Thursday, 19 June 2014

Review: How to Train your Dragon 2 (Xbox 360)

We all know that licensed movie games tend to be bad on our gaming systems, and yet somebody keeps buying them (otherwise, somebody would stop making them). Sadly, nothing has changed this time as How to Train your Dragon 2 has come out on multiple platforms to coincide with the release of the movie.

Over the years, publishers have reduced costs over the years by eliminating printed manuals and including training missions or modes in games at the beginning to get players used to the controls. This game is no different, although because the word "training" is in the title I'm afraid the entire game feels like a training mission.

You can choose your dragon and your rider (with other options unlockable later in the game) and then fly around the island of Berk where you land on perches to start mini-games and missions. I must say that I honestly felt like I'd been thrown back to the PS2 era as the challenges consist of races through rings, picking up sheep and dropping them in the appropriate spot, and target shooting Vikings (but don't shoot the females). When I landed on a tournament perch I thought things were going to pick up, until I realized the tournament is just a series of the same three mini-games.

The island feels big - the scale is certainly there, although you get this nagging feeling that there should be more islands but there isn't. We have also come to expect greater detail in games (other birds flying around, terrain etc.) that are surprisingly absent in this title. If you feel like exploring you can certainly do so, collecting special coins for each of the dragons you can fly but even when you seem to accomplish certain things within the game you never feel rewarded for doing so. It seems like during the mini-games when you get to the "need" level, you find out you are required to play again to reach yet a better, higher score. Sometimes when you do you unlock an achievement but sometimes you don't. It just all seems disconnected.

There are moments when flying the dragon feels glorious! Skimming along the water is enjoyable; Climbing to the top of a mountain and flying down gets you a great feeling of speed but in turn you lose control, and don't even think about turning around quickly or with precision because that is not going to happen.

Although this game is not the price of a full triple-A title, it feels somewhat unfinished and lacking in overall content. The moments of joy are overshadowed by the lacklustre other bits and frustrating control. I heard something about a secret cave in the game that at first I was excited to find. Now, unfortunately, I don't even care if I ever find it.

- Syd Bolton

The Good:
- Can be fun to fly around with your dragon
- The island is large
- There is a local multiplayer option

The Bad:
- The mini-games are not fun and surprisingly difficult at times
- The size and scope of the game seems very small for the price
- The lack of details in the game world is noticeable

Syd Bolton surrounds himself in thousands of classic video games as Canada's top video game collector at the Personal Computer Museum ( in Brantford, Ontario, Canada.