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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Retro Review: Spyro 2

Think back to 1999. Do you remember the game came with your PS1? What was it? Tony Hawk’s? Crash Bandicoot? Both great places to start, but no, the game I’m thinking of is a real gem, a game that brings you into a fantasy world full of dragons and portals. Of course, as you’ve read the title of this article you know I’m talking about Spyro 2, a game full of fond memories for many, but how does it stand up to games today?


     Well, I dunno. How’s I s’posed to know

This action platformer is of course the sequel to the equally popular Spyro the Dragon. Using a variety of ways to negotiate levels (walking, charging, jumping, gliding and hovering) it’s gameplay is similar to its predecessor, but possibly slightly smoother. Your objective is to gather gems, orbs and talismans to complete each stage, with various power-up towers that give special abilities (such as unlimited flying, superflame and invincibility) to take on different challenges. Additionally, some levels give you a time limit in which to destroy certain targets, adding a certain level of depth in the types of obstacles you face.

Level 1: Story

In the Dragon Realms, Spyro and Sparx are sick of the rain. They think they deserve a vacation, so they travel to a world called Dragon Shores. While this is going on, in the world of Avalar, the Professor, Elora the Faun and Hunter are working on a portal designed to bring them a dragon, their only possible saviour from the evil, self-appointed dictator Ripto (The game was billed as Ripto’s Revenge in the US) who himself was brought to Avalar by a malfunction in an earlier portal. Ripto set about taking over Avalar with his minions Crush and Gulp, something he was able to do unopposed because of the land’s lack of dragons. Spyro, after being bought to Avalar must collect the Talismans and orbs from each world to destroy Crush, Gulp and eventually Ripto himself to restore peace.

Level 2: Presentation

Spyro 2 is a nice looking game that stretched the PS1’s hardware much further than the previous edition. It is by no means the best looking, but everything you see stands out, with each level having a clear, defined theme (Glimmer is a mine, Colossus, a place of worship and Breezy Harbour, a midnight cruise) increasing the desire to explore the levels rather than just completing basic objectives. As well as enhancing the gaming experience, this makes it a lot easier to find hidden objectives and mechanisms required to complete a level (For instance, one world you explore has to be filled with water in order to reach platforms that are otherwise inaccessible). Over the course of the game you get to explore three homeworlds with seasonal themes (Summer Forests, Autumn Plaines and Winter Tundra) with between six and ten individual levels on each. Autumn Plaines has always been a personal favourite of mine because some stunning level design that really stands out opposite other games released in this period.


Seriously, how can you NOT love this?

Level 3: Gameplay

Like the visuals, the gameplay is very smooth, with quick, easy transition from one action animation to another, and although the camera speed and change of angle is a little slow for my taste, it may well appeal to other gamers. Your health is indicated by your little dragonfly friend, Sparx who is worth three hit points indicated by his change of colour  from Yellow to Blue to Green before disappearing. If you get hit while he is not around a life is lost. Sparx’s health can be replenished though by eating butterflies found throughout the game. Each world features different challenges given to you by a host of different characters, some of which require the use of power up towers, (as mentioned before, enabling you to fly or shoot high powered fireballs, opening up parts of the levels previously closed off to Spyro) although a number are basic object/character retrieval tasks. Spyro is a far more versatile little dragon compared to the original game. Right from the get-go, Spyro has a hover ability to get a little extra air at the end of a glide. His other abilities – swimming, climbing and headbashing – must be bought from Mr Moneybags for an, ahem, small fee…

Final Level: Boss approaching! Boss approaching! (Minor Spoilers)

Crush is the first boss, and isn’t very difficult. He will send out electrical waves for you to avoid. When you knock him to the ground it creates shockwaves that cause rocks to fall onto him. After three hits, he shoots fireballs for you to avoid instead and three more hits cause him to send electrical waves and fireballs at random. One more hit makes Crush rather desperate, as he chases you with his club. Avoid his blow and he sets of a rock fall that leaves him buried for good!

Bu-but this is… this is a… this is a kid’s game!

Gulp, the second boss, isn’t as stupid. He has little pterodactyls to lay eggs that land on the ground and reveal… explosives. Not sure how that one works, but anyway, the explosives can either be used by you or by Gulp. First, the birds (yesIknowtheyarepterodactylsjustrollwithit) will drop a barrel which you can charge into Gulp but if you’re too slow, he’ll swallow it and use it against you. Next, the birds will drop bombs. A quick burst of flame on these and they’ll explode after a short time. Finally, the birds will drop small rockets. These are the easiest to attack with because they can be aimed by eating them and pressing triangle. After you beat Gulp, he falls over and Ripto falls out of his throne into the not-so-bottomless pit, and that appears to be him done for…

Wait, WHAT?

As the story goes on, you realise that Ripto wasn’t killed (It’s pretty obvious, considering that he appears in the next cutscene.) You must go forth, and vanquish the evil that is about to be no more! (You might want to work on that speech.)

So, Ripto. He’s not dead, in fact he’s very much alive. Explaining this boss battle is gonna be a little difficult.

But let’s try anyway.

Using the orbs you collected, you must defeat Ripto. Hunter flies around dropping green, red or blue orbs, and each has a different power.

Collecting three red orbs give you superflame, collecting three blue orbs gives you supercharge and three green orbs gives you plasma breath. Ripto though will compete to collect these orbs before you, and he has his own collection of powers to use on you. Three red orbs for Ripto cause him to fire red electricity from his scepter. Three blue orbs will surround him with blue, electric orbs. Finally, three green orbs will cause him to emit hot waves of spherical, gaseous green ‘fire’ from his sceptre. After you defeat Ripto, he will magic up some robotic Gulp: one of your five-a-day. Gulp has his share of orb-powers: Red makes him do a giant superflame, green makes him shoot light-blue electricity ball out of his horns and green gives him laser-vision. (Have you kept up so far? No? Good. Me either!)

Robot gulp explodes and sends Ripto, Spyro and even Hunter flying, causing him to drop all the orbs. You can see hunter sliding down the wall in the background, which I always thought was pretty funny. Ripto gets up and turns a gold orb into a robot bird, and Spyro follows him by using a gold orb to give himself superflame AND superflight. Ripto turns the floor into lava, just like your childhood games, only a lot more deadly. You must shoot Ripto with your superflame a few times, which is frankly pretty simple stuff compared to what I’ve just had to explain.

Ending (Minor spoilers)

Ripto sinks in the boiling hot lava, and the gem from his scepter powers the superportal which the Professor uses to take you to Dragon Shores. Time for a well earned vacation! The credits roll as a camera takes you through the lands you explored through the game.

Buuuut we’re not done yet.

Bonus round – Completion bonus!

After the credits are finished, you find yourself in Dragon Shores. There is a NPC standing at the door. You must have 8,000 gems and 55 orbs to go through the door. Once you go through, you will find various mini-games you can play to get tokens:

Roller-Coaster: Ride a roller trying to pop balloons.

Target Practice: Using the superflame, shoot targets that pop up from the ground.

Water Dunker: Using a rock, shoot a target and dunk enemies from the game!

Tunnel of luuuuuurve: Not really a minigame, just take a ride in the tunnel of love.

Each minigame will give you 1-3 tokens. If you collect 10 tokens, then you can access the theatre, where you can play any cutscenes from the game. Congratulations! You’ve completed the game!

Well, not quite.

There are 64 orbs and 10,000 gems in the whole game. That’s 9 orbs and 2,000 gems you still need to collect. After that, you open the door to the permanent super-flame. This gives you the superflame forever! And now, we’ve finally finished the game.

Buuuuut, not really. (You’re getting pretty sick of these, aren’t you? I can feel it through your monitor.)

Throughout the game, there are 16 hidden skill points. These are random little things you can do which give you an extra life if you do them. The difficulty ranges from extremely easy (Landing on top of an idol) to extremely hard (Beating Ripto without getting hit. It took me around a month to perfect that one.) Once all the skill points are completed, you get an extra page in your guidebook for the Epilogue and Extinct Creatures of Avalar pages. The extinct creatures of Avalar are just monster sketches that never made it into the game.

And before I leave you, I will give you one last part of my review:

╚evΣl 0 – g╚i╦ChS

This game has quite a few glitches, although none of them are gamebreaking, which are all triggered by pushing the game’s margins i.e. Jumping to a very high platform.

One of the most famous (and most useful) glitch from Spyro 2 is the double jump glitch. This is triggered by pressing square while jumping (holding X). This glitch can be very hard to pull off, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike. The glitch gives you a little extra height and distance from a jump, making those infuriatingly large gaps easier to negotiate.

The second most used glitch is the swimming in the air glitch. Unfortunately, I can’t explain it very well, so this video found on youtube will do so.

As you can see, this glitch makes you fly, or “swim,” in mid-air. This can get you into some pretty sweet places!

Although this may be intentional, I’m going to include it anyway: If you start a new game after playing a save with the permanent superflame, you can start the game with permanent superflame! This can make it much easier to do challenges, and you achieve a lot more a lot faster than in your first playthrough.

And now, we are at the end of the review. Now, the question is going to be answered: Does this game stand up to games today?

For it’s time, Spyro 2 was an amazing game. Today, many people prefer games such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and the like, but if you’re a fan of games like Little Big Planet, Crash Bandicoot and Gex, you’ll love this game, packed with hidden depth and a sizeable lifespan. I give it as close to perfect marks as possible, highly recommended.

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