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February 10, 2005
Spyro: A Hero's Tail - Review
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Look, it's Spyro.
During the PSOne era the Spyro titles rivaled those of Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot titles. On the Playstation 2, much like the Crash Bandicoot games, this series has struggled to find critical acclaim - although the audience remains as 2003 was the biggest year ever for the purple dragon with over $US11 million in sales. Perhaps it's the ever increasing age of the average gamer, perhaps it offers little innovation, but whatever the case Vivendi keep plugging both series' to millions of sales.

OK, so it's taken quite a while to review Spyro: A Hero's Tail but don't take it as a sign that we weren't interested in the game. In fact our first copy got lost in the post so a replacement took a while to organise especially as we took our Christmas break. But here we are ready to review one of Vivendi's big pre-Christmas titles, and I can tell you now that fans of the little purple dragon aren't going to be disappointed.

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Some more vibrant graphics.
When it comes to storyline it's pretty thin on the ground in this title. Once again the mysterious dragon Red has created gems to corrupt the once mighty Dragon Realms with evil. The five hero's must find the gems and save their homeland. That's about it. While the story is pretty average in terms of gameplay Spyro: A Hero's Tail maintains the feel of previous titles. Set across 24 reasonably sized levels Spyro has some new abilities including a Wall Kick, Tail Swing and Ledge Grab. Each is useful at different points in the game. His attacks once again include the Flame Breath, Freeze Breath, Water Breath and Electric Breath - each of which is fairly self explanitory.

In addition to playing as the heroic leader Spyro, gamers will also have the opportunity to play as weapons master Hunter the Cheetah, dive-bombing penguin Sgt. Byrd, loyal sidekick Sparx the Dragonfly or the all-new weapons-equipped, climbing Blink the Mole.

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Hunter the Cheetah is pretty cool.
The real problem with this game is that it hasn't evolved much. Unlike Insomniac's superb Ratchet & Clank or to a lesser extent Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter series' there isn't enough new features here, and this will certianly put off seasoned gamers. Younger gamers - which this title is really aimed at - may not be so concerned, but to me it's still a design deficiency. The boss encounters are also quite easy. Most follow a set pattern and defeating them is simply a case of memorising their attack patterns and defeating them. The boss encounters, as well as the occasional tricky jump, are really only the hard parts in the game, seasoned gamers will breeze through the main levels without too much trouble.

As you can see from the surrounding screenshots this is certainly one of the brightest and most colourful titles on Playstation 2. The animation on the characters, both friend and foe, is excellent while the cut scenes tell the story in an entertaining manner. Perhaps some more objects, enemies and detail in the game world would have been nice but the plus side to sparser levels is a solid frame rate.

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Using the flame breath.
While the music in this game is fairly good, and suits the action, it is fairly generic and forgettable. On a slightly more impressive level the sound effects make an impact while the speech is decent enough for this style of game. Nothing outstanding, but nothing fundamentally wrong either.

One must remember that Spyro: A Hero's Tail is a game aimed at the younger market and on most levels it succeeds. It's bright, it's fun and it has some wonderful characters. Sure, to the adult gamer the lack of innovation and predictable events such as bosses are disappointing but it's hard not to see the younger audience loving this title and indeed this isn't a title which I disliked playing at any stage. Certainly worth considering if you have younger gamers in the household.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSIt's bright but Eurocom could have pushed for even more on screen.
SOUNDAudio is generally good in quality, but rarely better then good.
GAMEPLAYThe gameplay hasn't really changed since PSOne days, but still fun.
VALUEYounger players will enjoy and get good value at only $AU69.95.
OVERALLSpyro: A Hero's Tail is a good enough title for younger gamers, but lacks the innovation to make it a must have title for older ones. Certainly worth considering for a younger audience.

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