A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that How to Train Your Dragon is the video game tie-in for the Hollywood film of the same name, and that kids who see the movie or play the game will likely be drawn to the other as well. The game’s primary action is similar to that of a typical fighting game, with two characters (in this case dragons) fighting to reduce each other’s health bars by using complicated combination attacks involving slashes and flaming breath. It’s not nearly as graphic as most fighters -- there is no blood or gore, and the combatants don’t die at the end of a match -- but the dragons do make contact and recoil from hits. Note, too, that here is a conflicted message in that our heroes are supposed to care about the animals they keep but have no qualms pitting them in vicious battles against one another. The game supports dragon fighting tournaments against a friend sharing the same screen.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, based on the movie of the same name, puts players in the shoes of a young Viking (the player’s choice of either a boy named Hiccup or girl called Astrid) who trains dragons and then enters them in fighting tournaments against other trainers. About half of the game is spent on quests that have players searching for items for villagers and looking after and customizing dragons. Players feed them, let them sleep, and apply special herbs and materials to earn their trust and improve their mood. When the dragons' are in good health, players can take them out for training exercises, where new moves and attacks are learned, or to a challenge area where they can guide them in various tests -- such as flying through a series of rings -- to earn experience points. Properly trained and cared for, they can then be placed in tournaments which, if won, will unlock new quests, challenges, and training exercises. A secondary mode dubbed Arcade lets players take on groups of computer-controlled dragons or go up against a friend on the same screen.
Is it any good?
As a fighting game, How to Train Your Dragon is decidedly average. There is little that feels original about the battles or the stages on which they are set. However, by the time the third tournament is reached it can become quite challenging. Button mashing won’t work; you’ll need to actually learn the combinations if you want to win. Assuming this is the first fighting game your children have played, they may experience frustration. It’s a good thing the training exercises are thorough, if rather repetitive.
In fact, everything in the game is repetitive. Whether it’s performing the same moves over and over again in training or bagging scores of chickens or dozens of pieces of ore, much of the experience feels like grinding for no other reason than to make the game last a little longer. What we’ve been given is okay, but it’s a shame that players are tasked to repeat most activities until they’re blue in the face.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the game successfully reconciles the notion of caring for creatures with the act of placing them in battle against one another. Is it okay simply because no animals are ever seriously harmed, or is their something here that might be akin to, say, a dog fight? Why do you think most players won’t see it as the latter?
Families can also discuss how closely the game’s characters and story resemble the film. If you’ve already seen the film, was the game what you expected? Do you think the game makers remained faithful to the film’s narrative and messages?
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