How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Video Game starts players with one of five familiar characters (with two more unlocked later) amid a mini-game-type format with nice multiplayer and Gamepad-only gameplay options. Players get a memorable open world experience in the Viking island setting of Berk, but only on the dragons as characters cannot dismount and explore by foot.
This third person, flight-action game has some breathtaking graphics as players can almost feel the speed, free movement and wind in their face – the most exhilarating elements in the film series. Fans of the popular film series can enjoy extra advantages and entertainment.
Take to the skies and return to the epic Viking Isle of Berk Five years later Dragon Racing has become the hot new sport for the Vikings. Hiccup, Astrid, Snoutlout, Tuffnut, & Ruffnut and their dragons are competing in fierce flying tournaments to determine the ultimate Dragon Rider. Soar through clouds and discover unmapped territories. Discover a secret ice cavern that is home a mysterious Dragon Rider and find yourself in an epic battle to protect their peaceful homeland. Key Features: Choose your Rider and Dragon to train and compete in races and tournaments Challenge a friend to claim the title of Best Dragon Rider Explore the mysterious Isle of Berk to discover hidden quests Collect tokens and complete challenges to unlock new dragon traits and abilities.
Players can enjoy even more freedom thanks to a largely uninterrupted gameplay with the three key omissions of a fatigue system, health system, and loading screens. The action only halts when players take a perch (using the x button) or the riders fall off their perch.
Developers include a nice spatial “buffer” zone where players can complete a perch with relative ease aided by helpful text prompts in lower right. This reviewer had the tendency to hold the x button, which seemed to produce better landings. No penalties for hitting objects unless the impact dismounts the rider and must restart.
The game could really impress by letting players voluntarily dismount for a closer view on the homeland, but, as previously mentioned, developers keep players on their dragon except when players restart after mistakes or get dismounted (by ranged dragon fire or up-close rider dives complete with a witty remark) by other players in competition or playful leisure.
The main mode is really a mini game collection designated by each perch. Players can stop or restart these mini games or check their progress by pausing the game at any time. Player must earn certain perches, which provides the main motivation to progress. Performances are graded with bronze, silver and gold rating and players can always retry for a higher rating.
The main mini game activity is flying, but developers add some variety like an intuitive shooting mini game using the Gamepad’s touch screen. Many flying races involve consideration concentration skills, so players should definitely master the controls for the best performances.
Players swoop down to grab objects, race specific routes multiple times, and fly through ring patterns. Most flying challenges require the same skills in first introduced 15 years ago in 1999’s Superman (a.k.a. Superman 64) on the Nintendo 64 and in the later Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone released on PlayStation in 2001, where this reviewer discovered them.
Following specific flight patterns can be challenging, but, as with the perches, developers have a fair buffer zone so players do not have to hit their goal exactly to succeed (no difficulty levels here).
The multiplayer mode can begin through the single player mode where a second player grabs a Wii remote (no Pro Controller support), which does not have the convenient analog sticks. No split screen here as the second player views the television/screen and the initial/first player views on the GamePad.
The second player can explore the island just like the first player, and you can race against each other in the standard events, in addition to three multiplayer-specific mini games.
Since it’s implied in the title, a training mode is a natural activity and expectation. Players can also try Stiock’s challenges, look for hidden areas/unlockables (e.g. sets of 50 special coins specific to each dragon that unlocks new abilities) and switch among the initial five dragon group at any time.
The “dragon hanger” includes Astrid with Stormfly (the easiest to control), Fishlegs with Meatlug, Ruffnut & Tuffnut with Barf & Belch, Snotlout with Hookfang, and Hiccup with Toothless.
Thankfully this game has good flight mechanics, but the camera options need improvement. Players can speed up (A button), slow down/hover (B), special attack, and dodge while the L and R side button offer tight turn options. Shoot fire or plasma balls with the ZR button.
The right stick controls the camera, but players cannot tilt down just side-to-side. The dragons automatically tuck in their wings on deep dives, which are thrilling even though the dragon does not gain increasing speed.
The impressive visual prompts exploration (though limited) and the maps are a great help. The ocean spray and reflecting sun are nice touches, but the ocean breaks down into noticeable square patterns when flying at high altitudes. Also, the visuals populate objects like trees when descending from high altitudes – another visual miscue. On the flip side, flyers can go right through ship sails and another objects without getting hurt or dismounting.
Players can see a lot of activity when they fly over areas and there are no loading screens. Characters look good but more importantly the dragons look good – both same style from film. Wooden colored perch markers help players find their next objective.
The musical score comes right from the film and features great tempos. The character dialogue entertains, but the taunts could use more variety. Developers give distinct audio sounds for finding each dragon’s tokens.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Video Game, developed by Australian studio Torus Games and published by Little Orbit, gives players a fuller experience if they have seen the animated film and is a moderately enjoyable supplement. Recommended with some reservations with plenty of room for improvement in the likely sequel (the next film will release in 2016).
MSRP: How to Train Your Dragon 2 The Video Game is $39.99 (Amazon, Best Buy and other stores)
Source: Reviewer copy provided by publisher; also available on Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3.
What I Like: fun all ages gameplay, no fatigue/health system, no loading screens during gameplay, easy control scheme, multiplayer mode, Gamepad only gameplay option, small learning curve
What Needs Improvement: repetitive character dialogue, awkward camera issues, no online leaderboards, graphic issues, replay value