Parents have been struggling to entertain their children on car rides since the dawn of motorized vehicles, but Nokia thinks it's finally come up with a solution - in the form a mobile game, no less.
The game is Dragons Adventure, a new experience that begins when the car starts moving and ends when the car stops. The game was released in November, and TechRadar recently got a chance to go for a ride along with the title.
It's a licensed game based on Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon, made possible thanks to a partnership between Nokia and the film company. It's designed to alleviate the stress parents often experience getting their kids in the car, entertaining them on the drive, and then getting them to put that entertainment down.
When a child gets in the car, he or she starts Dragons Adventure and selects a destination: school, home, etc. The game uses GPS and the evolution of the mapping tech Nokia acquired when it bought Navteq in 2007 (now called "HERE") to recreate your real-life route in a fantasy setting, and a small in-game vehicle follows along. Real world landmarks like gas stations, schools and bodies of water are represented in the game world, and kids have a number of things to do on the journey. When the car reaches its real-life destination, the level is over, and the game ends.
Thus the kiddo is kept occupied, but there's no struggle to wrest the tech away from them at the end of the journey.
Parents or passengers can also start or stop the game for their children, select the destination, or even play along by giving them boosts and bonuses, all from a companion app on their smartphones.
And all of this is only available on Nokia Lumia devices.
What the Lumia can do
"Our goal is to really show off the technology," Nokia Global Innovation and App Development Producer Pete Mauro told TechRadar. We chatted and watched him play Dragons Adventure on a Lumia 2520 in the backseat of an SUV cruising around Echo Park in Los Angeles.
There are no in-app purchases in Dragons Adventures, so parents don't have to worry about their offspring racking up huge bills. And the game comes pre-loaded on Lumia 2520 tablets.
"This thing has a super-fast processor in it and it has mobile broadband and GPS, and so there's a lot of unique things," Mauro said. "I mean, I don't think you could have done this on a tablet six months ago even."
As we watched a cartoony cart on the tablet's screen follow a dirt track that took the same twists and turn as our real-life route, a location called the Center for Nonviolent Education and Parenting popped up in the game as an interaction point to be tapped. It felt appropriate.
The app itself is a strange combination of GPS and video game graphics; it looks like any other game, but displays the name of the street you're currently on and the distance left to your destination. If you get caught in traffic the road turns muddy and the in-game avatar slows down. If it rains outside, it rains in the game, pulling weather data from Weather.com, Mauro explained.
There are combat mini-games where the speed of players' dragons increases with the speed of the car they're being driven around in. It rewards kids who play it often on the same route, i.e. to school or sports practice, with extra bonuses.
How to train your Kung Fu Panda
The game can be played at home and when the drive ends, of course. The materials players collect on drives can be used to train their dragons when not in motion, and there are other mini-games as well.
But the fun won't stop with Dragons Adventure - Mauro discussed future plans involving other Dreamworks licenses and other materials now that Nokia has built the framework on Lumia devices.
"We really created this whole platform, so of course we're going to work on other things with Dreamworks," he said. "We can make a Kung Fu Panda version of this if we want to. You know, just create a different world.
"But we've created this whole core mapping technology around this with the 3D transformation, and so we could really do any kind of experience. Like if we wanted to see what it's like to drive through LA 100 years ago or during the gold rush or something, we could make educational experiences. So we're exploring a lot of different ideas around it."
Dragons Adventure is available now for Nokia Lumia devices.
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Michael Rougeau is a former freelance news writer for TechRadar. Studying at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Northeastern University, Michael has bylines at Kotaku, 1UP, G4, Complex Magazine, Digital Trends, GamesRadar, GameSpot, IFC, Animal New York, @Gamer, Inside the Magic, Comic Book Resources, Zap2It, TabTimes, GameZone, Cheat Code Central, Gameshark, Gameranx, The Industry, Debonair Mag, Kombo, and others.
Micheal also spent time as the Games Editor for Playboy.com, and was the managing editor at GameSpot before becoming an Animal Care Manager for Wags and Walks.