5 - Breeze Harbour; Gear Grab
First on our list is the Gear Grab quest from Breeze Harbour. Riding on top of an incredibly precarious “trolley” that makes infuriatingly annoying squeaking noises every time you jump, you must navigate around a track that’s littered with explosives, boxes and big gaps that you have to jump across. Even more confusing is the fact you have to shoot targets to change the track’s direction and it’s very easy to miss a gear and have to ride around in circles until you find it.
4 - Magma Cone; Crystal Geysers I & II
Next are Hunter’s Crystal Geyser quests from Magma Cone. I’m sure I’m not the only person who cannot abide Hunter as a character, the arrogant prick - so having him host annoyingly frustrating orb challenges does nothing to alleviate the flack he gets. Very similar to the Mr Vile the crocodile mini-game in Banjo-Kazooie, you must race against Hunter to see who can collect the most pieces of crystal from the geyser. The problem is of course, Hunter is a CPU and his AI is very good - he seldom misses and if you’re unaware (as I was as a kid) that you can charge in front of him and steal the piece he’s literally about to grab, you’ll be restarting this quest again and again.
3 - Metro Speedway; Grab The Loot
At number 3 we have the cat burglars quest from Metro Speedway. This speedway in itself is my least favourite of the lot and this bonus orb quest does nothing to help that. A bunch of burglars have stolen all of the city’s gems and are now clinging to the sides of buildings… you know, instead of escaping back to their hideout with the gems… Anyway, Hunter accompanies you and shoots the burglars with a laser gun, causing them to drop their bags of loot. Your job is to catch them before they fall into the canal. This is harder than it seems - as many of the burglars practically have their toes dangling in the water and it’s incredibly easy to misjudge the distance and take a dive yourself - instantly causing you to fail and having to restart over and over and over again.
2 - Cloud Temples; Agent Zero’s Secret Hideout
You know what 3D platformers of the 90s and today are lacking? Mandatory stealth sections. Wait, NO THEY'RE NOT! Stealth and platforming are two genres that don't mix and should never be combined - and yet here we are - the Secret Hideout quest from Cloud Temples does just that. Firstly, Agent Zero is a tosser. He has a face you just want to punch. Repeatedly. Everything about him, from his design, to his stupid voice to his animation just rubs me the wrong way - and this isn't helped by how frustrating his stupid orb quest is. Agent Zero is going to his secret hideout and refuses to move until Spyro hides behind a tree. Once he's satisfied, he lumbers off - and we must follow behind him whilst making sure we don't fall off the cliffs or get spotted. What makes this harder are very loose definitions of what are and what aren't hiding places, Agent Zero’s tendency to spin around in a paranoid manner and doors that are apparently on some sort of timer that will slam in your purple dragon face if you don't pass through them quick enough.
1 - Fracture Hills; Escort The Alchemist
And at number 1 on this list, we have one of the most annoying and frustrating orb quests - one that made me scream as a child and still makes me throw controllers as an adult - the Escort The Alchemist quest from Fracture Hills. The operative word here is ESCORT. Nobody likes escort quests! It is pretty much video game law that 99% of the time, the thick sod you're escorting will be defenseless, carrying something valuable or be prone to dying easily. The Alchemist is a bumbling fool attempting to bring a potion to Hunter, who has his feet encased in stone - which, incidentally is also the Alchemist’s fault! Standing between you and Hunter are a bunch of Earthshapers with clubs - who would just love to smash that potion vial… even more annoying is the fact the Alchemist is indecisive and randomly decides to change direction after you've spent ages headbutting the Earthshapers aside. Want to know the most infuriating thing though? Once you've freed Hunter, he has an orb quest for you where you can get revenge on the Earthshapers - but you need to have learned the Headbash skill - something you learn in the third world. When you return later with Headbash, you'll have to escort the Alchemist AGAIN!