reviews\ Dec 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly - GC - Review

Not too long ago, Sony partially owned two enormously popular franchises: Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon.  When the PlayStation 2 arrived, Sony decided not to continue taking part in Crash or Spyro's distribution, giving full rights of both games to Universal Interactive.  Two years later, Crash and Spyro have both gone multi-platform with new developers, designers and artists.  Even though Jason Rubin was no longer there to oversee the game's development, Crash Bandicoot turned out to be better than ever.  Spyro's original creators were not involved with this game either.  That doesn't matter much though, because Universal got the right people to handle the task of developing Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly.

Enter the Dragonfly has one main, gigantic level that links together several other levels, creating one enormous, consistent world.  Most of the areas are very wide-open.  You could go to the end of one level not be able to see everything, regardless of how far you look.  Fog is not used to cover up the backgrounds, and pop-up is nowhere to be found.  But there is so much to see that you have to get closer and closer to each object, enemy, platform or mountain to see it.  Think of it as visiting a small town.  Just because there's a big house a half a mile away does not mean that it is visible from where you are standing.

The architecture is good, though not quite as intricate as other action/adventure games.  That's mainly due to the nature of this game though.  Spyro is more of a runner and a glider, not a jumper and a climber, making it important to create worlds that match his gameplay style.

As such, rocks, mountains and stair-shaped terrain are favored over hovering platforms.  You'll come across a few traditional platforms every now and then, but for the most part Spyro sticks to its own layout.

Spyro may be a dragon, but that doesn't mean he can't have a little electrifying fun every now and then.  Aside from his standard fire-breathing attack, Spyro can acquire a few additional powers: ice, bubbles, lightning and wing shield.  Ice power cannot be obtained until later on in the game, but you'll gain bubbles in less than 30 seconds.  Bubbles are pretty useless against enemies, but it has a purpose for being there: dragonflies.  Dragonflies are Spyro's equivalent to stars, shine or jigsaw puzzles.  The more you collect, the more levels you'll gain access to, and the closer you'll get to completing the game.  Dragonflies are not hidden on top of high mountains or locked inside of a secret cave.  Instead, they roam free through most of the levels, and they must be captured, not collected.  Since they're always on the move, you'll usually end up having to chase them down.  They can't be burned (makes sense, right?), so you'll have to "bubble" them a few times to slow them down enough for you to snatch them.  It's not really that difficult.

The majority of the dragonflies are in easy-to-find areas.  Others are located inside of the Enter the Dragonfly's many mini-games.  These mini-games include such things  a cow collecting game in which you must pilot a UFO and grab six loose cows with your retractor beam, and then carry them into the pen.  An enemy UFO will try to prevent you from accomplishing your mission by stealing the cows first.  A single blast from your laser cannon will make the enemy drop any cows that they are holding, so long as they have not been completely sucked in already.  Another mini-game will have Spyro controlling a tank (yep, you heard right, a tank).  Your mission here is to eliminate every enemy tank in sight before they eliminate you.  Not too difficult, and it's pretty entertaining.

But wait, that's not all.  I only listed two mini-games, and there are several of them!  The classic Spyro obstacle course returns.  The first one requires you to fly through a series of rings, shoot down a few enemy hang gliders, light several Asian-style lanterns (with your fire-breathing power), and burn a couple of pigs.  Everything I just listed must be accomplished before the time runs out (about 90 seconds).

There are other mini-games, but it would take a long time (and a lot of space) to list them all, so let me just end this by saying that if you like good mini-games, you'll definitely like Spyro.  It's packed with mini-games, most of which are simple and geared toward children (the mini-game-loving crowd).  These mini-games are far superior to those featured in Crash Bash, Mario Party and most other so-called "party" games.  The only downside is that they're only for one player.  Most of them wouldn't work as multiplayer games anyway.

After bubbles comes the power of electrocution; lightning.  Lightning doesn't have a whole lot of uses, but there are specific locks that can only be broken with lightning, and a few platforms that won't move without electricity.  Lightning cam also be used as a great weapon.

Then there's the ice power, which is used to freeze things (like enemies).  The wing shield is the least interesting of all the power-ups.  All it does is give Spyro the power to block enemy attacks.  That may sound cool, but why block when you could strike first and prevent an attack from coming?

All is well in the land of Spyro expect for one thing: the story.  This game is clearly aimed at young children.  Why?  I don't know.  The gameplay is good enough (though perhaps too easy) to attract older players.  Yet the story is so ridiculously young that most people will be turned off in the first five minutes.  The kiddie voice-overs are horrendous, and the annoying story is just plain silly.  Not only that but there is a large amount of junk to read for a game that's geared at kids.  I'm sorry, I don't care what anyone says, but the average six-year-old is not going to want to read several pages of text before they can begin playing the game.  They could skip the text, but the game is a tad confusing at first, and if you're not overly familiar with 3D action/adventures, you WILL get lost.  Some of you will look at these things as being minor complaints, but I'm sure there are many gamers that will be annoyed by all of this.

Regardless, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly is an excellent game that's worth a spot on your Christmas list.  I hoped it would be good, but it far exceeded my expectations.  Enter the Dragonfly may have been created by a new development team, but it is still a true game in the series.  To be perfectly honest I like it more than the PSone Spyro games.  I guess it was better that the original developers moved onto something else, because now we have not just one, but two great, brand-new action/adventures to explore -- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly and Ratchet & Clank.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
If you liked Spyro before, or even if you didn't, chances are you'll enjoy Enter the Dragonfly.  It's his best adventure yet, with better levels, better gameplay and slightly improved controls.

Graphics: 6.9
Spyro has a few cool effects, but they're nothing we haven't seen at least a couple of times before.  All of the consoles are capable of producing much better graphics than this.

Sound: 5
The only thing that prevented this game's sound from receiving a lower score is the music, which isn't too bad every now and then.  The voice-overs and sound effects are pure kiddie though.  Think Blue's Clues meets Puff the Magic Dragon.

Difficulty: Easy
Spyro is a blast, but it won't overwhelm you with challenging level objectives.  Like I said, this one is intended for young kids...

Concept: 7.5 
Story aside, Spyro's concept is pretty good.  The additional gameplay elements are nice, as are the new mini-games.

Overall: 7.5
After you finish Mario Sunshine, Spyro is the action/adventure game to buy.  I'd buy it even if I hadn't finished Mario.  It's not the longest game in the world, but this genre is known for having very short games, so I can't complain too much.  Is it better than Crash?  In some ways yes, in some ways no.  If you can afford 'em both, or if your Santa Mom, Santa Dad or Santa Grandparents are feeling generous this year, don't hesitate to make Crash and Spyro the new additions to your GameCube family.


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