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Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! (PlayStation) artwork

Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! (PlayStation) review

"And now I'm all nostalgic for retro mascot platformers. Thanks, Spyro..."

One thing I hate about my younger gaming self is my old habit of ruining potentially positive experiences by insisting on completing games 100 percent, no matter how painful the endeavor proved. Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage released on PlayStation in 1999 and I bought it shortly thereafter, so why did it take me until early 2015 to beat it? The answer is that I lost interest by the time I reached the third and final hub world, mostly thanks to my collecting compulsion. I finally discovered the game in a forgotten box a few months ago and gave it another try, this time with a more relaxed mindset. I'm glad I did.

Ripto's Rage is a whimsical mascot platforming game from 3D gaming's early days. As might be expected, the camera is a bit uncooperative at times, and the developers at Insomniac Games made a few awkward decisions elsewhere, as well. Still, the good times I had here inspired me to also pick up the first and third titles in the series. That has to count for something, right?

After saving a whole bunch of dragons from Gnasty Gnorc in the first Spyro, the titular character is in the mood for a vacation. Things are never that easy, though. Instead of going to Dragon Shores, Spyro finds himself in another fantasy world. He's forced to serve as its champion and do battle against Ripto, an evil overlord saddled with amazingly unintelligent lackeys. The dragon and his dragonfly assistant will visit three realms -- Summer Forest, Autumn Plains and Winter Tundra -- clearing a bunch of self-contained levels and along the way gaining the power required to challenge Ripto.

Once cleared, the first two realms award Spyro with talismans that are necessary to unlock boss rooms. Both the hub worlds and the levels they contain possess a slew of orbs, which typically are won either by completing mini-games, running errands for NPCs, or simply searching in out-of-the-way locations. For much of the game, the orbs seem to have little purpose except to serve as rewards for largely unnecessary shows of skill. Once in a while, a doorway to a level might be blocked until you've gained a certain number, and the instruction manual also offers a throwaway line about needing a bunch of them to challenge Ripto, but they mostly seem decorative. Remember that point in a few paragraphs.

Getting through most of the stages isn't particularly challenging. Spyro breathes fire, charges into foes, and can spend easily-obtained gemstones to purchase special abilities that let him do things like climb ladders or perform "ground-and-pound" head-bash attacks. Most levels also contain additional powers such as flight or a super fireball that you can access temporarily once you dispatch a certain number of baddies. Many foes can't survive a single attack and also like to walk directly up to Spyro, making for a game that's light on challenge but heavy on fun.

There is a great deal of variety in the assorted levels, with each offering a unique scenario. On Sunny Beach, you must help a bunch of baby turtles navigate the level, using your fire breath to "induce" larger tortoises to step on door-opening switches. Robotica Farms suffers from an abundance of insects, so you have to access the switch for a bug light to fry them. Meanwhile, Magma Cone's erupting volcano is preventing some critters from throwing a party, so you need to make it stop by closing its lid (just like in real life!). With this sort of variety on display, I looked forward to each new world because I knew it would offer something unlike anything I'd previously encountered.

Boss battles are the main area where the game finally offers any challenge. That's especially true of the guardians waiting in Autumn Plains and Winter Tundra, where you must race to find powerful items you can use to damage them before they can snag one and beat you to the punch.

The rest of the game's difficulty comes from the need to grab the aforementioned orbs, as many of the related challenges can actually prove quite difficult. Unfortunately, the camera isn't on your side. It's not horrible, but the early technology falls well shy of perfection. You can either control it yourself or have the computer do so automatically. The former option ensures that you'll constantly find yourself fiddling with the shoulder buttons, while the latter one forces you to wait as the camera relocates itself each time you venture off in a new direction. Mostly, this doesn't ever get truly annoying until you're completing the orb challenges, which are for the most part optional.

Then you reach the Winter Tundra area, and the rules change. It makes me wonder if Ripto's Rage was rushed to reach store shelves. Summer Forest features six regular levels, one speedway and its boss arena. Autumn Plains boasts even more challenges: eight levels, two speedways and a far more entertaining boss fight. Then along comes the final hub, with only four stages, one speedway and Ripto himself. While that's a bit disappointing, the new emphasis on orb collecting is an outright annoyance. The four levels also don't award talismans upon completion. Instead, players receive an orb apiece. To enter Ripto's room, you must have gathered 40 or more of the 64 orbs present in the game. Hmm, I guess those side quests aren't so optional after all…

Around 15 or so years ago, when I first played Ripto's Rage, I grew sick of the game because I tried to do everything. The second time around, I had to go most of the way down that same road because the game itself demanded it. I dedicated a couple hours to riding a manta ray through hoops, scouring the entirety of Skelos Badlands to salvage eight bones from lizards, chasing down speedy thieves and recovering their stolen loot and doing an extensive fetch quest for an absent-minded professor. It didn't kill my enjoyment of the game, and I was able to endure it all in order to enjoy the epic three-part battle with Ripto, but I did find some of this to be tedious and annoying busywork. It made me appreciate how in the far more recent Super Mario Galaxy, you only need half of the 120 available stars in order to access the final battle with Bowser.

Still, while it is imperfect and at times a bit annoying, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage manages to offer players a mostly great time. There's just something infectious about a good mascot platformer that lets me overlook a great many minor flaws along the way. Forced orb collection aside, the game was excellently crafted and will make a great addition to your library if you still look back fondly on the days when mascot platformers were all the rage…


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 17, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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