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Ever since Spyro the Dragon first glided onto the PlayStation 10 years ago, he’s been struggling to find solid footing in the platform gaming world. His games have been criticized in the past for being overly complicated for younger gamers yet too childish for older ones. Unfortunately, Dawn of the Dragon is pretty much more of the same.
You know when the very first thing a game chucks at you is a load of enemies followed by a huge God of War-style boss battle involving a giant rock monster attacking you from a pit of lava that Dawn of the Dragon is trying its best to impress. And impress it does. For the most part it’s an extremely detailed and atmospheric game, with some nice graphical set-pieces and the like. The voice-acting’s also impressive for the most part, with Elijah Wood returning to voice the purple lad alongside the likes of Gary Oldman and Christina Ricci. Less likeable is Sparx, Spyro’s dragonfly mate, who used to be a good laugh back in the day, but is now a pain in the arse.
Unfortunately, where the game begins to fall down is on the gameplay side of things. It’s not all bad: the combat system works well and it’s quite easy to string together all sorts of diverse, smoothly-linked combos using a mixture of weak and strong attacks, jumps and grabs. The problem is that the game often decides to chuck hoards of enemies at you in numerous waves and it quickly begins to feel pretty mindless. Even more annoying is the lack of in-game hints. Now, we’re not saying we’re a bad gamer but when a game infuriates us because there’s no indication as to how to defeat a certain boss or get past a certain obstacle, then we can see younger gamers getting pissed off fairly quickly. As in ‘second level’ quickly.
The best thing the game has going for it is the drop in/drop out co-op play, where the second player takes control of Spyro’s companion Cynder. There’s a neat mechanic where both players are bound to each other by a magical force, so it plays out interestingly in the way you must solve puzzles together. For instance, one player can hang onto a ledge on a wall while the other uses the magic “chain” to swing to a new position. It works quite well, even in single-player, when the AI controls Cynder.
This latest Spyro game looks great and has plenty of ambition, and we applaud the developer for trying to make it feel grander and more epic in scale than previous games in the series. We’re just not massively convinced by the confusing and irritating gameplay.
Nov 5, 2008