"After Insomniac stepped down from the Spyro series after an epic trilogy on PSone, this was the first of the series not developed by them, beginning the fall from grace from a signature franchise. Season of Ice picks up from Spyroís last PlayStation outing, Year of the Dragon, where one of the Sorceressís troops got a trifle bored after being one of the few Rhynocís that didnít fall victim to a toast by Spyro. Failing to endure his forced discharge from service, he thus pinches her spell book to..."
After Insomniac stepped down from the Spyro series after an epic trilogy on PSone, this was the first of the series not developed by them, beginning the fall from grace from a signature franchise. Season of Ice picks up from Spyroís last PlayStation outing, Year of the Dragon, where one of the Sorceressís troops got a trifle bored after being one of the few Rhynocís that didnít fall victim to a toast by Spyro. Failing to endure his forced discharge from service, he thus pinches her spell book to learn a few tricks. But by consequence of poor application he grows another head, and freezes all hundred fairies of the Spyro kingdom to prevent them getting in Grendorís way. Unsurprisingly, it calls for another typical Spyro scavenger hunt where Spyro must rescue all one hundred fairies, and to keep Mr ďIím-not-even-close-to-being-thinĒ Moneybags happy, 7000 gems as well.
On first playing, Season of Ice appears to capture the essence of its PSone days rather soundly. Spyroís gliding abilities have been imported and are essential for the island-jumping elements in levels, his dragon breath is his staple element for eliminating rhynocs and his charge ability hasnít been cut out. The isometric visuals are gorgeous. Spyroís animations are superb and the environments are loaded with intricate depths in detail; waterfalls flowing elegantly and gems lazily float around with a remarkable gleam. Mass collecting and searching every corner for gems and fairies, by either finding them or exchanging items such as lamps or beehives for one, is key to unlocking new levels and worlds.
But emulating the spirit of a Spyro title isnít enough to replicating Insomniacís PSone efforts. Even their original trilogy was in danger of feeling overly formulaic, were it not for some innovative level designs and the plethora of mini-games. This GBA retains only the core aspects and consequently the action gets repetitive and laborious rather fast. The vast-array of differently themed levels are nothing more than generic lifeless themes (ice world, bee-world, factory, etc.) that offer no more than a superficial lick of paint. Each level has predictably the same pattern, objectives and level layouts, lacking any form of diversity. Rhynocs make little movement, often stood there as cannon fodder rarely even making a feeble attempt to attack Spyro. No matter what an NPC moans about what has happened to their home, every level is essentially the same item hunting.
The predominantly island-based level designs where youíre constantly flying from one to the other makes for unavoidable deaths. Things arenít made any easier by the difficult task of perceiving platform heights due to the isometric visuals. Differentiating one part of the level is a merely a memory game of remembering which step was higher than another, constantly backtracking to find more items and accidentally walking around in circles on the same paths itching to find more islands. The unforgiving nature of the levels prevails when certain collectable items have to be scouted again when a life is lost. That coupled with the aforementioned awkwardness of island hopping; itís an irritating experience at the best of times. There are barely any mini-games to vary the theme, often the pinnacle to collecting orbs or eggs previously, with only a simplified rendition of the speedway runs in each world to note.
I always found the first Spyro game the strongest in the series simply because it had atmosphere. Each world would have traps and enemies relevant to them and despite the goal of releasing dragons being the same throughout, it werenít repetitive. On the contrary, any of that kind of thing is sorely lacking here. The scene-setting music has taken a downward plunge to irritating beats and any sense variation is purely cosmetic. Enemies have little variation in their actions, usually sitting stoic in the same spot, levels are predictable island hopping memory games and scavenging for gems and fairies is quite a chore. Indeed, Season of Ice is playable and not plagued by numerous bugs and visually itís a feast. It feels the PSone titles that bought the dragon to fame, but unfortunately, this is the beginning of a chequered aftermath of a series that absolutely dropped to flame. Pun absolutely intended.
Community review by bigcj34 (May 18, 2009)
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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