A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
As in the Pokemon games, there are conflicting messages here of both training and caring for animals (in this case mythological dragons) and then pitting them in battle against one another in sporting tournaments. No dragons are ever killed, but one does question the logic of putting a cherished creature in harm's way just for fun. It's also worth noting that the game points out that girls can do anything boys can, and provides the option of choosing a female avatar.
Positive Role Models
Our avatar is a good kid who loves training dragons. He or she wanders around the Viking village helping others and searching for various items that will keep his or her dragons healthy and in good spirits. The only behavior shown that might be considered disturbing is a passion for dragon fighting.
Ease of Play
The dragon fights feel a lot like the sort of combat found in typical fighting games. Players must learn a wide variety of combination attacks and when to deploy them to have any hope of succeeding, especially in the game's later tournaments. The game gets hard very quickly and may frustrate inexperienced players.
Violence & Scariness
Players engage in one-on-one dragon combat. The giant lizards slash and snap, jump on, and breathe flames on each other. There is no blood or gore, but they do recoil from hits and scream in rage. Players also kill animals including chickens and sheep by jumping on and wrestling them. After the dust settles all that remains is a glistening drumstick or leg of lamb.
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Products & Purchases
This game is a product tie-in for the movie of the same name.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.