Spyro the purple dragon has had quite a history. Having originally started life on the first PlayStation, developer Insomniac (the developers now behind Ratchet and Clank and Resistance: Fall of Man) moved on and Spyro went multiplatform. The results were mixed, at best. Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly was an insult to the franchise, while A Hero's Tail was just too formulaic. Last year's DS adventure, Shadow Legacy was okay, but never really felt like a geuine Spyro game. As the title implies, Spyro: A New Beginning is a return to the beginning for the series - the storyline has been rewritten, and the Shadow Legacy engine has been reworked. But is it a new beginning, or is the dragon up to his old tricks again?
When they call it A New Beginning, they're really not kidding. As soon as the game begins, a full motion video is played which tells a story about dragon eggs being wiped out by the followers of an evil dragon named Dark Master. However, one egg remains. How? Well it turns out that a considerably nicer dragon, named Ignitus, foreshadowed what was happening and placed the egg into a little raft, which flowed down the river. Dragonflies found the egg, hatched it (how this happened we're not entirely sure) and raised the oddly familiar purple dragon as their own. The dragonflies explain to Spyro that he isn't a dragonfly (you don't say), but a dragon. Cue Sparx (a dragonfly who helped raise our hero) and Spyro set off to try and learn more about Spyro's past. Meanwhile, an evil black dragon named Cynder is trying to bring Dark Master into the world, and the only one to stop this from happening is the one and only Spyro. In other words: forget everything you think you know about Spyro's past, as it's just been completely revised.
Spyro on the DS is played from an isometric view, so you can see everything happening around you. The first ten minutes or so of the game introduces you to the ways Spyro can attack. Initially, you're only able to use Spyro's tail-whip move and breathe fire. The game takes place in six differently themed areas which include grass, electricity, ice, lava or rock, and as you move through each level and free dragons, you'll unlock a wide range of other moves which include ice and electricity.
Some of the enemies you come across can only be defeated by tapping the DS' screen, which can become a little annoying. Infact, after a while I just kept one finger ready to tap all the enemies as they come at you. Enemies will often completely surround you and you're able to lock onto the enemies by just tapping the L trigger on the DS, which makes it easier to defeat the enemies, of which there are plenty.
The RPG elements from Shadow Legacy have basically all been removed, though you are able to upgrade attacks. A New Beginning is very much an action title, so you won't need to be doing any adventuring. As long as you defeat all the enemies in a certain area, move onto the next area and repeat, you'll likely never have many issues. There's so much action that it can actually become repetitive. The developers have tried to mix things up a little bit though, by adding a few puzzles. Hence, when you open a crate you'll need to solve a mirror puzzle to obtain, say, the crystal shard that's inside. This does break the action up, but only momentarily.
As in Sonic Rush, the boss battles in A New Beginning utlise a 3D perspective, playing out like an on-rails 3D shooter. You need to tap the targets when they appear on the touch screen. Every time you tap, Spyro launches a fireball. Then, when the boss throws his own fireballs, they appear on the bottom screen and you'll need to tap the fireballs to eliminate them before they harm Spyro. It's actually a very impressive spectacle that's surprisingly intense, and afterwards you'll be treated to an impressive video.
Visually the game has a really unique art style. The environments aren't entirely detailed, but they look magnificent at times. The 3D boss battles clearly stand out visually, but the rest of the game holds its own too. As in Shadow Legacy, the frame rate can be an issue when there's a lot happening on screen, but unlike Shadow Legacy it happens very occasionally and isn't detrimental to the game in any way. The sound can be pretty epic at times, and fits the overall style of the game well. Elijah Wood and Gary Oldman also lend their voices to the game too.
Completing the single player adventure in its entirety will take around ten hours, which is a decent length. The game also includes a few unlockables, which are a nice bonus. The extras menu contains an arcade mode (which is the single player quest with no puzzles or FMVs), 40 mirror puzzles (for if you just can't get enough of them) and even cheats such as infinite breath and maximum powers. All of these extras are unlocked by collecting crystal shards. The extras really mean that, after you're finished with the single player quest, you may want to go through again with some of the cheats enabled.
The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning really is a new beginning for the purple dragon. The storyline has completely changed and the game now places a purer emphasis on action. Ironically enough, this would be our main complaint about the game; there's just too much action at times, which can often lead to repetition and become very boring in parts. For the most part however, A New Beginning is an enjoyable game and a return to form for the dragon.