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     " Run around, torch sheep, and love the smell of lanolin in the morning. Smells like victory. "

   Title: Spiro: Year of the Dragon by Sony

   Format: Playstation Action/Adventure

   Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

   The Hype: The latest installment of the Spiro franchise again pits you as the lovable little fire breather Spiro in an attempt to retrieve dragon eggs stolen by some weird ass squirrel looking sorceress. Highlighted game features include multiple playable characters, lots of mini-games, and updated graphics.

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: Now, granted, the cartoony style that Spiro is famous for will likely never push the limit of the Playstation console. Still, given that it’s coming from the company that designed the damned system, you’d think they would be a little more innovative. Blocky characters, unimaginative environmental renderings, and some fairly serious clipping and movement issues make this game's graphics decidedly average. However, the presence of some pretty keen lighting and special effects keeps it from getting a plain old 3. 3.5 out of 5

   Sound: Again, as with graphics, the sounds in Spiro fall in to the "decidedly average" range. The music is typical midi, the overall sounds are pretty basic, and the effects are mediocre. Again, however, there are two shining features that keep it from getting a flat 3. The first is some "so-intentionally-bad-it’s-good" voice acting and a killer fire-spitting sample. 3.5 out of 5

   Game Play: Well, Sony will hate me for saying this, but it plays, overall, like any other platform action/adventure game. Really, Sonic, Crash, Mario, and Spiro have little in the overall to separate them. Run around, collect gems (as opposed to coins or boxes or whatever) that you use to fulfill certain requirements. Jump from level to level, fighting bad guys, solving puzzles, etc. Spiro, however, is separated some from its run-and-jump brethren with the inclusion of some great mini games and much diversified puzzle solving. The mini’s are fresh, fun, and well spaced while the actual puzzles you solve (roughly one per level) are different enough that you will actually have to take some time to figure them out (what a concept!). The addition of multiple player characters (though they only differ slightly) also adds to the overall feel and, in general, keeps Spiro on the higher end of fun games to play. Oh and, on a purely sadistic note, health power ups are gained by torching various living critters- like slugs, squirrels, and sheep! That is just damned keen. Run around, torch sheep, and love the smell of lanolin in the morning. Smells like victory. 4 out of 5

   Level and Environment Designs: This is definitely one of the places that Spiro shines through. Considering the relatively limited (by current standards) engine of the system, Spiro does a kick ass job of making huge, in depth, and diverse levels. Each is fully 3D, large, loaded with secrets and shortcuts, and most importantly intertwined so that getting lost is actually pretty hard! The only problem with them, and gods know why they did it, is the presence of thousands of "little jumps" (like stairs) so that you’re constantly making hops instead of just being able to run around. 4 out of 5

   Multiplayer: I mauled over whether to ding them for not having multiplayer on this game for a long, long time. In the end, though, there’s probably enough here that you’ll get your money’s worth even though you can’t buddy up on it. Next time though, Sony, you’re getting shafted for not bothering to include a challenge or co-op mode. No Rating

   Replayability: If you found any, replayability would be through searching for more hidden areas and objects. However, as the objects would just be more gems (which you really don’t need to bother to find) it’s sort of like cow tipping…Sure, some people like to do it again and again, but for the most part the novelty’s gone after the first time. 2 out of 5

   Story/Dramatics: Well, technically, there is a story. It’s a story in the same way that your average Kung Fu movie has a story. "What? They took the dragon eggs? Now they must die!" The voice-overs are, as stated, overacted and the dialog is just plain painful. To make matters worse, the load times for the cut scenes are ridiculously long! I would suggest, to make it more entertaining, implementing the "Spiro Drinking Game" in which you consume alcohol, constantly, any time a character is speaking. Trust me. 2.5 out of 5

   Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are pretty, well laid out, and give you everything you need. The learning curve is huge, requiring hours of game play to learn and years to master…Yeah, right. It’s a frickin’ adventure game. You’ll figure it out in three minutes. The bonus comes in some almost cool combo moves you can pull off. 5 out of 5

   Installation and Real System Requirements: It runs well enough (as you’d hope). However, considering the fairly limited graphics output the load times seems pretty damned extreme. All in all, I wasn’t impressed with the overall running of it. 2 out of 5

   The Verdict:

       Despite some mediocre showings, definitely one of my all time favorite adventure games. Fun, fresh, almost innovative and smooth, it’ll give you some serious playtime as a break from twitch gaming or thinking Monkey’s strategy.

   The Good: Fun game play, good mini-games, great level designs.

   The Bad: Only so-so graphics and nothing truly innovative.

   The Overall Ugly: I played it, I liked it, and it didn’t make me angry. You can play it, too.

   What it's Worth: 40 bucks.

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