Reviewed: March 31, 2010
Released: March 23, 2010
With the summer blockbuster season is just around the corner, the time comes to arm ourselves against the glut of movie-based games – the first of which is Activision’s How To Train Your Dragon, based on Dreamworks Animation’s newest theatrical release. While the console version of How To Train Your Dragon featured an odd hybrid blending equal parts adventure, RPG, pet simulation, and fighting genres – the DS version is little more than a clone of the highly successful Pokémon series set in the world of Dreamwork’s film in which gamers take on the role of either Hiccup (the boy) or Astrid (the girl) and take charge of their own personal stable of dragons which they will raise, train, outfit, and use in battle.
Throughout the course of the story, the gamer will wander about the island of Berk, following predetermined pathways, periodically encountering random battles along the way. These battles are turn-based affairs, using a unique time-based meter that assigns each move with values representing a time-unit cost and an effective damage. Typically, the more powerful the move, the more time units the move will require. Simply put, if the gamer utilizes a very damaging attack of 6 time units, an opponent can respond with three moderate 2 time-unit attacks. I say typically, because there is a great deal of unbalance in the attacks, and it is far too easy to develop a moveset that includes high-damage, low-cost moves that can be used incessantly.
Successfully completing random encounters will result in rewards of coins (for purchasing goods) and metal (for forging armor). While the resource management requirements are rather low, the minigames associated with forging armor are surprisingly enjoyable as the gamer is tasked with blowing in the microphone to heat up the crucible, and using the touch screen to pour the molds, break the molds, and polish the armor. The armor takes on damage during battle and needs periodic replacement, so the armor forging sequence comes up fairly often and is a nice diversion from the standard gameplay.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag – the adventure sequences are seen from an unimpressive map view perspective, but the turn based battle scenes ad visual effects are surprisingly solid. The sound quality is solid, even featuring limited voice acting throughout the course of the game.
Make no doubt, How To Train Your Dragon on the DS is a veritable clone of the Pokémon series, which actually works in its favor – at least when compared to the console versions all of which seem to be experiencing an identity crisis. Granted, the world maps nowhere near as realized and the dragons are hardly as varied as in a typical Pokémon title, but the folks at Griptonite Games have done a solid job with the genre.
Simply put, my son – an avid Pokémon fan – has thoroughly enjoyed his time with How To Train Your Dragon, and it has all but distracted him from hounding me about the releases of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver.