First, I'm a big fan of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies. I own the original, watched the shorts on Netflix and I’ve recently seen HTTYD 2. The art direction in the movies is a visually striking mix of Viking craftsmanship, gorgeous landscapes, colorful characters and of course, dragons. They are full of great comedy and action I want to be a part of. That is always our hope as gamers, interacting with a universes that is deep, engrossing and most of all, fun. Unfortunately “movie games” rarely transition that hope to reality. It could be argued that these games based on animated movies are geared more towards children and not experienced gamers. Well, to figure out who this gam is for my 8 year old daughter, 5 year old son and I all played How to Train Your Dragon 2: The Game for 3DS to come up with a final verdict. So does HTTYD 2 The Game for the Nintendo 3DS live up to the hope of gamers, provide enough entertainment for children or even warrant the ~$30 price tag?
HTTYD 2 the game is essentially a rudimentary dragon riding simulator. You start off as Hiccup on the back of Toothless doing the standard “turn left, turn right” business demonstrating the basic controls. All the controls are communicated within the first 25 seconds of the game then you’re on your way. At the start you can either engage in training or simply roam around the viking island looking for collectables, and satisfying Stoic’s Challenges (this is basically a list achievements). You can choose between several different dragons and dragon riders but there are very few differences between them mechanically, although they do have different collectables available to them. The training includes such activities as flying through a bunch of flaming hoops in the shortest amount of time, shooting fireballs at targets and picking up sheep and dropping them into goals. You can also enter Warrior Rallies against your dragon riding pals which comprise of all the different training events. Points are awarded based on your place in each event and the winner is the dragon rider with the most points at the end of the rally. The trainings and rallies are tedious at best. The controls aren’t very precise and with the 3DS only having one analog control, there is no way to control the camera so turning sharply into objects or walls is frequent. I found myself often missing turns during races and it’s very difficult to hit anything with fireballs even with a lock-on mechanism. There is no character or dragon progression to speak of, no upgrades, enhancements or new abilities. The trainings and rallies are all graded and you have completion percentage for challenges. Snore, these are usually the game play types I try to avoid. If you going to make a game that relies solely on score, the controls need to be spot on, HTTYD 2 The Game doesn’t even come close. After being frustrated with the the training/rallies I spent some time exploring. The I thought flying through the village, around and up the mountains, into caves, nose diving from great heights to pull up at the last minute should be fun. But even that was disappointing. The sense of speed is just non-existent. I flew all the way to the top of the highest peak, did a nose dive and the descent was slow and yawn inspiring. There was no feeling of inertia, it was very controlled and boring. Furthermore when I hit the water I just stop, my rider didn't fall off the dragon, and the dragon just kind of stop and flip over (then you get to fly upside down for a bit, woo hoo). In the movies the dragon action scenes break-neck fast, death defying and always on the edge of going out of control. In the game, it’s not even close.
Poor gameplay aside, There is no story and the visual treatment is awful. The menus, character and environment designs are so bad I couldn't find any screenshots from this version of the game. This is too bad because now I have to paint a word picture for you. Basically if you've watched the making of any CGI movie, HTTYD 2 looks like the very first layer mapping that goes over the wire frames. The lighting is muted, shadows muddy and you can barely see those sheep I mentioned above until you've already smashed into the ground.
My kids' reviews were mixed. My son didn’t get into it too much. He played for about 20 min and then asked to play “Mario” instead. My daughter on the other hand like it quite a bit and played for a couple hours. She told me she liked flying around the mountains and exploring caves. She didn’t like the actually training all that much. I’m curious to see how much she’ll play it going forward (I’ve been hogging it to write this review).
All that being said, the game isn’t worth the $29.99. If I had to put a price on it, I’d have to say it’s worth no more than half that. The art is bland, gameplay is bland, there’s little incentive to keep playing and no story at all. I couldn’t be anymore disappointed. Buying this game at full price is like buying bologna sandwich on generic white bread for $10. Stay away, you’re not missing anything.