The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning
Developer: Krome Studios
Publisher: Sierra
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
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I was expecting the Spyro licence to either remain in the budget game doldrums or slip off the radar entirely, but Sierra and Krome studios have given Spyro a new lease of life. In case you haven't played any of the Spyro games before, he's a plucky little dragon who likes running and jumping around platforms beating up baddies. Where this differs from its earlier incarnations and its endless cute character platform game peers is that it has been implemented with genuine flair.

As the title suggests, Spyro's story has been retold from the very beginning from being whisked away from the evil Cynder's forces (bad dragon) by Ignitus (a good dragon) to be brought up by a family of dragonflies in a swamp. An obligatory tutorial later and you're soon in the thick of it - fighting Cynder's forces of predominantly evil Baboons Warriors.

This initial fight (ignoring the tutorial 'hit the evil plants' battle) is where Spyro learns his first power; how to breathe fire. Over time this and other learned powers can be beefed up by picking up crystals left by defeated enemies and destroyed items. One of the odd power quirks I found was Spyro's power over electricity he learns later in the game with which he can throw enemies around. One neat trick is being able to throw enemies from high places to defeat them. Oddly, the height the enemy falls from does not have to be too far to prove fatal. I don't want to seem too mean in griping about this as it is not a glaring error but it's surprising that this wasn't picked up during playtesting.

While playing the game there was an odd sense of familiarity quite apart from the stuff one would normally expect in platform games. The fairly relentless combo-laden combat, flicking between the power up types using the directional control pad, the layout and model behind the skill improvement screen... this is just like God of War! I'm certain that this is a little joke on the part of the developers but ultimately the game benefits from all these features so I'm not complaining.

Things do start to feel a little samey about two thirds of the way through the game. Most of the enemies have been met at some point and sadly a Baboon warrior wearing furs on a snowy level is much the same as a Baboon warrior on an Aztec-themed level. The game’s difficulty is increased by adding more enemies rather than altering them in any obvious fashion. The occasional diversion of a flying section (and one bit with a runaway minecart) help though.

On completing the game, as there are no other modes or things to unlock other than a short interview with Elijah Wood talking about how great working on Spyro was, the game's replay value is low. You are allowed to replay from the beginning keeping all the skills you learned the first time through, but the repetitive nature of the combat makes the idea of doing it all again seem like a chore.

To go back to the presentation, this feels like a game that has had a lot of polish money spent on it. The levels are drawn to give it a colourful yet gloomy depth rather than a bright primary colour-laden cartoony look. The charismatic character models are well designed and animated. I especially love the baboons, Their grunting and cackling makes beating them up enormously satisfying. There are also some pretty visual effects like light distortions around big explosions and fire effects that all add to the mood. They've also got some good voice actors in. Elijah Wood puts on a youthful plucky voice for Spyro, David Spade as Spyro's genuinely amusing side kick dragonfly step-brother Sparx, and Gary Oldman adds some gravitas to Spyro's main mentor Ignitus.

In summary, it's a surprisingly good game that's worth a look as long as you don't expect the earth.

Best Bits

- Sumptuous presentation
- Good voice acting
- Fun
Worst Bits

- Not much replay value
- Can get repetitive

by: Jason Rainbird

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