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Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly

Review By:  Christopher Coey

Developer:  Equinoxe
Publisher:  Universal Interactive
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  1-21-03

I must say, I have a place in my heart for any game (or movie, or television show) that involves (or depicts, or even mentions) alien cow abductions. Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly goes one step further by having an entire level pretty much devoted to the subject. Cheers.

As if thatís not enough, Iíll tell you a little more about the game: The alien cows were my favorite part of course, but generally I found Spyro enjoyable. It was, however, marred by a lot of minor glitches and hiccups. The worst glitch I experienced involved my Dragonfly sidekick, Sparx. Generally, Sparx flies by your side, zipping here and there collecting gems, or other items for you. Since the hit detection is, uh letís say, random, it really helped to have the little guy flying over to collect things for me rather than trying to run over to them myself. If you get hurt in the game, Sparx changes color from yellow, to blue, to green, then heís out (at which point, if you take another hit, you loose a life.) First off, can we all agree that if you are one hit away from loosing a life, maybe green isnít the best color to indicate this? Iím thinking RED would have been better, but Iím just being nitpicky. To regain energy, Sparx must eat butterflies that Spyro finds in breakable jars. At one point in the game, for some unknown reason, Sparx just decided to no longer collect things for me. He was one point away from being knocked out, and there were two butterflies actually following us around, but he just stopped doing anything at all. This was only a problem because I was near the end of a level, and resetting the game, and reloading would have put me back at the beginning. I ended up dying, and having to restart anyhow.

The aforementioned restart aside, this game is far from what I would consider challenging. Itís a good length; the levels are big, and varied. But very little gameplay requires much effort, or more than a couple tries. There are 9 levels to explore, and each takes about an hour to fully complete. That is: collecting all dragonflies, and all treasure. These days a 10 or 12-hour game is fairly standard. But, thatís only if youíre really taking your time. Itís possible to race through the game if you really wanted to.

One thing that does increase the challenge of the game is the imprecise controls. Being that this is a platformer, I think the running and jumping parts of the game should be a tad more accurate. That, plus the poor collision detection problems are another two major marks against this game. Also disappointing was the lack of interactivity within the environments. I know that the developers were going for a more friendly type of dragon than say those in Reign of Fire, but if Iím breathing flames, I expect things to catch fire. There are a few nice, small touches in the graphics and effects, but nothing all that impressive. While Iím on the subject of flying dragons (does anyone see where this is going?): why is a dragon with wings the main character in a platformer? Now, Iím not knocking Spyro, because I think heís a great character, but why is it that he can sore like an eagle during the flying mini-games; but during the main game, if he misses a ledge while jumping, he falls miles to his death? Arenít jumping and ledges supposed to be what MAKE a platformer, a platformer.

The gameplay is the standard fair typical in nearly all platformers: collect this or that, find coins or money, gain new abilities, open up locked areas, etc. In this case, you collect dragonflies (90 in all), find treasure in the form of gems, and open up new areas with your breath attacks. Throughout the game you can obtain four different attacks (bubble, fire, lightning, ice), and a defensive shield. No special extra items, but there are a couple of other limited attacks and abilities. Not to mention four different vehicles to pilot, or use in combat, during some of the mini-games.

The character work in this game is exceptional. Again, keep in mind that this game is geared towards a younger set. But the number of allies, and enemies is huge. Most of the allies and friends have major speaking roles; nearly all of which were voiced superbly by the voice-talent (including, apparently, Michael Dorn as "additional voices" [who plays Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation]) The characters themselves are drawn and animated well. There is very much of a late 80ís Saturday morning cartoon feel to this game (possibly because most of the cartoons on Saturday morning in the late 80ís we actually based on video games. Anyone else remember Q-Bert with the same fondness I do?)

This review wouldnít be complete if I failed to mention load times. Itís not that they are ridiculously long, or that there are too may of them, exactly. But it did seem like I was watching various load screen animations a little too often.

The standout part of this game is the variety of mini-games. For the Ďfansí, there are the sliding games and the flying/race games. But after that there are a few new tricks. One involving a tower climb, with giant spiders and poison darts. Another involving a maze-like puzzle of rotating and moving layers. Overall, a good diversity.

Collecting the dragonflies is mostly straightforward, with a few notable exceptions. Unlike a lot of games these days, the casual gamer, with a little persistence, can complete this game to 100%. I enjoyed the fact that every single lost dragonfly was personally named. Some of the names were obviously inside jokes for the developers, others were subtle references: like the fact that one was named Neo, and another Morpheus; then there was Goose and Maverick (sensing a theme?). My favorite Ďoff the wallí name was Tashistation. Who knows where that came from?

The opening of this game was very promising. There was a cute animation, and even the introduction of a small story (all be it a little reminiscent of pre-school.) I had high hopes that the game would be full of cut-scenes and story moments. No such luck. There was only one mid-game animation of conscience (which wasnít nearly as long, or involved as the opening.) Plus, although the game wasnít extremely challenging, itís not exactly a small task finding all 90 dragonflies. And unlike most of the new breed of platformer, you actually need to find ALL of them in order to Ďclearí the game. Once you do however, donít expect any end-game animations. Nope, just the credits. In order to get another animation, you need to find all the gems (for a total treasure count of 7000!) Then, after defeating the final (and only) boss once again, youíll get a brief closing scene. Not much of a reward for all that searching.

Highs:

  • Spyro is a strong character, as he's endearing and familiar
  • Good use of music throughout the levels
  • Almost completely inoffensive and very kid friendly

Lows:

  • No bosses (except the final battle) and very little change in difficulty throughout the game
  • Glitchy, glitchy, glitchy.  Freezing, leveling problems.  Minor clipping and framerate issues.
  • Hit detection and controls are spotty.

Final Verdict:

Of the rash of current platformers (Super Mario Sunshine, Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank), Spyro is the Ďliteí version. Itís not as flashy as Ratchet, the graphics are not as visually stunning as Sly, and itís not as immense or challenging as Super Mario. This game is designed more for the early teen set, and the parents of those younger. To all of you mothers and fathers out there with young, impressionable gamers in the house, this one is a good choice. Spyro is a great character, and worthy of a franchise. This game is fun, not overly challenging, but still a good length, and entertaining.

Overall Score: 6.1

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