In fact, you'll be backtracking through previously explored territory constantly, looking for that one gem you missed, but absolutely need to advance. While exploration is an important aspect of any three-dimensional platformer, Spyro doesn't inspire that feeling of awe elicited by the expansive environments found in the best games of the genre. Instead, it gives the sort of sinking feeling associated with not being able to relocate that previously unreachable item.
Contributing to the problem is the game's ridiculous map system, which offers nothing more than a topological overview of the landscape with shading to represent where you have and have not traveled. The only other marks on the map show your current location in the game, and those of item shops, owned by the smarmy Mr. Moneybags, an anthropomorphic bear whose Franco-Arabic accent and ethnic garb mark him as a product of colonial Algeria. This minimalist map is rendered even more useless by the fact that you have to leave the game screen to view it. In order move from point A to point B, you'll have to repeatedly go to the map screen and ensure that the dot representing your location has moved in the right direction. Furthermore, there's no single "world map." Each region is assigned its own little diagram, and unless you've used one of the game's teleport pads, you'll be left guessing how to move between them.
Putting the gameplay issues aside for the moment, as mentioned, A Hero's Tail's graphical presentation is leagues beyond that of its predecessor, and much better than the title's gameplay truly merits. The game looks the same on all three consoles, running at a steady clip and featuring bright, clear texturing that makes Spyro's turf look like Disneyland--a good thing for this pastel-pigmented platformer. All the playable characters and major non-player characters have received the high-poly treatment and look sharp as a result. The in-engine cutscenes really demonstrate the fine work that went into these models. Less care has been taken with your typical baddies, who look slightly blocky, but in a stylized way. The game's camera can be inconsistent, but it rarely gets stuck behind objects, and can, in any event, be controlled using the right analog stick. In short, Spyro's graphics hold up when compared with other multiplatform offerings in the genre.
A Hero's Tail is all about mingames. Seriously, that seems to be the point of the game.
A Hero's Tail's audio makes just as solid a showing. The music is always up-tempo and appropriate, and the characters are all well voiced, particularly Sgt. Byrd, a rugged jetpack pilot with an upper-crusty British accent. When Spyro first encounters Byrd, he's cautioned, "No Spyro. Only birds and air-force pirates can get up there--and I just happen to be both of those things!"
Although Spyro's production values have shot up, its gameplay has remained more or less the same since the series' 1998 debut. Back then, players lacking Nintendo 64s didn't have too many good 3D platformers to choose from, so Spyro's gameplay foibles were acceptable, in light of its uniqueness. The novelty has worn off. Today, modest improvements on this tired formula, like giving Spryo's once-vestigial, T-rex-like arms the ability to grip ledges, just aren't enough to make the game feel innovative. Filling the title with disruptive and boring minigames to artificially increase play time apparently wasn't a good move, either. Despite all the new window dressing, Spyro: A Hero's Tail is the same game you played six years ago, and you probably remember it being better.