When one sees that there is a new iPhone game based on the DreamWorks film How to Train Your Dragon and the upcoming cartoon series Dragons: The Series, there are perhaps certain expectations which come with that: fast action, dynamic aerial maneuvers, and perhaps even a bit of shooting with the creatures’ famed elemental breath. And in the title that has just been released, TapDragonDrop, we get… sheep herding?
Yes, that’s right: TapDragonDrop is basically a puzzle game starring the characters from the popular film. Contrary to the game’s description, it’s not a storm which has just ravaged the viking village of Berk, but rather the failed placing of a statue. With a mighty crash, their startled livestock flee into the wilderness, and it’s up to Hiccup and his Night Fury, Toothless, to trade in their viking helmets for cowboy hats and return the flock to safety.
Each stage begins with a fellow dragon dropping a cage, which is where you want to herd the sheep. You start off with a simple move, a roar, but quickly gain several more as the puzzles increase in complexity. Soon, you’ll be breathing fire, ramming obstacles, picking up and dropping boulders, firing catapults, and more as you work towards your goal.
All fired up.
However, you must be careful, as the sheep are somewhat fragile. They can fall a decent distance, but not too far (lest they die a rather Pikmin-esque death, with their spirits rising heavenward), and they can swim, but not where there are sharks. Oh, and when you’re setting trees on fire, make sure there aren’t any sheep too close, or else you’ll find yourself dealing with roasted lamb chops instead.
Controlling the dragons is a simple affair. Your available actions are lined up along the left side of the screen, and you simply drag the appropriate icon to where you want the action to be performed. You can even scroll the screen around with a touch, away from where your dragon is currently stationed, and find the best place for them to do their thing. Drop the icon, and they come with little fuss.
Scoring follows the typical three-star system, with each awarded based on one of three different goals: clearing the level, saving all five sheep, and doing so with the minimum number of moves necessary. And though this is based on a kids/family movie, don’t think the puzzles are a complete cakewalk. Completing them in the prescribed number of moves can prove to be a rather daunting challenge before long, making those third stars extra-elusive. There are also treasures hidden in out-of-the-way spots in the stages, and collecting them will allow you to unlock additional stages. The only problem is that they seem to be placed in a way counter to the third stars. You can find a treasure, or you can meet the quota, but it seems you can’t do both at once.
Treat your helm with care.
The art in TapDragonDrop comes as a bit of a surprise. The game does away with the film and show’s computer-generated 3D character models, instead opting for a more traditional 2D style. Depending on the artist and the characters, sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Here, we are very happy to say that it does indeed work, and while the characters and background are more cartoon-like as a result, they still carry the same charm and feel of the movie versions. They don’t emote a lot or anything, but the touches which are there work, such as Hiccup tossing his helmet in the air after successfully completing a stage, or the sad look of disappointment Toothless displays before flying away after a failure.
Incidentally, the developers deserve a small round of applause, as other licensed products for the movie seemingly ignored that the dragons were characters, too– Toothless in particular, who is often represented by a generic Night Fury. But here, unlike other games based on the film, you do actually get to use Toothless with Hiccup, so that will be pleasing to fans of the film. Better still is that he’s in the default package, as other dragons with their own stages and unique breath attacks and flying actions are available to download.
This may not be the game fans of How to Train Your Dragon were expecting, but as a simple, downloadable puzzle game, it does its job well. TapDragonDrop feels like a part of that same universe and provides a fun, entertaining experience.