Review by thecrobar
"The best game in the Spyro series"
Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage
There are plenty of classic platformers from the age of the Playstation and the Nintendo 64. Super Mario 64 created most of the 3D platforming conventions that later games would follow, and the era is considered as the golden age of platforming. Platformers have decreased in popularity since then, but one of the new features unique to this generation is the ability to buy old games through the Plastation Network. Thus, in a drought of platforming, we are faced with Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage. An early game by the now much more popular Insomniac (responsible for the Ratchet and Clank series), the Spyro series has declined since its PS1 roots. However, the older games are just as good as ever.
The game stars Spyro the Dragon, constantly followed by his friendly dragonfly pal Sparx. After a mix-up with some portal technology, he's called to a world known as Avalar. Avalar has recently been taken over by Ripto- due to another transporter accident- and the residents of Avalar need your help. To help, you'll need to collect a lot of shiny objects to open doors. As long as you're not expecting Oscar worthy dialogue the plot is enjoyable, and expecting otherwise is like expecting Spongebob Squarepants to put out Shakespeare.
The game looks great for a PS1 game. The colors are vibrant and smooth, which works well with the platforming: ledges are well defined and easy to see, which makes the platforming a lot less frustrating than some of the other platformers on the PS1. The models are well done too: Spyro moves without hiccups and the animations for his wings and tail flow well. There's not typically a lot of movement going on screen at once, but what movement there is looks great. The game is one of the better looking PS1 games out there, and it's obvious Insomniac was getting as much as they could out of the system.
Audio is a bit of a mixed bag. The music has a sort of Jazzy/modern vibe to it. You wouldn't think it would work well in the game's setting, but it's light and cheery and fits the game extremely well. The voice work is a bit annoying though. Spyro is decent, but most of the other characters sound like one guy trying to do a series of slightly different voices. They get annoying after a while, and the game often has talking when simple text would have sufficed.
Spyro, at it's heart, is essentially a clone of Super Mario 64. There is a central hub-world with portals that lead to smaller worlds, and each smaller world has a few different tasks that can earn you an orb or an emblem (essentially the same thing). Getting enough emblems/orbs will open up a new section of the map with a new set of portals to enter, where the process is repeated all over again. Spyro doesn't really innovate on this at all, but it's not really a formula that needs to be innovated upon.
Spyro's abilities are what make the game unique. As a dragon, he can charge with his horns, glide with his wings, and breath fire. He's assisted by his dragonfly Sparx, who acts as a health indicator as well as a treasure detector. In a classic example of what the hell logic often associated with platform games, whenever Sparx eats a butterfly (which you get by killing sheep or other fodder enemies) you'll gain health back. When you get hit, he changes color. Eventually he vanishes, which means you have only a single hit left.
The game makes plenty of use of similarly whimsical logic: monks known for playing Hockey, trees that transform bat-winged hippos into giants, and a war where the two sides are made up of penguins and sentient lard. Each level has some sort of odd reasoning behind it, and it's one of the best parts of the game to see how each of them is different. Still, levels can often have negatives. A large number of resources are used between different levels, and it can come off as lazy sometimes: the desert inspired levels all look the same, the temple style levels are extremely similar, etc. Different levels can often appear as just slight recolors of previous ones that have a different shape.
Unlike most heroes, Spyro doesn't have a double jump. Instead, he can glide. This leads to levels being much more horizontally oriented than in other platforming titles. Levels sprawl out a lot and lack many purely vertical areas. They mostly focus on unlocking doors or defeating enemies to continue through the level instead of pure platforming. This could either be considered a great feature or a huge negative: it makes the games very unique, but it also means that most of the platforming is extremely simple and easy to do. It's genuinely hard to die in some levels unless you throw yourself off the edge for no reason.
The game also includes orbs. Orbs are gained by completing a host of side tasks throughout the game. Most of them are similar to minigames: collect a certain number of something, beat a shooting gallery, etc. These are mostly forgettable, and can sometimes be difficult for all the wrong reasons. The controls for them can be problematic, and the camera can sometimes make things difficult. It works well for most things, but you have limited control over it and some of the challenges seem to completely break it. The bad part is that Orbs make up a majority of the gameplay in the game, and that they're so hit or miss. It would have been much better had the game featured less of them and more actual platforming. It feels sort of like getting the wrong thing from a restaurant: you can still eat a sandwich, but you wanted pasta.
Spyro is a classic example of an early 3D platformer: bright and colorful levels with a cast of cartoonish characters collecting lots of random items in order to defeat an enemy. It's not extremely complex, but it does what it sets out to do well enough to be entertaining. Those of you who played it as children will most likely find it significantly easier than you remember, and first timers to the series will most likely feel the same. It might not be the best platformer of the era, but Ripto's Rage is the best Spyro title and a great game for any platforming fan.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/23/10
Game Release: Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! (US, 10/31/99)
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