After the lackluster release of Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly
, fans of the series had reason to fear the coming of the latest installment, Spyro: A Hero's Tail
. Thankfully, it seems as though Vivendi learned a lesson from the slight debacle that was Enter the Dragonfly
. And while A Hero's Tail
fails to break new ground in terms of style and game mechanics, the game packs enough entertainment to warrant a look from platform fans, regardless of age.
The story in A Hero's Tail is simple and frankly, quite forgettable. Once again, the Dragon Realms find themselves in peril. Only this time, a maniacal dragon named Red plans to corrupt the green fields of the Dragon Realm by planting infectious "Dark Gems" throughout the land.
These gems corrupt everything they touch, transforming the pastel colored vistas of the Dragon Realm into a dark and menacing land fraught with lethal plants and ill-tempered creatures. The only way Spyro can alleviate the Dragon Realms is by seeking out all the Dark Gems infesting the land and destroying them. In order to do so, Spyro needs to use a roster of old-school platformer techniques.
You'll spend most of your time in the game jumping (and double jumping) from platform to platform, dashing toward enemies and sailing through the air on your stubby purple wings. This time around, however, controlling Spyro feels a little more responsive than in times past. You'll hardly ever miss a jump do to shoddy control and chances are enemies will never get the best of you because you couldn't dodge a hit.
This time around, Spyro gets to jet around the game world using some all-new abilities to the Spyro universe. For starters, you can now perform a wall kick, letting you bounce from wall to wall to "climb" specific sections of the terrain. Now, this maneuver is as old as you can get in terms of 3D platformers, but it still adds a little depth in this case. The Tail Swing, another new move in A Hero's Tail, acts very much like a lasso, helping you swing across deadly chasms.
Again, this move isn't exactly new in any form, but in the Spyro universe it only adds to the experience. The last new ability, in terms of personal transportation, is the ledge grab. Now, the ability to hang on ledges, narrowly escaping a grisly death in the process, has been around since the original Prince of Persia. It's nice that Eurocom decided to add it, and it definitely comes in handy, but hanging off ledges is hardly revolutionary.
Having said that, the game implements each of Spyro's new moves rather well and each is pretty fun to use. Hanging off ledges, swinging past lava pits and wall jumping feels less of a derivative game mechanic in this case. The game makes good use of the traditional platform staples; you've done it all before but it's still entertaining.
Throughout the adventure, Spyro can purchase new abilities by visiting a money grubbing business bear known as Mr. Moneybags. Fans of the earlier games will recognize some of Mr. Moneybags' many wares up for sale. Most of the Breath Attacks available for purchase including Fire, Ice and Electricity, make an appearance from earlier Spyro adventures. In addition to those three, you can now bust out with the all-new Water Breath Attack, which lets you take down fiery enemies with ease.
What do you do with all these snazzy moves? As previously stated, you'll need to hunt down and destroy dozens upon dozens of pulsating Dark Gems dotting the landscape. But you will also need to collect things
many, many things.
A Hero's Tail splits the game world into sizeable regions, each with a specific number of Dark Gems to destroy. But that's not all you'll be hunting. You'll spend hours searching for jumbo size Easter eggs, or colorful dragon eggs, rather. And you'll need to stomp on dozens of enemies in order to find oodles of multicolored gems and rainbow colored shards.
Some items sit behind locked gates or inside locked treasure chests, while others find themselves guarded by armored and un-armored Gnorcs (standard issue baddies of the Spyro universe.) Taken each of these enemies out provides little challenge. A quick blast of Spyro's fiery breath will instantly roast most of the game's earlier foes. Later on, some enemies can only be taken down in specific ways.
Spyro needs to ram into Armored Gnorcs to destroy their armor before blasting them with flames, for example. The enemies never become truly challenging, even in the later stages, but seeing as A Hero's Tail caters to young (and perhaps slightly older) fans of the genre, the lax difficulty is at least understandable.
One of the coolest aspects of A Hero's Tail is the ability to ditch the titular purple dragon in favor of four new characters. You can brandish a bow and shoot enemies from afar as Hunter the Cheetah, for one. He can also perform combos by connecting punches and kicks. The first alternate character you get to control is a flyboy penguin named Sgt. Byrd. Using missiles and bombs, Sgt. Byrd can unleash explosive hell from above. Controlling the penguin feels responsive and smooth, and flying around shooting targets offers a lot of fun.
You'll also need to accomplish various challenges as Sgt. Byrd, such as shooting a specific number of targets under a certain time limit. Another cool character, Blink the Mole, uses explosive charges to progress through the environment and sports an arm-mounted laser. Blink is also an expert climber and burrower, so accessing certain areas will be his exclusive responsibility. Thankfully, each character controls well and none feels gimmicky or hastily implemented for the sake of making A Hero's Tail appeal to older gamers.
Graphically, the game looks decent with brief instances of visual coolness. The design of the game world looks similar to other modern platform title such as Tak 2: Staff of Dreams and Scaler, although it lacks the kind of detail and graphical effects seen in both those titles. Spyro's fire breath looks cooler than ever and features decent lighting and blur effects.
Throughout the game, you'll trek through pastel colored towns, darkened lava caves and snowy mountain ranges. One of the more noticeable visual features is the morphing terrain. Whenever you destroy a Dark Gem, the surrounding area transforms from a dark, perilous wasteland into a saintly place filled with overwhelming pleasantness. The actual transformation, much like everything else in the game including character animation and enemies, is silky smooth.
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