Jumping straight from the first game into this second one, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage was the game of the trilogy I was most interested to play again. Or Gateway to Glimmer, as well called it here in the U.K. anyway.
A jump up in story, scope, accessibility and variety. Spyro 2 was one of my favourite games after it came out, playing it to 100% over and over again. I was real interested to see how the reignited set brought it to the modern era.
Unlike the first game which hardly has a story, Spyro 2 makes up for that by having story and character by the bucketload. Introducing the supporting cast of Elora the Fawn, Hunter the Cheetah and the Professor, as well as having a much more present, and characterised villain in Ripto. Especially in comparison to Gnasty Gnorc who doesn’t speak at all outside of the five words in the opening cut scene.
Spyro is transported to a new world of Avalar by the supporting trio, who are looking for a dragon to help them fight off Ripto and his two brutish minions: Crush and Gulp. Before he can do that though, he must travel the world of Avalar, collecting Talismans and Orbs.
Each world has it’s own aethstetic, npcs and villains. As you enter a world, each one has a little introductory cut scene, usually establishing the problem the inhabitants are suffering with a comedic slant. A violently slapstick one. It’s kind of surprising conserving how toothless a lot of media aimed towards kids seems these days.
You meet a local upon entering and a world and are given a task, which is almost always to simply arrive at the exit portal, reviving a talisman for your trouble. Which in turn unlock the doors the villain is hiding behind in each castle. Ripto himself seems a somewhat bumbling villain who it rather easily defeated once confronted.
The game’s mechanics are largely the same. The major new one you gain from the start is the ability to hover, which is an amazing addition.
Gliding could be frustrating in the first game, requiring you to get your timing exactly right to achieve the platforming challenges. The hover gives you a little boost of height as you flap out of the glide animation, it makes traversal around the map trivial by comparison to before. As a result this game has none of the frustrations borne from simply getting around like the first one did.
In addition to the hover, Spyro gains three new abilities during his journeys, acquired through another new NPC: Moneybags. This fat, monocled bear appears throughout the game and charges Spyro his gems to open doors, activate whirlwinds and teach new abilities.
It’s odd, I loved bumping into this bear during my childhood. Loving the idea of paying for things apparently, I never understood why the game vilified him so much for his industriousness during a trying time.
Either way he teaches three additional abilities: the ability swim underwater, the ability to climb and a ground pound.
Where the game really diverges from the first is in the collection of orbs. NPCs around the each world, often tucked away in hidden areas pose challenges to the player, rewarding them with an orb upon completion. These can range from escorting NPCs, to winning games of ice hockey or riding manta rays through hoops.
Each stage has a number of orbs to collect and you never see games repeated throughout. As a result the game is full of surprises, right up until the end. You have no idea what kind of world will be on the other side of that portal, nor what you’re going to be doing once you’re there.
Audio & Design
While I was surprised and drawn in by the music in the first Spyro, by comparison, the music here doesn’t stick out at all. It’s a surprising downside to the vastly more diverse approach to world and game play design. What’s there sounds fine, but it’s nowhere near as memorable, with very little to make each track distinct.
It means the game feels much less cohesive as a consequence. It might seem like a silly thing to point out, but the soundtrack and world design, in comparison to the first game, seems almost cobbled together from spare parts than a world designed with focus.
Spyro’s in a mountain temple surrounded by monks one moment, then an underwater city populated by seahorses the next, later still he’s flying around a city packed with Jetsons-esque robots under attack by farm animals. It’s not that each world of the game in a vacuum isn’t fun or charming, it just lacks the commonality throughout that the first game did.
The one actual criticism I have of this game in terms of it being a remake of the original games is the recasting of the character of Hunter. Toys for Bob did bring back Gregg Berger to voice Ripto, but not Hunter. Which is huge shame.
Robbie Daymond takes the role, and does a fine job, but there is just something a little less distinctive about his voice which actually takes away from Hunter’s character. In the PS1 days, with such limited graphics to work with, most of Hunter’s character came through his voice acting. He was this bumbling, lovable goof in the first game, Daymond’s performance makes him sound more “broish” and a more generic character my comparison.
It’s just a strange change to make when they were faithful in every other regard making these games, and you have the original voice actor in already recording another character.
The Spyro 2 portion of the Reignited trilogy, like the first game is a bright, colourful and vibrant re imagining of the original Playstation game. It looks fantastic and (aside from a single change) is utterly faithful to the original game.
It’s strange, but going back to this game after so many years, the little things I never noticed back then are far more apparent to my adult eye.
There is no doubt the second game was an improvement in terms of its story, it’s characters and the variety of things to do in the game. But for some reason, it doesn’t feel as strong now as the first game did.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be down on this game. Going back to it was amazing and it’s still one I hope a lot of nostalgia for. It’s a fanatically reverent remake of the game. It just lacks identity.
Spyro 1 felt like a game made with a that had a strong identity at its core. Spyro 2 felt more like a game that was taking ideas from every other successful game around it and throwing it all together in one big bowl. It makes me wonder how much the success of Crash Bandicoot affected the direction of this series.
Either way, these are all my thoughts. The game is still great and this remake trilogy continues to be a joy to play.
Spyro 3 is the game I didn’t actually play as a kid, so I’ll probably take my time with that one a little more and get back to you with the final part of this review series in a few weeks.