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Monday, June 29, 2009

How to Raise a Dragon - Game of the Day

What is it?How to Raise a Dragon is a unique retro-looking platforming adventure game of sorts where you’ll not only play the role of a dragon from the time it hatches until adulthood, and determine its ultimate fate.

Who made it? – The game was created by Gregory Weir, the talented developer behind other great adventure games like The Majesty of Colors and Bars of Black and White.

How does it play?How to Raise a Dragon is a strange and unique beast. You begin the game as a small dragon hatchling, navigating your environment in search of food. The food you consume as a youngster will determine the color of your dragon, as well as predispose him to the type of dragon-breath he’ll be able to use later in life. The rest of the game consists of two more stages in the dragon’s life, plus a “special” level, which I won’t ruin for you here. The things your dragon eats and the actions it takes will all impact how the story progresses.

Presentation – The graphics are lovingly rendered in old-school 8-bit style, and Weir’s deft use of chunky pixels is charmingly effective. Storybook panels pop-up in a tutorial-like way to provide various information about dragon evolution, and the sound effects and minimal music are crisp and effective.

Positives – The challenge (and reward) of How to Raise a Dragon is not in getting to the end of the game, but rather how you get there. Each level has a relatively large number of choices and actions that will influence later decisions, including which ending you receive. Without knowing exactly how many possible endings there are, I can say that played through the game four times prior to writing this review; and each story played out differently, depending on various decisions I made.

Each time you complete the game, you replay any stage, tweaking your dragon’s attributes (which will need to be unlocked via prior playthoughs), and attempting different story-outcomes. Very cool stuff.

Negatives – If the whole “retro, 8-bit, pixilated” look really turns you off, you might have a tough time getting into this one. The game also doesn’t pack much of a traditional challenge (unless you’re trying to achieve a specific outcome).

Why you should play itHow to Raise a Dragon is worth playing through at least a couple of times to see at least a couple of different endings, but may keep you engaged for much longer. It’s simple to play, employs a unique concept, and is highly replayable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I hear the sound of an egg hatching.

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