- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

A child explores the fiery worlds of mythological beasts in Dragonology: The Video Game (from Codemasters for the DS, $29.99).

Based on Templar Publishing’s wildly popular Ology series of books, the game taps into the folklore surrounding the last remaining copy of a 19th-century dragon-keeper’s manual.

An apprentice wielding Nintendo’s handheld console completes tasks and interacts with dragons on the road to becoming a Master of Dragonology.

The game mixes role-playing elements with 16 minigames — even tending to a virtual pet — to offer a very enjoyable, mission-loaded experience.

The action begins after a player picks a male or female apprentice avatar. Dr. Ernest Drake quickly indoctrinates the apprentice while the player moves him around the esteemed dragonologist’s castle and grounds. Locations include a storehouse that holds equipment to use on a journey (purchased with collected gems), a laboratory for mixing potions, a castle library and museum, a dragon refuge, and an area to go on expeditions.

The apprentice’s primary goal is traveling in a zeppelin to exotic locations around the world, using contraptions to collect relics and fossils, and tracking and sometimes trapping dragons.

A typical mission might involve photographing an 82-year-old dragon in Guyana while it’s eating to determine its gender. The player will need to buy a camera, a dragon whistle and supply of roasted chickens at the storehouse, and travel to a forested area containing nine sections to explore. He has 15 minutes to find the dragon and collect evidence while avoiding ferocious animals and making nice with the natives.

In this case, he may use the stylus to control a magnifying glass to examine a bone for gnaw marks or inspect a tooth while clearing bugs away from it. More complex challenges include making a plaster imprint of a footprint (blow into the DS microphone to help it dry) and even examine some dung (using a test tube and rhythm game) — a silly but guaranteed giggle.

Once the dragon area is found, determined by the largest amount of evidence found in the area, the player uses a whistle to call the dragon.

A lively animation follows as the player tries to shoot a picture of the Draco Americanus Mex munching on a chicken using the DS’ full complement of buttons to zoom in and capture the image.

Every expedition is that dense and should keep the 10-year-old dragon lover in the family riveted to the screen.

Quests require following directions, natives will help (for a price) in locations, analyzing evidence in the field and deductive reasoning to root out the dragon.

Mathematical skills come into play when capturing a dragon. Opening the cage requires cracking a combination lock’s code. The apprentice spins a numbered wheel and stops at specific numbers to match the combination’s digits. He also can stop on larger numbers and add the combination answers together as part of the solution.

Also, for those convinced dragons exist, the library houses a detailed encyclopedia about all of the flying creatures. It grows denser as expeditions are completed and acquired relics can be viewed in museum display cases.

A player eventually encounters six species of dragons, including Asian Lung, Frost, European and Wyvern.

The budding researcher also must care for a dragon and get it ready to return to the wild. A combination of feeding it roasted chickens (target its mouth), playing hide and seek with it and flight training are required. By the way, the flying challenge is brutal.

Dragonology: The Video Game never disappoints.

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