If you’re into mythical creatures and can’t wait for the upcoming film How to Train Your Dragon, then fly on over to the App Store and grab up the iPhone game tie-in. Developed by Glu, this is basically a re-skin Glyder and Glyder 2, which, if the reviews of those are any indication, is not a bad thing. But before you click “buy,” be warned that How to Train Your Dragon dispenses with certain videogame conventions like diversity of gameplay and any sense of challenge at all.
But wait! That’s meant as a cautionary note, not a critical smackdown. We actually enjoyed the game.
The island in the sky.
The goal is to complete a series of fetch quests across three completely open island levels. You pilot a flying dragon that has total freedom of movement, and you’ll ride him all over the place in search of whatever your Viking friend asks you to collect.
Though the gameworld is made up of only three levels, they’re fairly expansive and well designed for the freedom of movement your dragon allows. Platforms, columns, mountains, and secret caves make the terrain fun to navigate, and collectible objects like butterflies and insects are scattered generously throughout. Up close, the textures lack detail, but the draw distance is impressive. That’s important, because when you’re trying to track down the last few collectible bugs, you’ll want to be able to spot them from far away.
Also notable is that once you’re in the game you’ll never be interrupted with loading screens, even between levels. Instead, once you achieve the tasks required to send you on, up pops a series of checkpoint hoops that lead you seamlessly to the next island. This is a cool trick, but getting from one island to the next takes a good deal of time, and the between-level flights aren’t very exciting.
Proof of global warming: this used to be Antarctica.
But really, nothing about the game is overtly exciting, and that seems to be the point. The music is a mellow new age track, and the missions are all about collecting things. There’s no time limit or enemies. The only danger you face is crashing, and after spending a few minutes with the excellent controls, you’ll soar like a pro.
How to Train Your Dragon is an unusual game, to be sure. Since it’s based on a children’s movie, you might expect it to be an action-packed animated romp, but in fact it’s the opposite. It’s a meditative experience that will let you zone out and find your happy place. For some players, this will be a dragon-sized breath of fresh air. For others, they’ll be wondering why they don’t get to eviscerate any Vikings. So will you enjoy this game? That all depends on what you’re looking for.