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The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon Box Art
GENRE
Adventure
DEVELOPER
Etranges Libellules
PUBLISHER
Activision
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-2
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
BUY NOW AT

The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon

The Collins English Dictionary recently added the word “meh” to its pages. The phrase has been used by The Simpsons fans for many years as a way of expressing indifference ever since Bart first used it over a decade ago. If the dictionary people are still thinking about adding a picture next to “meh” I have a suggestion – The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon. Plenty of games are mediocre, but rarely does a title come along that so perfectly represents the spirit of “meh”; it is not good, nor is it really bad, but it is completely mediocre.

visuals

Spyro is a great looking game... theoretically. The aesthetic concept was to create a bright, whimsical fantasy world with interesting locations and plenty of nice lighting and particle effects. The actually execution is, not surprisingly, meh. Aside from the playable characters, models have low polygon counts and poor texture work, while the environments are large but suffer from far too much texture and object pop-in.

Players do get some glimpses of what the game should have looked like during the cutscenes, which appear to have been taken from the 360 or PS2 version of the game. These moments look significantly better but -- in the interest of preventing something good looking from appearing in the game -- the videos are grainy and horribly compressed.

audio

If anything betrays the medicroty of Spyro, it is the music, which is actually quite good. The soundtrack varies from light, atmospheric tracks to grand, sweeping scores of epic proportions. The music is easily, hands down, the best part of the game and is made all the better by the fact that it is all fully orchestrated.

Spyro’s audio takes a dive when it comes to the star-studded voice actors. Elijah Wood and Christina Ricci deliver surprisingly dull performances as the main characters and the esteemed Wayne Brady delivers a performance worthy of imprisonment. Then again, the underwhelming performances are definitely not helped by the writing, which is lackluster.

gameplay

Dawn of the Dragon starts out by immediately confusing people who have not been following the series in recent years. For some reason Spyro and Cynder have been frozen in a crystal for three years, but are soon freed and then shackled together by a group of bad guys. The player takes control as the pair are put into a fiery coliseum to fight for their lives against several waves of bad guys culminating in a massive fire golem. From there on out, the game is long series of combat and platforming segments mixed together with the occasional simple puzzle thrown in for variety. The game is quite linear, though some environments do open up a little bit. As a whole, Spyro adheres to the generic action-adventure formula.

Much of Spyro boils down to the two aforementioned parts -- combat and platforming -- neither of which really stand out. Battling is relatively simple: the B button is the weak attack, shaking the Wii Remote is the strong attack, the C and Z buttons are for magic, and lifting the Nunchuck blocks. The controls actually work perfectly fine; the motion based moves respond just as effectively as the button presses. The problem comes from the overall feel, as battles end up playing a bit like a cross between a button masher and a waggle fest. Though players can switch between Spyro and Cynder on the fly, both feel exactly the same; they share the same combos and even though each has unique elemental magic, most of one character’s spells effectively do the same thing as the other’s spells. Switching characters only becomes useful when the current one is low on health or when you are trying to earn the other experience points that are used to level up magic.

Platforming and exploration also feels quite average. Most levels are quite straightforward; players run, jump, climb and fly to get from one end to the other. The most enjoyable part of this is flying around the game’s far-too-infrequent larger environments. However, the decision to severely limit the dragons’ altitude limits the gameplay. Another good idea that never really pans out are parts of levels that take advantage of the tether holding Spyro and Cynder together. For example, in one area the dragons have to pull a raft upstream; one grabs on to the raft while you switch to other so it can pull the raft along. These parts can be clever but are underutilized. Also, the linear level design and simple move set make finding the hidden power ups and armor ridiculously easy and unsatisfying. However, the addition of incredibly strong enemies hidden throughout the world does not really pan out due to the simple fact that they are far-too-powerful; they will destroy you dragons in a couple of hits and can only be defeated by specific and repetitious attack patterns. The power ups they hide are best forgotten.

Lastly, the difficulty of the game presents a problem because of its sheer schizophrenia. Most of Spyro is an absolute breeze: the platforming is simple, enemies are easy to clobber, and health and magic restoring crystals are plentiful. From time to time, however, the game decides to throw in unnecessary spikes of brutality by throwing in very long combat segments in confined areas with significantly fewer opportunities for health restoration. One area has Spyro and Cynder defending a city from atop its walls as an invading army approaches in a scene highly reminiscent of Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings. The dragons have to constantly run back and forth, taking out magic-draining siege towers, defending a canon, and dealing with endless waves of enemies. Sections like these drag on for far too long and prove to be greater tests of patience than skill.

multiplayer

One undoubtedly nice feature is the option to switch in and out of two player co-op at any time and experiencing something with a friend will almost always make it better. The overall game is unchanged, but any human could easily outperform the AI and make some of the more tedious battles go by quicker. However, the game still remains largely mediocre and this option would be better suited for a parent and child or two young siblings rather than the hardcore duos that eat Contra for breakfast.

overall

Spyro keeps things planted firmly in the middle of the good / bad spectrum. Even though there are some good ideas, the execution fails to live up to them. The environments and characters are designed nicely but are realized with technical blandness. The music is simply beautiful but the voice acting and sound effects are only mediocre. The gameplay functions perfectly well but none of it is particularly innovative or interesting. Even the overall length of the game falls in the middle at ten to twelve hours.

Regardless of this extreme mediocrity, There are probably some gamers out there who could find plenty of fun. The game’s overall tone and simplicity will probably play well with younger gamers so long as more experienced gamer sibling or parent is around to join up for the more difficult parts. However, for the adventure fans still looking for a fix, go back and give Twilight Princess another playthrough instead.



final score 6.0/10





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Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"


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