"How To Train Your Dragon" offers surprising thrills

(NBC) - What began as a children's novel has ended up on the big screen as a 3-D animated feature and finally, a related video game with two distinct styles of play in "How To Train Your Dragon".

Dreamworks animated films often make for good family-friendly video games and this one is all about taking off the training wheels.

Activision's "How to Train Your Dragon" goes several steps beyond the last Dreamworks property created for the game console, "Monsters vs. Aliens", with an approach that offers both a fantasy story line and head-to-head combat.

Centered around a Viking teenager out to fulfill a tribal rite of passage, conceptually the plot is similar to the 1960's Disney film "The Sword in the Stone", while the video game blends some aspects of adventures like The "Legend of Zelda" with a dash of the "Street Fighter" series.

Though the title may suggest it, it's nothing at all like the arcade classic "Dragon's Lair." It's just a simplistic story mode that requires a reasonable amount of patience and a multi-player fight mode best served with dragons you've created and trained.

There's plenty of clever mini-games to go along with the training process and in a world where movie-inspired video games are typically uninspiring, or just plain bad, this one will exceed expectations.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.