help speed things along.

There’s a target shooting event where you’re essentially perched and will have enemies to shoot with your dragon’s fire breath, much like a whack-a-mole type of game. Give the floaty controls, this is much easier said than done and requires some precision and keen eyesight that younger gamers might not have since it’s near impossible to determine which targets are enemies and which aren’t that take points away when you hit them. And then there are the tournaments, where you need to partake in five events back to back and earning points after each round. You don’t get a choice of which events, so if you’re not very good at the sheep events for example and they are in the tournament, you won’t stand much of a chance. It took me quite a few events and tournaments to finally stop coming in last place, though I’m not sure if many kids these days will have the patience to do so, as it’s actually quite difficult from the beginning events.

While the flying is straight forward, the controls aren’t anywhere as accurate as they should be. Sure there’s accelerate, brake, and sharp turn buttons, but even when you know how to do so, precision flying is quite the challenge. Many times you’ll barely hit a wall or the ground and your rider will go flying off as you wait for a restart and others you’ll bounce off the water as if nothing happened. More times than not it seems as if the controls get jumbled up and my racer ends up upside down, though it’s not meant to be controlled this way. Shooting your fireballs at your opponents seems worthless at times, as does picking up many of the powerups as there’s no easy way to lock on to someone to use them accurately.

While a lot of my complaints might seem a little harsh, I’m thinking of the smaller kids that will be playing this in mind. I’d like to think that I’m quite good at playing games, but even I struggled with this one, fighting the controls, and boredom, the whole way. There’s simply nothing much to do aside from the events which become extremely repetitive with no progression or rewards to work towards (aside from hidden characters to unlock) and keep you motivated to continue playing. That being said, diving from the top of the highest mountain to the ocean did put a smile on my face.

Even if your child is a huge fan of the movie and you’re going to see the new one on opening weekend, I can’t recommend the game given all of its issues, repetitive events, tiresome one-liners that are repeated over and over, and difficult controls that many young kids will probably find more frustrating than fun. Some younger kids might simply have fun flying around the island and try to find all of the hidden collectables with the different riders but there’s no substance here nor does it follow any events of the movie; it’s simply a dragon flying game, but not even a decent one at that.

Overall: 3.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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