A world where candy is a precious commodity to be mined and sold. A prison where the bars aren't always so obvious. A beast that slumbers beneath the ocean, dreaming of a brighter world. And now? Gregory Weir wants you to choose your own path in How to Raise a Dragon, an interactive story with more than one outcome. A lot more.
This game is about you. Well, actually, it's about a newly hatched dragon, but the narrative that unfolds as you progress does a surprisingly good job about drawing you into the role. You'll begin the game breaking out of your egg, all alone in the middle of the forest. Well, except for all these intriguing plants and bugs to eat. But it won't stay that idyllic for long. Use the [arrow] keys to move right and left around the screen, and [X] to eat certain things. While early on tapping [Z] or [Y] will only make you jump, as you progress you'll be able to tap it twice to leap even higher, or multiple times to fly. And of course, once you get old enough, you can use [C] to breathe fire. Or maybe something... else?
The story unfolds over four chapters, each with different things to see and do. While you can barrel through the game in under five minutes if you really try, you'll be missing a lot. The second chapter is where your decisions start to have real importance, so take your time, explore, and consider your options. Do you want vengeance? Do you want to forgive? Or do you just want to be left alone?
Once you complete the story, the game allows you to return to any chapter you like and play from there on. It's a nice touch that lets you really explore everything the story has to offer, without necessarily replaying the entire thing. Although, why you wouldn't want to, we can't imagine. Unless you were a robot with a heart of circuitry and gears for imagination. You're not a robot, are you?
Analysis: While it doesn't have quite the emotional impact of The Majesty of Colors, How to Raise a Dragon is still pretty impressive. Being able to reach an end more ambivalent than either laying waste to everything you see or being the sort of dewy-eyed protector fourteen-year-old girls doodle in their notebooks was refreshing. I just wish it were longer; I felt like the bulk of the outcome was riding solely on that second chapter, and it would have been nice to have more than one or two decisions determine my destiny.
But what the story lacks in length it makes up for in charm. The pages from the fictional book the story mimics appear before and after major decisions, and do a great job of gently guiding you to your objectives without making you feel like the game is yelling, "HEY STUPID. WHY DONTCHA FLAP ON OVER HERE?" A more direct approach, or telling you exactly which items did what, would have both made the player feel hectored and taken away the great sense of wonder the game has.
While this story unfortunately isn't dragon-bite-sized, it remains a solidly enjoyable treat. It doesn't break any molds the way Gregory Weir's previous games have, but it does tell one heck of a story. And with so many potential outcomes, why not take a different path next time and see what the future holds?
Update: Gregory Weir has made an update that incporates several fixes, a new behaviour, and the ability to use the [Y] key as an alternative jump key.