The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night
Good grief, is he still going? Apparently so, because here's another platform action game starring Spyro the stupid purple dragon. It's the second instalment in a new trilogy developed by Krome Studios. The first, A New Beginning, was a flawed attempt to reinvent the franchise, as our review observed. Unfortunately, The Eternal Night isn't any better.
For starters the control system is wonky. You'll discover this in the first level, round about the seventh time you watch Spyro plummet to his death because the platform you've just put him on appears to be covered in Vaseline and he's forgotten how to move in mid-air.
He's also forgotten all the special powers he acquired in the last game so you have to go through the chore of building them all up again. It really does feel like a chore as the gameplay consists almost entirely of fighting off endless hordes of the same old enemies.
There's platforming too but the poor controls make it frustrating. There's a new feature called Dragon Time where you can slow the action right down, but this is neither useful nor exciting. The puzzles are terrifically dull, and if they don't send you to sleep the over-long, all-too-frequent cutscenes will.
Having Gary Oldman and Frodo do voiceovers doesn't make up for the fact this game looks and plays like something made five years ago. Since then we've had some superb platforming action thanks to the likes of Jak and Ratchet. By comparison Spyro is a fading star, one who no amount of plastic surgery will improve. The Eternal Night is too difficult for kids and too frustrating for adults, and should be avoided by everyone.
Ben 10: Protector of Earth
You may not have heard of Ben 10 (we hadn't), but millions of young boys around the globe have. He's the star of an animated series on Cartoon Network. Due to some nonsense to do with an alien artefact, Ben has the power to transform himself into ten different alien heroes.
At least he can in the TV show. In the PS2 game, he can only transform into five of them, which seems a bit odd. They include firestarter Heatblast, Cannonbolt, who can roll himself up into an armour-plated ball, the super-speedy XLR8 plus a character called Fourarms - oh, work it out.
As Ben, you travel through a series of bland-looking environments transforming yourself according to the obstacles you face. Heatblast's surfing move is useful for crossing gaps, for example; Fourarms is brilliant at bashing enemies.
This is lucky because along with the generic platforming there's a good deal of combat to be getting on with. There are more than 80 different combos to learn, but if you can't be bothered you can usually get away with simply hammering all the buttons as fast as possible. When faced with a big group of enemies, this is often more effective than trying to be fancy.
There's not much variation between levels. You walk from the left side of the screen to the right, doing a few jumps along the way. Groups of enemies will regularly pop up and you must blap them all before you can continue. It's punctuated by decent cutscenes featuring the voices of the TV actors. There's a drop-in, drop-out co-op mode which works well enough.
That sums up Ben 10: Protector of Earth, really: it works well enough. There's nothing here to appeal to adults, or anyone who isn't a Ben 10 fan. But if you know one of those, this is a great present - and at under GBP 20 it's a reasonably priced one, too.