Spyro returns in this Game Boy Advance sequel - without his ability to breathe fire! Who's stolen all the Dragonflies in Dragon Realms, and why?
The story begins as soon as Spyro arrives home at Dragon Realms. After talking to the Dragon Elders, Spyro discovers that the dragons have lost their ability to breathe fire because someone has stolen the world's fireflies, source of all the Dragon Power. Not even Spyro can breathe fire anymore - all he can do is breathe a stream of ice. Because of the sudden low temperature of the Dragon Realms, they'll have to leave if something isn't done. So it's up to Spyro and his friends to collect the dragonflies to save the Dragon Elders!
And so the game begins, basically picking up from where the first one left off. The isometric style seems to be the same as the first GBA game, but there are a few additions. First off, Spyro and Sparx are no longer the only controllable characters. You can also blast Rhynocs to high heaven with a monkey in a space suit called Agent 9. Agent 9's levels are similar to a simplified version of Contra with fairly straightforward platform stages and guns. There's also a controllable kangaroo with a "Steve Irwin" accent named Sheila. (We don't all talk like that - really, we don't.) Sheila's levels play similarly to Spyro's, except that she moves square by square in Q*Bert fashion. Sheila's levels consist of destroying a certain number of objects to release a dragonfly.
Then of course there's Spyro. Spyro is the character you'll be controlling most of the time, and he has access to the overworld (three, actually) and levels which can be accessed from there. Various tasks have to be achieved to earn dragonflies, whether it be playing hockey against a Rhynoc goalie, rescuing someone from a hot air balloon, or turning on guidance systems for astronaut mice. Each dragonfly needs to be frozen using your ice breath before you can actually collect it. Unfortunately, this can be rather irritating when you've just completed a task that's taken you ages, and the dragonfly floats off just out of your reach.
Despite a few problems, such as the occasional loss of a dragonfly through no fault of your own, Spyro 2 plays quite well, and is an enjoyable game. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like it. The Agent 9 levels are usually quite easy but a lot of fun and a nice break from the isometric style of the main game. Sheila's levels, while also isometric, still play differently from Spyro's. It’s quite a different pace, so it's much easier for you to stop and think about what you haven't done yet. Spyro's levels are fun, and usually don't get repetitive, but there is a limit to the amount of "race a villain" and "activate a certain amount of things" objectives you can do without getting sick of it.
As already mentioned, you'll be playing through most of the game in an isometric 3-D view just like the first game. The graphics are detailed and clear, and use plenty of bright colours. The levels are quite vivid and in most cases don't require a bright light to see them properly. Characters are also nicely detailed: Spyro is large enough and well animated with Sparx constantly flittering around him. Enemies are comically googly-eyed, but you can see details such as the joints and antennae on the robots. The graphics engine itself is quite solid, and doesn’t slow down even during gameplay. The side scrolling levels look just as good as the isometric levels, and don't suffer from problems or glitches either.
Next, we come to sound and music. First off, let me say that the Title song is annoyingly hummable. Many sound effects are taken right from the PlayStation game's sound library, such as Sparx's humming, the gem noises and so on. The menu noises and other sounds you'll hear a lot are okay, but not intrusive. The wacky gibberish talk of the Dragon Realms residents can be turned off if you want, which is quite a relief. You also have an option to turn off Music or Sound Effects. In some cases, the music is quite good. In others it's simply tolerable. There are a few tunes which may drive you mad, but overall, the music and sound are decent.
Unfortunately, controlling Spyro hasn't improved. It’s still incredibly awkward trying to control him while gliding, as he'll go zooming off all over the place with the slightest touch. The hover move that you can perform after gliding doesn't help, either - it barely lasts a second. Compare Spyro to Sheila and Agent 9. They're no trouble to use. The mini-games are also easy to play - so why can't Spyro be the same?
Overall, Spyro 2: Season of Flame is a good game. While there are some problems, most of them certainly aren't major. Any annoying sound can be muted, and the graphics are bright enough to see without sitting next to the sun. Different characters are used just enough to give you a bit of variety, and aren’t overused. If you enjoyed the first Spyro, then this game is right up your alley, but if games like Sonic 3-D Blast drive you mad because you can't seem to control them properly, then you should probably stay away.