Ian Cooper delivers his verdict on disappointing big-screen tie in How To Train Your Dragon 2, out now on Xbox 360, PS3, 3DS, Wii and Wii U (reviewed).
It’s a rare sight to see a game based on an animated movie be better, or even as good, as its silver screen counterpart. Some try to expand on the movie’s story or make up their own plot, which more often than not makes it completely irrelevant. Then there are the utter flops, common ground in the video game industry, where developers rush to release the game either on or before the release date of the movie. The result is never a good one, with the games far too often becoming nothing but a bargain bucket tie in consisting of movie-ripped cut scenes, poor gameplay and god-awful graphics. Which brings me on to How To Train Your Dragon 2.
Developers Torus Games have taken the excellent movie and turned it into a mediocre flight sim – but surely on Nintendo’s powerful Wii U it cant fall into the bargain bucket category……can it?
How To Train Your Dragon 2 has no story mode or campaign, which seems criminal considering the strong story presence in the movie. Instead, you are required to fly around the Viking island of Berk looking for perches to sit your dragon pet onto, which initiates a minigame to compete in. In fact, you’ll be doing this throughout the entire game. Minigames on offer include races, slaloms which require you to fly through a set of hoops within a time limit (which feels reminiscent of the infamous Superman 64), target practice where you shoot fire or plasma balls at flip-up cardboard targets via the Wii U Gamepad touch screen, and checkpoint races among others. The overall premise of How To Train Your Dragon 2 is disappointing to say the least, as there is nothing to indicate that this is a game based on the actual film other than the characters and their voices.
You have 5 characters and their dragons to choose from, with 2 more being unlockable and yes: Hiccup and Toothless are accessible from the start. You control your dragon with the left thumbstick and the camera with the right, ZR launches fireballs or plasma balls and the face buttons allow you to accelerate, slow down, use a dodge maneuver and a special attack. The learning curve is extremely shallow, which makes it great for children to pick up and play. The onscreen action is displayed on the gamepad screen too, so you’re able to just play on the gamepad if necessary. Outside of events, you are free to fly around the island at your leisure, with the help of a nicely designed map to assist you. The only benefit of free roaming however is finding the collectable coins hidden all over, which allow you to upgrade your dragon’s abilities. There is not enough variety here to elongate playing How To Train Your Dragon 2 unfortunately, as the event minigames become tedious quickly and exploring the island isn’t as fun as it sounds. What’s more disturbing is not being able to dismount and explore on foot, which limits the gameplay to flying only, and you cant stop moving. Hitting the wall doesnt incur any penalties though thankfully.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 looks awful on the Wii U, with drab textures, rough presentation and limited animation making this an unfaithful port. Playing on the gamepad does make these things less noticable, but only a tad. Character design is the biggest thing shining in this game’s sky though, as each character and their dragon look just as they do in the movie. Flying around the island, I noticed a lot of texture popping and sometimes my dragon developed invisibility, which happened way too often for my liking. Multiplayer is the only thing worth coming back for. You and a pal chooses a character and compete in races; you can use the screen with the Pro Controller and your friend can use the gamepad’s little screen, which breathes a bit of replayability into what is otherwise a poor, forgettable game.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 falls into the same pit as countless other movie tie-in video games. Awful visuals, rough presentation, limited gameplay and little variety are just a few of the many bad points, though the multiplayer is enjoyable. This game is decent for kids with a limited attention span, but for adults or even fans of the film, it is not recommended.
Story – 1/5
Graphics – 2/5
Gameplay – 2/5
Overall – 2/5
Version reviewed – Wii U