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Joystiq impressions: The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon (360/PS3/PS2/Wii/DS)

Zack Stern

Few games appeal to adults and kids, but The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon could please both audiences. The younger group gets its beloved purple dragon and familiar platforming. The older crowd will like the depth in gameplay; among other changes, Spyro can now fly at any time.

After recently seeing a demo of the game, I was most impressed by its style and art; adults will find a lot of nuance here, too. Spyro mixes a lot of brightness and darkness in its style, reminding me of Fantasia or other old-guard Disney animations. Grasses leaned back as the wind raked over them, in a saccharine outdoor scene. But in another moment, sharp, muted stones matched the danger from an attacking monster.

Due in Fall, 2008 for 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, and DS, Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon could even interest players who know nothing of the character.

Gallery: The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon | 10 Photos

A strong voice cast should attract some gamers. Elijah Wood, Gary Oldman, Cristina Ricci, Blair Underwood, Mark Hamill, and Wayne Brady play roles. Ricci voices the second dragon, Cynder, who is always alongside Wood's Spyro.

When playing alone, gamers can swap between the two dragons, letting the AI control the second. But another player can drop in at any time on the same console to join in. The two dragons solve puzzles together, although they're always linked by an inviable tether. While a convenient mechanic to keep players from wandering too far apart, the link also allows some team-based moves, such as the ability to swing along its radius.

The game's scale makes it much more than a cheap cartoon pitch to kids. I saw a boss battle with an epic, molten monster. The low-angle, third-person perspective showed the dragons in front, but much of the rest of the screen was filled by this glowing beast. The enemy swung a huge fist at the dragons, trying to crush them. Then another scene showed the more typical follow-camera of their escape. Hopefully the rest of the game will match this variety.

Spyro doesn't have the name recognition of other platform characters, but this final chapter in the trilogy might make players wonder what they've been missing. I wouldn't have given a Spyro game a second look, but after seeing the great visual direction, variety in scale, and cooperative gameplay, I'm looking forward to its release later this year.

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