|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Etranges Libellules||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Vivendi||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 21, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
When the title throws jumping puzzles your way, the best you'll usually be able to do is double-jump, glide, and, if necessary, thrust yourself forward to grab hold of a climbable surface. (You'll master these techniques early, in perhaps the most annoying jumping puzzle every to appear in a game's first stage. There are multiple jumps that require exacting precision, at least for someone who's just getting used to the controls, and if you miss a single one, you end up back at the bottom and have to start all over again.) At other times, you can fly effortlessly over long stretches of terrain. It doesn't help that once in the air, your dragon is hard to control.
Fourth, the game constrains players' movements in a number of ways. Sometimes the right stick will rotate the camera a full 360 degrees, but at other times only a few degrees in either direction is possible. This makes it tough to get a feel for your surroundings. Also, you'll run into invisible walls a lot; they cordon off everything from the edge of the game's universe to shortcuts between trees.
When you're not exploring, you're fighting. You have two dragons, Spyro and Cynder, which you can switch between with the push of a button. (Your partner won't die when you're not controlling him or her, but won't help out much either, and once in awhile will get stuck while traveling.) As already mentioned, the dragons can perform melee attacks in addition to casting magic spells. The fighting, unfortunately, rarely requires the player to use these moves in a nuanced manner, and, as such, it's no more fun than the exploring.
For the most part, you'll face off against waves and waves of relatively easy enemies. Button-mashing is the typical tactic here, as there are often so many enemies coming from so many directions that no real strategy is possible. When it comes to the forgettable boss battles, you'll die a few times getting to know the patterns and weak spots.
Easily, though, the worst fights are against "Elite" enemies. Technically, you can simply walk away from these battles (something the game doesn't bother to inform you; you can either discover it by accident or read about it online). Even as bonus missions, however, these face-offs are brutal. A few hits will kill you, and typically, only one of your many available magic spells will do any damage. The fact that your other moves don't hurt the enemy is far from obvious, unless you keep a close eye on the various stats that pop up on the screen. Add in the fact that there's no way to tell which spell will work (it's rarely something obvious like using fire on an ice enemy), and it's a mountain of trial-and-error frustration.
As you explore and fight your way through the game, the story unfolds. This game begins with Spyro and Cynder becoming unfrozen after three years (they were put in crystal following their fight with Gaul). Enemies break them out and bond them together with snakes that look like electric bolts, a conceit that explains why they're never apart during this game. They start with a boss battle against Golem (a bit demanding for newcomers, but manageable), and go off in search their archenemy, the Dark Master.
When it comes right down to it, it's hard to imagine who would enjoy this game. Certainly, the five people who've beaten both the previous Legend of Spyro titles might want to know how it ends. But for kids, an obvious target audience given the childish-looking dragons and bright color palette, this title is too boring, too hard, and possibly too long (10 or so hours). Adults can find better games in which to mash buttons and break random items, and even they might find the Elite enemies too much to handle.
It's also hard to be so dismissive of this game, because the developers put together about 90 percent of a first-class title. The graphics are there, the story is there, and the mechanics are just a few tweaks shy of perfect. Yet when it comes to gameplay, that final and most important 10 percent, most folks will find themselves getting bored, lost, annoyed, or all three.
CCC Freelance Writer