Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly was the fourth entry into the Spyro series. When I was a kid I was really into the previous instalments, so I was super excited to try it out. I headed to Blockbuster with my mum and rented it. Thankfully, I did not buy it. Even as a kid I could tell this game just wasn’t really…right.
Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly has quite a reputation for being a bad game, and is thought to be the downfall of Spyro.
So why am I playing this game that’s known to be bad? Well I watched an entire, near two hour documentary about this game. I’ve listened to all sorts of interviews with people involved in this game, what happened, what went wrong, what the development process was like. It sounds like this game had serious potential, but it was a development nightmare.
After this game, Spyro went even more off track, with some weird Legend of Spyro games that I’ve never played and then eventually turning into Skylanders or something. I’m not really sure about the history, because I lost interest after playing Enter the Dragonfly. I’ve dabbled in some of the Gameboy Advance Spyro games, which are presented in a nice looking isometric format. They aren’t bad, but they don’t scratch the same itch as the original trilogy.
I should probably mention I’m playing this game in one of the worst ways possible. I’m playing the original black label game on my PS2. I’ve read that the Platinum Edition (yes, this game sold well enough to go Platinum) fixed some of the bugs and issues, but the best way to play this is on an emulator with settings tweaked to get it running smoothly and remove the lag issues. This game chugs along struggling to even hit 30 frames per second. It felt like the entire game took place underwater.
Gameplay and Abilities
Spyro Enter the Dragonfly is basically nothing new. It looks similar to the original games and it plays similar. Spyro runs around, collects gems and some other collectible used to progress the game – in this game, it’s dragonflies.
The other main hook of this game is that you get various “breath” abilities. In addition to the usual flame attack Spyro can do, throughout the game you’ll get ice and electric breath abilities. There’s also another ability you get at the beginning of the game – the bubble breath. Not only is this one of the most boring ideas conceivable, it barely even works.
Bubble breath is used to catch Dragonflies, and you’ll constantly find yourself tearing your hair out as you clearly use bubble breath on a Dragonfly, only for said Dragonfly to continue flying off on it’s merry way.
The Dragonfly names range from plain old names (Alex), to Ancient Greek philosophers (Socrates), to some of the most bizarre names conceivable (Scuttlebutt, what?).
The other breath abilities have extremely limited use, with only very specific situations requiring you to use them. The ice breath lets you freeze people and stand on them and the electric breath lets you electrify conductive rods…or whatever they are. There’s one level in the game with breath-specific enemies, but I’m thankful that’s all, because having to switch between breath abilities is a real pain.
There also seemed to be plans for you to collect your new abilities, then go back to earlier levels to find things you couldn’t find before – but this only happens in the very first level, which requires the ice breath for one dragonfly. So that’s one dragonfly out of eighty requiring you to revisit a level.
The final ability you can get is wing shield – hold R2 and L2 together and Spyro will huddle behind his wings. This is useful for one enemy in the game – some wizards are immune to dragon breath, so you have to use wing shield to reflect their projectiles back at them. Amazingly, this manages to be an intensely frustrating mechanic, with their projectiles reflecting off you at weird angles, rarely hitting the enemies.
The wing shield also turns out to be absolutely useless as a shield, because the more annoying enemies you might want to shield against just hurt Spyro anyway! What was the point?
The levels in this game are absolutely huge compared to it’s predecessors, but I found myself wishing they weren’t. They’re expansive, but full of basically nothing. Awkward gem placements mean you have to zig-zag back and forth along unnecessarily wide paths and there’s huge, flat plains of nothing you must walk around trying to find more annoyingly placed gems.
To give credit where due, some of the levels do have some well tucked away secrets, which reminds me of some of the hidden areas of the first game – you have to actively search around and keep a lookout for some of the more well hidden Dragonflies. There’s also some extremely well hidden gems, with a small cluster of gems requiring a long glide from the very end of the level to get to them!
Other than that, the game feels kind of sad and empty. The NPCs aren’t very interesting, there’s a few mini-games where you ride vehicles (which aren’t exactly what I’d call fun), and there’s flying levels like in all the previous games. For some reason the flying levels are actually within other levels this time, where before they were separate levels. Very strange.
Some Good Levels
As much as the early levels dragged on and felt like they’d never end, a couple of levels really stood out to me as actually quite good.
Honey Marsh is a level filled with rivers of honey and bees. This level seems to lack the wide-open spaces of the other ones, instead having a more linear “corridor” style level. It focuses on flaming/killing enemies, jumping and gliding around. None of the missions are particularly annoying, except for a slide level which is waaaay too long. I dare say this was actually a good level.
Jurassic Jungle is a volcanic/jungle level filled with dinosaurs that some loopy scientist created. The dinosaurs have, of course, gotten out of control. This is the one level that requires specific breath abilities – some enemies need zapping with electric breath and others need freezing with ice breath. This level has a puzzle in it, pretty much the only one in the game! You have to observe some cave paintings then flame some gems in the correct order. It actually had me stumped as well, so it wasn’t a “mindless busy-work” puzzle either!
Lag and Secret Credits
As I got further into this game, collecting more gems and things, the game seemed to become less laggy. Maybe that’s why I felt it became more enjoyable the further I got into the game. Either that, or I got used to it and stopped noticing!
I mentioned earlier that I watched a documentary about this game – one of the developers talked about a secret credits screen as a homage to anyone who worked on the game and left the development before it was complete – they remained officially uncredited. Eventually the code to access the secret credits was found – on the first page of the Atlas, input “circle, up, circle, circle up” and the last page of the Atlas will show the secret credits! Hilariously, whilst looking up this code I found another for “slow motion”, as if this game isn’t laggy enough already.
The Ending (and Speedruns)
The final (and only) boss of this game is in a random portal in the home world. I didn’t even know it was there until I accidentally fell into it and beat the game. If you don’t get all the gems and dragonflies, the final boss has one phase, goes down easily and the game cuts direct to credits. No ending. Nothing.
If you 100% complete the game (like me!), the boss becomes much harder and has three phases and not only that, you get to view the ending! Not the true ending, the only ending. I didn’t actually re-fight the final boss, I just looked it up on YouTube. It wasn’t very much fun and I didn’t want to re-do it.
To close off, I’ll just mention that the any% speedrun for this game involves going directly to the final boss. The collision in this game is a bit wonky, so by performing a head bash manoeuvre where the final boss portal is, you can clip through the floor into the portal and skip everything else in the game.
So in the end, is this game terrible? Fixing the frame-rate issues would make this game a fairly mediocre platformer, but the slow frame rate made this a fairly tedious and miserable game to trudge through. When you consider how well-loved the original PS1 Spyro trilogy is, it makes this game seem all the worse. If you’re a fan of Spyro, it’s probably worth checking out!
- Screenshots taken from LongplayArchive’s Longplay of this game
- The Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly documentary is temporarily private for some unknown reason, I will link to the full thing when it’s back up. For now, here’s a playlist of content that was included. Mr. FO1 also makes some other video game documentaries that are worth watching!