I have to admit I’m behind on children’s cinema. I totally haven’t seen Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon. Though they’re clearly from the same world, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t follow the same plot as PikPok’s DreamWorks Dragons: TapDragonDrop ($2.99), which is about kids riding dragons to herd sheep. But really, that seems like an innovative solution to a common problem, no?
Though it takes a few levels to reveal its workings, DreamWorks Dragons is a game of logic puzzles. You’re given a few tools, things a dragon could reasonably be expected to do, like roaring, picking up rocks, smashing things and burning stuff. With them, you need to run through a series of levels about herding sheep into their pens. But the stakes are high: each step needs to be completed in the right order or you’ll end up withcharbroiled sheep on your hands. Mmm, mutton.
Once you’ve unlocked all of your dragon’s abilities, they line up in icons down the left side of the screen. This dragon is well-trained; just drag an icon for an action to the spot you want it to be performed and Toothless will handle it. He’ll fly there and act out your command, be it burning trees, crushing statues, or lifting and dropping rocks. The only thing he can’t do is carry the sheep for you, which is fair enough. I mean, would you let a dragon carry you around?
The game is balanced for a younger audience, of course, so it might take a while before it starts to pose a serious challenge. But while the difficulty curve is shallow, DreamWorks Dragons eventually gets pretty great. The sheep are incredibly vulnerable, and later levels are designed to take full advantage of that. A single mistake means you’ll probably roast a sheep, or drop it off a cliff, or feed it to a shark. No one wants that—or at least they wouldn’t if the animations weren’t so fantastic. I definitely killed sheep in every way possible just to, um, watch them die.
Morbid curiosity aside, killing sheep is not just a bad thing to do; it will also hurt your level rank. Each level has a three star rating to aim for, with one star awarded for completing the level, one star for saving all the sheep, and one star for doing it all within a set number of actions. At first it’s hard not to get three stars. But things pick up by around the midway point of the game.
Some of the later levels get pretty ridiculous, in fact, with drawbridges, catapults, gates and such to manage on top of the usual cliffs and rocks and bridges and hay. There are forty levels in the main game, with twenty more available via an in-app purchase. That second pack gives you the Deadly Nadder to control, which can use its tail spines to create ladders for sheep. This ability is nearly as silly as it looks, but it adds a new challenge into the mix.
Each group of 20 levels also has 9 hidden treasures to be found. Frustrated? Go treasure hunting, since it usually means burning down every stand of trees in your path. You’ll also unlock a bonus level for each set of three treasures you find. Once you’re through those, there’s one more way to play: most of the Game Center achievements revolve around “losing" sheep in a variety of horrifying ways.
If you’re not in the target audience, DreamWorks Dragons probably won’t blow you away. It takes a bit too long to get into and ultimately lacks in variety. But every aspect of the game has been built with PikPok’s trademark care. It’s hard to turn down gorgeous animation and well-crafted levels. If you’re a fan of How To Train Your Dragon, this game is definitely worth a download. If you’re not, you’ll still find a solid set of logic puzzles within. Given how awful movie tie-ins tend to be, DreamWorks Dragons deserves to be recognized. It’s definitely one of the good ones, so check it out—then swing by our discussion thread to share your thoughts.