"There was a time when Spyro games were good. Out of absolutely pure coincidence, this was the same time when Spyro was made by Insomniac, who since moved on to Ratchet and Clank. The original Spyro the Dragon was the start of what would become a hallmark franchise of the PSone platform genre, stripping 3D platforming to its fundamentals and demonstrated how they should be made. A small, cute purple dragon but with an attitude, and, um, fiery breath, how could anyone hate wee Spyro?..."
There was a time when Spyro games were good. Out of absolutely pure coincidence, this was the same time when Spyro was made by Insomniac, who since moved on to Ratchet and Clank. The original Spyro the Dragon was the start of what would become a hallmark franchise of the PSone platform genre, stripping 3D platforming to its fundamentals and demonstrated how they should be made. A small, cute purple dragon but with an attitude, and, um, fiery breath, how could anyone hate wee Spyro?
Itching his feet in a rain-drenched summer at the dragon realms, Spyro is fed up and sets off on a vacation at Dragon Shores. Or so he thought. In the land of Avalar, when Hunter (a leopard), Elora (a fawn) and the professor are at work on a super-portal. However, Ripto and his Henchman, impressed by the super-portals power, decide to crash in and consequently Avalar’s fairies are ordered to dismantle the super-portals orbs and scattering them around Avalar to prevent Ripto returning home to “pack his bags”. Upon realising his phobia of dragons, the super-portal crew divert a portal from the dragon realms to Avalar. Moments later Spyro crash-lands in, and upon confusing everyone when asking for directions to the beach, he soon realises there was no time for a hero to rest yet.
This sequel is substantially different to the original Spyro game, with a completely new set of characters and a graphical transplant. The essential structure remains, each level is accessed via a portal in Avalar’s three home worlds; laden with collectable gems and a hell of a lot of enemies. Spyro may still be purple and still breathes fire, but he learns new abilities here such as being able to swim underwater climb ladders and headbash downwards. These moves necessary for progressing through the game but have to be taught by a fat-ass bear Moneybags for “ahem…a small fee.” Power-ups are a key component found throughout levels, activated by defeating enough enemies, they form the basis to many of the mini-games on offer and grant Spyro abilities such as super-breath or unlimited flight for a limited time.
But instead of merely freeing dragons, Spyro 2 is far more objective based as each level has been led into chaos in some form or another since Ripto usurped control. Collecting talismans and orbs are key for progression; talisman’s earned by reaching the end of a level and essential to access the boss and subsequently the next world. Orbs on the other hand are often won by completing the large array of mini-games set by NPC’s in each level. A ludicrous amount are on offer with many being rather amusing; flying a stingray through hoops, catching crystallised magma inside a volcano, a hockey match or even a puzzle growing plants to free a bird back to her lover…in a military base level. It’s all bizarre stuff, but rather enticing.
Although a change in formula is welcome, the ultimate trade-off is that this game is way too easy. The main level structure has been dumbed down; many are simply based on linear progression but clustered with mini-games served on the side. For instance an NPC will tell Spyro at the start that they have been locked out, and require Spyro to defeat enemies to open doors to the end. The expert platform jumping and those hard-to-get-to areas seem oddly disappeared here with mini-games being placed in to justify the simplistic levels design. Even though Spyro 2 is a highly entertaining game and some tasks do test your skill, most are pretty easy and ultimately forms the back-bone of the game.
That aside, Spyro 2 still has the same level of creative level designs found in its predecessor. Indeed the ideas are going to be ripped off from somewhere, but seeing as all the levels are different with plenty of fun mini-games related to the theme it’s not exactly grave. The home-worlds themselves are themed after seasons (Summer Forest, Autumn Plains, etc.). The levels take Spyro to a tribal themed level where all the idols have come to life; a military base ran by walrus’s in which the munitions factory has been nabbed; a Scottish themed level full of rock monsters and even a futuristic metropolis level. The graphics don’t seem to look quite as polished as before but this certainly goes to greater depths to further that cartoon feel. The voice-overs are excellent making for some enjoyable cut-scenes, very few levels recycle background music and the musical score compliments their levels pretty well.
The Spyro series has often been overlooked when it comes to choosing classic game series. Despite the stripped down level design losing the adventure feel somewhat, and its ease, Spyro 2 is definitely a fun game to play, and even betters the production values from before. It’s may not play as well as the original and is probably the weakest of the PSone trilogy but that doesn’t mean this is a poor game. The mini-games are well-varied and with plenty of things to do here, this is certainly worth a fair few weeks of casual play. A recommended download on the PSN, because charging around and singing enemies with fire breath is still pretty enjoyable. Indeed, there was a time when Spyro was good.
Community review by bigcj34 (December 06, 2008)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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