I am Dragon, hear me roar.
OK. Before we get into talking about the PSP version of Eragon, here’s a hypothetical question for you. Which would you rather be?
a) A generic pretty-boy farm lad who kinda looks like Clay Aiken.
b) A giant, fire-breathing dragon.
Duh, right? Yet somehow, of the multiple titles that were timed to come out with last year’s barely noticed dragon flick, only the PSP game actually answers this question correctly. Finally, somebody noticed the reason that people would be interested in a dragon game is – surprise, surprise! – the dragon!
[image1]Instead of wasting your time running around and talking to people as the vest-sporting ‘hero’ Eragon, you soar through the skies as Saphira, the badass fire-breathing dragon. Loosely following the plot of the movie, Eragon presents you with a series of missions to complete with your airborne lizardy skills. As Saphira, you can fling boulders to destroy enemy buildings, or wipe out entire villages with your incendiary exhalations.
When you get tired of mass destruction, you can pick up individual enemy soldiers in your blood-stained talons, enjoying their screaming and squirming as you decide whether you’d rather bite their terrified heads off to gain health points or simply drop them onto the craggy rocks 900 feet below. Decisions, decisions. Within five minutes of playing this game, you know that you are going to be burninating some major booty.
Unfortunately, those first five minutes are probably the best part of the game. Nothing that comes later is nearly as interesting. Oh sure, you learn to use spells and arrows and fancy flying maneuvers, but the controls are so complex that you’ll soon be longing for the days when you could destroy everything with your own two hands… er, claws.
And flying isn’t as easy as it is in all of your coolest dreams. Because you spend the entire game in the air, Eragon plays more like a flight simulator than an adventure game, which means that you spend a lot of time caroming off walls and circling back to catch stuff you missed until you get the hang of it. Make friends with the handy dandy ‘automatic U-turn’ function. You’re going to need it.
[image2]Maybe it’s because Saphira is constantly in motion, but Eragon feels excessively linear, with no real time to explore or practice your flying abilities on your own. Each time you complete a task, the next one starts immediately. More often than not, there’s a time limit, usually in the form of rescuing your hapless human ‘friends’ from whatever snarling baddies are threatening them this week. Didn’t any of Eragon’s fighting skills from the other platforms translate here? Apparently not.
On many missions, I fantasized about leaving the weak humans behind and flying off to my own dragon life of chomping on elk and burning down villages. But alas, it was not to be. You can’t even ‘accidentally’ set Eragon on fire. Believe me, I tried.
But if you get tired or stuck in the story mode, Eragon offers a robust set of mini-games to play against computer or human opponents. You can fight your dragon siblings in a flame-tastic battle to the death, rescue maidens from a tower, or play the ‘Demented Doves’ mini-game, in which your awesome dragon abilities are utilized to round up a bunch of unhealthy pigeons. Whatever buffs your scales, man.
The best part of the multi-player mode is that you only need one copy of the game to host up to three other people. Seeing as how Saphira didn’t come with the traditional dragon’s hoard of treasure, it’s nice that they don’t make you shell out another forty bucks to play with a friend.
[image3]The outdoor landscapes in Eragon look nice, and provide enough contrast from the enemy dragons and soldiers that you never have too much trouble spotting what you’re trying to kill. Some of the man-made settings aren’t quite as nice looking and come off a bit boxy and childish, like someone had built a fortress out of duplo blocks, when everyone knows they should be made out of legos.
The sound in Eragon is generally good, particularly the satisfying screams of the victims you’re carrying around in your claws. Shooting your bow, however, sounds like you’re dropping a sack of nickels. Why can’t games ever make the appropriate ‘fwip’ sound for arrows? The music is standard fantasy epic fare. You’re not going to make your way screaming to the settings menu to turn off the tunes, but you’re not exactly going to be downloading Eragon ringtones, either.
No matter how you slice it, rampant dragon destruction is more fun than running around smacking bad guys with a dagger. So it stands to reason that of all the Eragon titles on the market, the PSP version is the one to get. I know that’s a little bit like saying that of all the Clay Aiken albums on the market, Measure of a Man is the one to get, but there must be some fans of the movie out there, right? Right?