Leah has decided that we should stop having a pile of video games we’ve never played. At about the same time as she suggested this, I went out and bought her a new video game. Now, I can’t promise that I’ll blog everything we play and keep to a schedule and be as thorough as Baf, nor will I present as detailed and critical analysis, but I do intend to be snarkier.
And maybe, in the unlikely event I ever get a working video capture device for my MythTV, Leah and I might start taking videos and such to show you our progress. But until then, please just enjoy my sarcastic thoughts on the subject of Spyro: Eternal Night
First off, I’d like to point out that this is the most unlikely game about a former vice president I’ve ever seen, and that includes Aaron Burr and Dick Cheney’s The Most Dangerous Game You play Frodo Baggins, a purple dragon who can fly, but only well enough to make difficult jumps, and, as is apparently standard for purple dragons, HALT THE FLOW OF TIME. He’s got a little dragon-fairy sidekick, Phillip J Fry, who serves to offer “hillarious” commentary.
I should step aside here that, unlike pretty much every other person who has ever written a review of a video game, I actually like the color-commentary-wisecracking sidekick archetype. I liked Arthur in The Journeyman Project, and Dalboz in Zork Grand Inquisitor. I liked your paraplegic tele-psychic friend in The 11th Hour, and I liked the Cheshire Cat in American Macgee’s Alice. I even liked Clippy the– no, wait, actually, I didn’t . And, HEY! LISTEN! I did not like any of the god damned faries in the 3D Legend of Zelda games. But still, there’s a reason I included Julia in my game. It’s saying a lot when I tell you that I do not like Ninja Butterfly Phillip J. Fry. Billy West seems to be playing the role under the impression that he’s meant to be channeling Gilbert Godfried.
Anyway, the game opens with Frodo the Dragon getting dumped by his girlfriend, at which point he falls into a coma where the helpful ghost of Patrick Stewart reminds him how to use the game controls. This involves jumping on a bunch of spinning platforms as you learn to control DragonTime ™, which is a lot like BulletTime ™, except that it is slightly blue. I assume this is a gimmick based on Prince of Persia, but I’ve never played that, so instead, it reminded me of Braid, which I’d just played a few hours earlier.
- Patrick Stewart: As a purple dragon, you have access to many powers, including power over time itself. Master this power, and you will be able to see things almost before they happen.
- Ross: Wait a second. Isn’t “Almost before they happen” the same as “When they happen”?
- Ross: (Lisa Simpson voice) Wow! You really can see the… Present…
After we tired of hearing Elija Wood’s terrified screams as he fell to his death off the edge of a platform a few times, Leah got about the business of actually jumping across abyss after abyss, and was rewarded with “re-learning” the power of Fire, allowing Frodo the Dragon to summon elemental powers based on Fire. So, Spiro’s powers right now:
- 1. Flies (poorly)
- 2. Mastery over the inexorable flow of time
- 3. Breathes fire
At this point, Patrick Stewart has some leftover Staffloses from Zelda attack Frodo so he can show off his attack skills: “Breathe fire”, and “run towards something while breathing fire.” This is when I notice one of the most interesting details of this game. Like lots of games, when Frodo engages an enemy, you get to see the enemy’s life bar up in the corner of the screen. Along with the life bar is the enemy’s name. And this is the cool part: when I say “the enemy’s name”, I don’t mean something like “Skeleton Knight”, I mean an actual, individual name, for Every Single Monster. Like “Skeletor McLovin” or “Keith Richards”. Well, actually, the names all look to fit a fixed formula of taking four random nature-or-fantasy-related words and stitching them together according to some simple part of speech rules, so the names are all things like “Deathmaul Underhill” or “Honeylocust Meadowlawn” or “Dickmonkey Marshmellow”.
This section also introduces us to the game’s number one door-opening mechanic: lighting braziers. Any video game fan will tell you that in a room with a locked door and a bunch of unlit braziers, it’s patently obvious that the door will only open once you light all the braziers. Also, I like saying “braziers”. Braziers! Anyway, you eventually prove yourself worthy and Patrick Stewart sends you back to reality, where you and Phillip J Fry are immediately beseiged by insects and mollusks of unusual size which explode into disgusting goo when you kill them. Leah incinerates the first few, then discoveres that her magic doesn’t automatically regenerate here, as it did in the land of Professor X. So Leah switches over to using Frodo’s non-limited “just whack the bad guys with your body” technique. This isn’t as effective as fire, but it can be used without stopping to recharge. Still, in the heat of battle, I keep having to remind her to use her fire attack from time to time, by shouting ‘Immolate!” occasionally in my Angry-Homer-Simpson voice.
The first boss we encounter is a thingamajigger riding on a giant snail. His name is “Snail Rider”. What, really? You can name every mook we run into, but not the boss who gets his own cutscene?
Shortly after defeating the snail, Leah is halted momentarily by a room one of whose braziers is behind a barrier.
- Ross: Immolate!
- Leah: No. (smashes barrier) The answer to everything is not immolate
- Ross: It should be!
This game’s favorite brazier trick is that lighting the brazier opens the door, only to disgorge a couple of enemies, then close again. Lighting the final brazier here releases a pair of enemies whose last names are, I am not making this up, “Snakekiller” and “Snakefeltcher”.
Other enemies we encounter in this area include spiders who shoot a white, sticky goo at Frodo and Fry, and these sort of bipedal elephant things with scimitars.
Another Snail Rider requires Leah to take a few stabs at it. It’s at this point that I’d like to mention that when Frodo’s “Rage Bar” is full up from fighting, he can unleash the “Eruption”, an attack so devestating that it causes a cutscene to happen wherever he happens to be. This would make short work of the Snail Rider, except that Leah went into a Wii Gesture Fit just before he emerged and swung the nunchuck when she meant to swing the wiimote, causing premature eruption.
Incidentally, everything in this game makes a sort of squelchy sound when you whack it and then explodes into goo. Just sayin.
Eventually, Frodo comes upon a battle between a bunch of elephants and a very large red dragon played by Sean Connery. His name is St. Ignatius of Loyola, unless Leah is having me on. He beckons you to help, then promptly vanishes leaving you to fight some kind of giant demon bat thing by yourself. Fry buggers off, leaving you alone for the battle, as opposed to previous battles, in which he was there but useless. Once you kick the flying thing’s ass, St. Ignatius reappears and asks you what became of your girlfriend. Frodo cops to being dumped, and they do some more cutscenes in which Frodo reveals his creepy nightmares, which turn out to be prophesy about the coming evil. A bunch of big dragons discuss his prophetic dreams in cryptic, vague terms and incredibly overblown accents. They’re especially worried about Frodo’s encounter with Patrick Stewart, since they know that he’s only ever cast in big epic movies where the fate of the world is at stake. The old powerful dragons decide that they can’t just sit back and do nothing, so they decide to bugger off and do nothing, and let Frodo do all the actual work.
St. Ignatius decides to wait back at the temple while Frodo, the chosen one and the only one who can defeat the Eternal Darkness (Hey, that’s an entirely different game! Holy crap! This whole game is just one of those hallucination sequences whne your sanity gets too low!), treks through a poisonous swamp.
In the swamp, Frodo sees some pirates, and then his narcolepsy kicks in again. Fry attracts the attention of the pirates by being a dumbass, and Frodo is sent off to have another zen encounter with Patrick Stewart. (Actually, he sounds more like Sir Ian McKellen now that I think about it). He hands over the power of Ice, which leaves Frodo only two more elements to master, Air and Boron.
Leah masters Ice after quite a few tries at not falling off some more frakking platforms, and learns the Ice-based Rage move, which is like Eruption, but icy. Since I wasn’t paying attention when they explained the move, I’m going to call it “Blue Balls”.
After defeating the pirates, Leah spends the next hour making her way through a cavern that can be navigated only by jumping on jellyfish. Eventually, she makes it to the wizened old tree, which is somehow linked to Ian McKellen, whereupon it turns into a giant wooden monster attacks noble Frodo, eventually, and this is not snark, wiping Spyro’s entrails off his foot
Afterward, the game decides not to let Frodo duke it out against the pirates, so it is assumed that while he could take out a gigantic tree monster five times bigger than she was, it’s not even worth giving you the chance to try to beat the pirates.
Thus do we end tonight’s gaming adventure, locked in the hold of a pirate ship. Fortunately, the USS Baimbridge and a team of Navy SEALs is on-hand to rescue our hero.