Spyro 2

Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! (or in European countries, "Gateway to Glimmer") is the sort of video-game sequel that you wonder why they even bothered to make it. Not that the game is bad, but because it seems so unneccesary. How could they possibly expand upon the concept and mechanics of the first game, aside from increasing the challenge? The answer is, they didn't.

If it weren't for Spyro himself, you'd probably be surprised that this is supposed to be in the same vein as the original game. The goal is still to fly, charge, and flame your way through various levels, collecting treasure. However, many of the things that made the first game interesting have been compromised to mold the game more towards popular trends in 3D platformers of the time. For example, throughout the game Spyro learns the abilities to climb, swim, and the inexplicably ubiquitous 'ground-pound'. These are all seen in many, if not most, other 3D platformer games, but it doesn't really make sense to have them used by a dragon.

Although you'd expect a sequel to ramp up the challenge, or at least keep it consistant with the first game, the difficulty of the regular platforming segments is actually much lower. Gone is the clever level-design, for the most part. There are still some of those "how do I get there?" moments like in the first game, but they are few and far-between.

In their place is a slew of largely unrelated mini-games and tasks to perfom in each level. The individual levels seem like they were just thrown together as a means to get from one mini-game to another. Although each location has its own unique enemies, characters, and the occasional gimmick, many of them feel the same, distinguishable mostly by the different side quests within them.

Although some of the mini-games are interesting, challenging, fun, or engaging, like playing hockey against a yeti, or protecting a village of cavemen from invading dinosaurs, many of them are annoying and frivolous. This emphasis on performing random tasks for shiny doo-dads (in this case, magical orbs) is an obvious attempt to ape popular 3D games like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie Of course, this has the predictable effect of robbing the game of its own identity. Very rarely will you feel like you're doing something that couldn't have been in another game.

They somehow managed to completely screw up the camera. In the first game, the camera followed behind Spyro and worked perfectly fine. Here, there are two different camera settings, and they are both awful. One is passive, which is controlled mostly by the player, but can get hung up on environmental objects and other characters. The other is active, and is closer to how it was in the first game, but often jitters around in a nausiating fashion. If that all weren't enough, many areas in the game are not designed to accomidate either camera setting, so it all ends up being a hinderance.

But it's not all bad, because they actually managed to do something better here than they did in the first game. The bosses are much, much better than those of Spyro 1. In fact, the most creativity seems to have been put into the bosses. Unfortunately, there are only three of them, but maybe that's for the best. Surely, with fewer bosses, they were able to put more effort into each individual one.

The Flight levels are also back, now called Spedway stages, managing to be the one thing that actually feels like an expansion upon something in the first game. The control in these segments seems to have been improved, and there is a larger variety of targets.

Like the first game, the sights and sounds are a mixed bag. It's colorful and the graphics are fine, but not really anything too impressive. The music is very similar to the first game's, only less shrill and grating. You may end up either loving the soundtrack or hating it. And, no offense to Mr. Alazraqui, but they replaced the Taco Bell dog with a better voice actor for Spyro. There's alot of other voice acting in this game, however, so there's plenty of room for annoying performances. Luckily, most of the voice overs can be skipped or turned off in the options menu.

Spyro 2 is not without its charms. It's just disappointing to see so many of the things that made the first game good get thrown aside in favor of popular convention. Who knows, some people may actually prefer the more goal-oriented nature of part 2 over the sprawling scavenger hunts of the first game.