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Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly (PlayStation 2) artwork

Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly (PlayStation 2) review

"Oh Spyro. How unfortunate such a franchise suffered a fate that parallels with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot. Once good on its console of origin, but a step up on to following platforms and he’s lost his sense of what he was. Yet despite their console mediocrity, they seemed to get it right on portable formats with relatively pleasing results. "

Oh Spyro. How unfortunate such a franchise suffered a fate that parallels with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot. Once good on its console of origin, but a step up on to following platforms and he’s lost his sense of what he was. Yet despite their console mediocrity, they seemed to get it right on portable formats with relatively pleasing results.

Insomniac, the original developers of the series, ditched this after their epic trilogy on the PSone in favour of the blockbuster Ratchet and Clank. Unfortunately Universal passed this onto the hands of some amateur Sunday afternoon development team to ruin the franchise for good. Or at least, Spyro never really found its claws since this. After years of believing that the Spyro formula just couldn’t be ruined…it was.

The fact that each level took a solid minute to load certainly didn’t set a very positive first impression. The storyline seemed typical of the classic Spyro titles, except that the new developers couldn’t be bothered of thinking up of any new characters so Ripto makes a surprising comeback that you would care so much about. That’s the first lesson for the developers: only Nintendo franchises can get away with re-using the same characters. Beating Ripto again just doesn’t have that same sense of satisfaction as stomping Bowser for one last time. As for the actual story-line, Ripto has stolen all the dragonflies and it is Spyro’s job to go collect them. Plus a few gems as well, this is a Spyro game after all.

One dreadful cut-scene later and into the home world, the graphics engine right down to the text fonts looks disturbingly similar from previous Spyro’s but with slightly shinier characters. Well, they’re better at least. The level structure is no different, with a home-world that grants access to the various levels on offer. Not messed up yet then. After having a quick skim of the home world and checking the level inventory it appears to be that this is the home-world with a measly nine levels! By the end of the game it could only turn out to be a bloody good thing.

The key question here is: how did Spyro plunge into extinction? Basically, this PS2 outing uses the same formula Spyro: Year of the Dragon used and ruins it. Even though YOTD was pretty good, the formula was starting to feel a little worn. Unfortunately here little changes: the graphics engine is identical, catching dragonflies only replaces collecting eggs or orbs often found by completing mini-games. Even Moneybags returns to underline that déjŕ vu feeling, making a cameo appearance to demand some gems to open a bridge which he doesn’t even give back to you. The only new addition this titles offers is the ability to breathe different breaths. So as well as fire breath, Spyro can breath thunder and ice, plus bubbles to catch dragonflies. Excellent. As if power-ups before didn’t serve that purpose anyway.

Level designs are hopelessly bland, with environments which seem to lack much colour variation with not really a great deal to explore. Instead levels are filled with mini-games mostly identical to its PSone reiterations; shooting space cows with a gun, collecting items in a time limit or the speedways where you either race things or fly through rings and destroy moving boats amongst others, four sets of them, in a set amount of time. In other words, you’ve done it all before. Yes you have. End of. Now you can look forward to your prize of another dragonfly that the unenthusiastically voiced NPC just realised he had stuffed up his rectum.

Just in case you didn’t get the hint and decided to carry on playing through the painstakingly uninspiring levels, the notorious amount of glitches may stop you. None of the glitches would be that serious in their own right, but they’re so many it’s as if you’ve had an army of ants run up your pants: you could live with one, but not thousands. Anyway, the list spawns on with poor collision detection with invisible walls or platforms where you fall right through, stopping music, random crashes, levels that disappear, a stuttery frame-rate, you name it, it’s probably there. The amount of bugs seems to undermine whatever sense of playability this title offers. Throw in some voice-acting from actors who probably couldn’t be bothered reading from the dreadful script in the first place and a repetitive soundtrack from an equally unenthused Stuart Copeland, the cut-scenes and character dialogues will only keep you rapid-firing the X button. The lip-synching still looks like The Muppets miming along to the voice, but it’s hardly the worst of this titles offences’.

In fairness though, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly does have its moments and is playable if you can overcome the laundry list of bugs. It sticks to the Spyro formula of old and at least plays like a Spyro game, but when moving on to a new format we want more. Keep the fundamentals of the formula but twist them into something new, but not like successive Spyro games that have gone too far and ditched the fundamentals, adding poorly implemented RPG and combat elements. But the case here is that ETD tries to be as good as the worn PSone reiterations yet fails spectacularly. Anything that could go wrong with Insomniac’s formula has gone wrong here; this is a manifest of what was actually bad about Spyro on the PSone.

Behind the sub-standard production values of this title, Spyro Enter the Dragonfly is playable with some enjoyable moments amongst its blandness, with enough to make keen fans persevere to the end. However, that’s probably the only real positive point here as the glitches, unoriginal rehashes of before, poor voice-overs and mediocre graphics diminishing the very ordinary game-play anyway. There are far better titles to burn your money on, such as the Ratchet and Clank series Insomniac since made. As for the tragedy that became of the Spyro tale, it saw some fairly decent GBA releases; subsequent console titles improved the series but never really resurrected it from its grave. Insomniac quit while they were ahead, as they rightly knew that Spyro had been extinguished of his fiery breath.

bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (December 06, 2008)

Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.

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