Review by c_rake
"An added dose of variety and improved structure greatly elevate Spyro 2 above its predecessor"
Ah, Spyro 2: the game that jump started Spyro's videogame career into the limelight during the PlayStation one days. Hard to believe how far he's fallen since then, staring in a nearly endless stream of mediocre games after his creators gave him up so many years ago. At least we still have the PlayStation originals to enjoy.
Though it's been more 12 years since its release (and it certainly shows), Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage still holds up as excellently as it did 12 years ago. With it now available on Sony's digital storefront the PlayStation Store*, now's as good a time as any to learn what it was that made this fiery little dragon such as hit back in the day.
Spyro 2 begins with our titular hero longing for a vacation. His homeworld is currently being hit with endless deluge of rain, you see, so he decides to head off to the sunny beach-side carnival at Dragon Shores. As luck would have it, of course, he doesn't end up there. Instead, he finds himself in the strange new world of Avalar, which is currently being ravaged by a pint-sized dictator by the name of Ripto, who seeks make Avalar his new kingdom. As it turns out, Spyro was summoned here precisely so that he could take out Ripto (he absolutely hates dragons, you see, so the locals figure getting a dragon to fight him is the best course of action). Spyro happily takes on the task, of course, because, well, he's the hero -- of course he's going to help. And thus begins another adventure for Spyro.
Though the story here is more involved than the bare-bones premise of its predecessor, story isn't a key factor in Spyro 2. Cut scenes progress the story along nicely and lend a touch of humor (particularly the intro and outro scenes for each individual level), which makes them entertaining to watch, but the events that transpire are hardly important to keep up with. That's not to say the story is bad -- just inconsequential to the overall experience.
Gameplay-wise, Spyro 2 is pretty standard for its time. The game sends you off across Avalar's many worlds jumping and gliding around on a hunt for gems, orbs, and the talismans of each world (the talismans being your main objective). Spyro 2 is big on item collection (it was sort of a fad back then). Where its predecessor was basically just one big collect-athon, however, which caused some monotony, Spyro 2 adds some structure to the collection aspect to remove the monotonous tendencies from before. Rather than just litter the field with your objectives, the items you seek -- orbs and talismans -- are hidden behind actual objectives; the orbs behind side-challenges and talismans for reaching the end of the level.
The presence of objectives seems insignificant, but it makes a world of difference. Previously you were dropped into a level and left to find what you're searching for on your own with no form of guidance to assist you even slightly. Not only was this tiresome but it wasn't very fun, either -- it was monotonous. In Spyro 2, however, your actually given goals to complete, which spice up the action with some welcome variety. Gaining orbs, which are used to open new levels occasionally, through completing side-challenges such as taking to the skies to combat waves of airborne enemies, games of hockey, and solving some traversal puzzles is much more fun and satisfying than just finding them lain about the field. The only thing that's laid about haphazardly are the gems, the game's currency of sorts. In their case, however, its more understandable -- after all, gotta have something lain about the field, right? And what better than money of sorts?
Levels are small but reasonably spacious thanks to their strong element of verticality. Ascension is a key part of traversal, as all the levels place heavy emphasis on gliding across from one platform to another being the primary means of progressing onward. Flying around is fun and simple, though it hardly presents any challenge due to there being so few instances of gliding over large gaps, pits, or all other manner of fall-based death-traps. Levels are primarily constructed with safety in mind, meaning that there's nary a fatal pitfall or gap to glide across; their substitution being solid ground, oftentimes. Swamp and lava pools are hazardous enough, but they're easy to escape from should you be unfortunate enough to land in one, thus weakening their destructive effects.
Still, that doesn't mean that the act of traversal isn't at least enjoyable. Though its simplicity mars any chance of challenge arising from it, it also means that there doesn't arise any instances of frustration at some poorly designed jump or something equally annoying. That you can just press onward without many worries is quite nice, I must say. Being able to enjoy the pleasures of flight -- the feeling of being able to go just about anywhere (provided you find a good spot to launch from, of course) and general relaxing nature of gliding to and fro platform to platform -- is a great trade-off.
Spyro's traversal abilities have also been expanded some in this installment. Over the course of the game he is able to learn how to both swim underwater and climb ladders, both of which add an extra touch of depth to the game's level design. Additionally, power ups such as Superglide, which grant Spyro the gift of full-on flight, or Supercharge, which allows Spyro to break down barriers, lend more means of getting around and discovering otherwise hidden spots of land. The platforming may be overtly simple in design, but with so many options available, it's hard not to at least find some enjoyment out of it.
One small problem that persists throughout Spyro 2, however, is the camera. Stubborn, slow moving, and immensely frustrating at times, the camera is a complete and utter annoyance. For one, its control is inverted -- and on the horizontal axis at that -- making it difficult to adjust to no matter how long you play. Add to the fact that it gets caught on walls and other environmental elements far too easily and is very slow moving no matter if its set to automatically stay behind Spyro at all times or not, and you've got yourself a recipe for extreme vexation. It's a product of its time, sure -- cameras were almost always an annoyance back in the PlayStation days -- but its still jarring, regardless.
In terms of combat, Spyro keeps things consistent by keeping it simple. Spyro only has two means of attack: charging and blowing fire. The former being most effective against armored foes, while the latter is most effective against larger foes. Basic, but it works. Enemies are pushovers, almost always going down with a single blow except in rare cases. Bosses aren't much harder, though they do present a larger challenge in comparison to the standard crop of foes due to having to employ a modicum of strategy deeper than just using attack A or B against enemies.
Ultimately, Spyro 2's biggest strength is its variety. The same relaxed approach to platforming from its predecessor remains effective here, but the added dose of variety alleviates much of the monotony that lingered in its predecessor. That, in conjunction with the added sense of structure, are a great asset in elevating the game's quality. It's age certainly shows, both in its lacking visual prowess and its horrid camera, but if you can put up with those aging parts, Spyro 2 is sure to please.
*Author's Note: This review was based on the original PlayStation version, not the digital release available on PS3 and PSP.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/01/11
Game Release: Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! (Greatest Hits) (US, 11/02/99)
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