Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly Review
Developer: Equinoxe Entertainment and Check Six Studios
Platforms: PlayStation 2 and GameCube
Reviewed on PlayStation 2
Spyro the dragon's latest adventure finds him in the middle of a celebration in the Dragon Realms in which all the young dragons are to be given their own dragonflies. And no, we have no idea why you'd want one. The point is, they're (apparently) just super to have, so, naturally, everyone is quite put out when a bad guy shows up and steals them all. Now Spyro and his personal dragonfly must head out to round up all the stolen dragonflies. But even if you beat all the obstacles to find them, you've still got to catch them. And they don't like to be caught. Aaaaaand... action!
Rob de los Reyes
Spyro the dragon is certainly likeable enough as a franchise character. A non-threatening shade of lavender and cute even when angry, he seems a charmer for children even if a bit much to take for adults. This latest Spyro offering, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, does everything to confirm its family game orientation, right down to pitching a joke here and there at adults (like the pun in the game title). Its bright colors, large characters, real-life kids' cartoon voice actors, and mostly simple game play nevertheless tug Enter the Dragonfly hard to the younger side of the gaming spectrum. As such, teens and adults may need to look elsewhere for a more robust platformer, but parents should be able to find something tolerable here for gaming alongside their young children.
This latest rendition of the Spyro franchise, Enter the Dragonfly is, as you might expect, a better looking game than its predecessors. Spaces are generally wide open, bright and populated by characters featuring that trademark cartoon puffiness. What that means is that young children and their less-dexterous-than-they-used-to-be parents should be able to spot the relevant characters and enjoy a bit of leeway in making game movements. Perhaps a bit surprising, the individual game challenges run the gamut from the very simple (pick up the gems lying all over the place) to the fairly taxing (destroy enemies in a particular order under a time limit). Although the game possesses certain linear elements, such as the need to earn the breath weapons in a particular order, you'll generally have several worlds open at once, all with multiple tasks to perform in an order of your choosing.
Your main tasks involve the Pac-Man-like collection of gems scattered about the maps and tracking down wayward dragonflies to capture in your Bubble Breath. (Don't ask why. You don't need to know.) Hunting for gems is like hunting for Easter eggs where most of the eggs really aren't hidden. It's dull for the parent, but a source of easy success for small children. Capturing dragonflies is incrementally more difficult than picking up gems because the dragonflies move around. In fact, they actively run away from your approach. In order to snare them with your breath, you'll have to employ a combination of slow stealth, quick runs... and raw patience. Often the dragonflies will twitter off to areas that you can't reach forcing you to sit around until they make their way back to an accessible area. The reactive dragonflies are a nifty concept, but once you've chased a few around, you rather feel like you've seen the whole thing. Unfortunately, you have to keep doing it since the number of dragonflies captured is the primary statistic for unlocking new game areas. Since dragonflies are also awarded for completing main story missions and side games, you are not, however, required to spend the whole game chasing your tail.
The unexpected part is just how difficult some of the challenges can be. The puzzle elements aren't all that difficult (see a lightning rod, hit it with your lightning breath), but many of the physical challenges run on a relatively unforgiving timer. None of the controls are terribly complex, but beating a challenge often seems to require perfect execution and path selection – mistime one jump, and the run is over. As always, you'd like to see a game present more than one way to beat a task, but Enter the Dragonfly is hardly alone in its genre in terms of its strictures. The scalability – the ability to pick and choose your challenges for the most part – is helpful here, but you'll encounter certain critical bottlenecks that will require the combined efforts of you and your tot. Maybe that isn't such a bad thing.
What's missing here is any sense of a chance taken. As in the latest Crash Bandicoot offering, Spyro will occasionally have the chance to do something a bit uncharacteristic like drive a cute little tank, but such moments are too rare. Mostly, Enter the Dragonfly is a solid and dependable, even if unspectacular, entry in the platformer genre. There's nothing here you haven't seen before elsewhere (often developed further). But what the heck – the great thing about young children is that everything is new to them.