If ever there was a reason to reach inside the television and begin throttling, it's David Spade as Sparx the dragonfly in The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning. As the cutesy sidekick in this action game, the cloying comic proves to be equal parts grating and repulsive. "Over here, mauve boy," he'll bleat at regular intervals, and his sneering, nasal tone never loses its charm because, simply, it never had any.
You'll have to suffer through Spade even as a reborn Spyro soars in this oftentimes enchanting adventure. Developer Krome takes over the venerable license here, crafting a prequel of sorts that's goofy and fun, even it tends to be a little too concerned about flash and sizzle for its own good.
The Spyro series takes a Biblical bent here. The purple dragon is foretold as a savior of sorts and is sent Moses-style down the river to live with adoptive parents. It's heavyhanded, to be sure, but is quickly dropped as Spyro (voiced with some skill by Elijah Wood) and his "brother" Sparx set out on a quest to uncover his roots and defeat an evil dragon.
More action-heavy than the previous games in the Spyro series, Beginning has players whomping almost non-stop on giant frost monsters, floating skeletons and semi-intelligent, dynamite-hucking gibbons. Here, the game offers a series of air- and ground-based attacks, including combination strikes, but seems content to provide an endless blur of monsters that can be handled with simple tail-whips.
It's suitably mindless fare, and only really bogs down when enemies clog the screen and the game - which loves its speed lines and crazy particle effects - tends to make it all but impossible for players to see what's going on and who, exactly, is pummeling who.
An upgradable power scheme lets players choose from four different, elementally-themed breath styles, and then customize them by collecting crystals and allocating them toward augmentations. It's a nice concession, perhaps, to older players who might not be as enthralled with the game's love of bright colors and cheery environments. A series of well-done flying sequences bridge the game's various stages, and the shifting of gears is very much welcome after an extended series of brawls.
It's a fine new Beginning for one of the original PlayStation's flagship characters. Soar on, you crazy dragon.