Spyro: The Eternal Night

No, that isn’t a typing error – we’ve been sent a brand new Game Boy Advance game to review. We’re as surprised as you (probably) are, as there hasn’t been any new releases of note for months and even Nintendo themselves dropped the handheld like a radioactive potato. But if Sierra wants to continue supporting a diminishing format then that’s fine with us.

Spyro: The Eternal NightThis year Sierra has tried – and moderately succeeded – to give Crash Bandicoot a new lease of life with Crash of the Titans. You might not be aware though that last year it was Spyro that had the makeover, with a new lick of polygon paint, vocal talent by hobbit Elijah Wood and a stronger emphasis on combat. But that was on proper consoles – we’re in handheld territory here. For this sequel developers Amaze have managed to keep the focus primed on combat, and they’ve been good enough to spend some time on the visuals with some nicely animated characters and detailed backgrounds.

Rather than being another tedious 2D platformer it’s more like a Castlevania-light. Or Castlevania for kids, if you will. The levels are large and offer plenty of secrets and there’s a map between levels and a central hub. Here you can enter a combat arena to battle previously vanquished foes and also take your frustration out on a training dummy. New combat moves, including air combos and magic attacks, are unlocked frequently while high-ranking combos are rewarded with a shower of jewels that top up health and magic bars. Most enemies take a good six or seven hits to bite the dust (you can knock them into spikes and lava to cause extra damage, incidentally) and some require certain attacks. The spiky turtles need to be flipped onto their backs and then tale slammed, for instance.

Considering it’s aimed at the youngsters it’s surprisingly text heavy. Particularly so in the opening level when the controls are being explained in a vastly patronising way. The respawing enemies are a bit frustrating too, and the maze-like temples could have done with some landmarks to assist in direction. And we don’t understand why Spyro gets hurt by lava when he’s a fire breathing dragon. Maybe that’s just us thinking too far into things again…