On the way to Dragon Shores for a much needed vacation, Spyro and Sparx get interrupted by a group of characters who intercept the Dragon Shores portal. An over enunciating satyress, a mentally slow cheetah, and a bushy-browed mole, seek Spyro’s assistance in their battle against Ripto, who is taking over the world of Avalar and has a fear of dragons. Once again, Spyro is reluctantly roped into a situation where he’s forced to play the hero.
The gameplay retains the meditative feel from the first game but with more focused objectives, so it does require more of a conscious effort to play. Still, there’s plenty of room for zoning out and collecting treasure. Another difference is that other characters have a much bigger role in the game. There’s a larger emphasis on story, and consequently, more cut-scenes occur for plot progression.
Talismans and Orbs
There are a total of 14 Talismans and 64 orbs. The main objective of the game is to collect them because they provide a mysterious energy needed to activate portals, which allows for travel within Avalar and ultimately will assist Spyro in defeating Ripto and returning home. Even though the ending of the first game implied there would be more dragons to be rescued, that is not the case. Talismans are awarded by townspeople who are appreciative of Spyro’s help in the first two homeworlds.
Spyro receives orbs by completing tasks for civilians. Usually these are pretty simple, like hitting switches throughout the level to activate some contraption, puzzles, or less serious objectives, like playing a game of hockey against a clumsy enemy. When presented with a task, the player is given an objective summary and a star rating out of 5 to measure its difficulty. Orbs are usually earned, but can also be found in hard to reach places.
Regarding orbs, the characters always come up with some lame excuse for having an orb to give to Spyro. For example, after completing an underwater task involving Hunter, he says, “Here, take this orb, I found it in my flipper.” Minutes later, after the completion of the next task, Hunter says, “You can have this one, too. I found this one in my other flipper.” It’s rare that a character just gives you an orb without justifying where they got it and it can seem forced. In these ways, the game can feel watered down, like it’s appealing to a younger audience that needs all of the blanks to be filled in for them.
Treasure colours and values differ from the first game but the idea is still the same. Gems are now found within metal vases, wooden baskets, and scattered around levels. Rather than unlocking a treasure chest, a question mark container exists. Breaking it open makes it reappear somewhere else in the level. Spyro must break it a few times before it finally reveals its contents. Each level contains 400 treasure.
The inclusion of characters in this game is a double edged sword. The townspeople are entertaining creatures that are obviously designed to be comical. Some are references, like a pair of spooky, blonde children with speech impediments called Handel and Gretta. Some characters make the game worse…
Hunter, supposedly a protagonist, is a nuisance-cheetah who takes pleasure in patronizing Spyro. He even has the audacity to “teach” Spyro how to glide early on in the game. What would a cheetah know about gliding? The main problem with hunter is his voice. He speaks slowly and dynamically as if he’s speaking to a child, so it’s impossible to gauge his sincerity. For example, he speaks so carefully that he manages to pronounce the word “athlete” with three distinct syllables. Everything he says sounds like a potential insult. To put it concisely, Hunter is awkward and mean.
Moneybags is a proper British bear who totes around a sack of gems. Basically, his role is to monopolize areas in levels like bridges or even portals, and Spyro has to pay him in gems in order to obtain access. Who does this bear think he is? The worst thing about him is the way he goes about asking for money. “Of course, I would be willing to grant you access, for, ahem… a small fee…” which is never, ever small. The way he shakes his bag expectantly and peers at you through his condescending monocle is infuriating. Now the once delightful task of collecting treasure is tainted with discouragement, knowing that you’ll end up handing half of it over to the likes of him. Sometimes there are multiple instances of Moneybags located at various parts of a level and it’s creepy to pay up once, then turn the corner and see him also standing in front of yet another portal you’ll have to pay for.
To be fair, the characters aren’t meant to be taken seriously and are designed to be comic relief. The rivalry between them actually makes the game interesting and fun in its annoyance. The fact that they get under your skin implies successful design but since they’re so interwoven into the gameplay, their abuse does take its toll.
Home worlds are themed as seasons in this game. There are a total of three: Summer Forest, Autumn Plains, and Winter Tundra. Spring, for some reason, is not included, and creates an unsettling asymmetry in the game.
The level design is very similar to the first in that the levels take place on floating pieces of land. The majestic, fantastical quality is toned down because the game no longer takes place in the Dragon Kingdom. Instead, levels are more of a mashup of misfit creatures who have their own individual cultures and customs. This is probably what separates the first and second game the most: the diversity of settings and characters. They contain their own flags, Talismans that represent their land, beliefs, and practices. Levels are bigger and with more to do, so even though the game contains less of them, it doesn’t feel lacking
Rather than having apathetic balloonists with low expectations escort Spyro from world to world, the whole transportation system is based on portals. To get from one home world to the next, you go through a portal, just like traveling between levels. At the end of each home world, a boss fight against Ripto’s clumsy sidekicks takes place.
Flying levels, now known as Speedways, are new and improved. There are now tasks within Speedways that provide an opportunity to earn an orb on top of the regular routine of collecting objects before the time runs out.
Because of Spyro’s new abilities, some areas in levels are off limits until he gains those skills. The player must now return to some areas later in the game, a nice feature that encourages interaction with all of the levels at once instead of a more linear system. It feels like progress is worked up all at once, like a composition instead of a checklist. It can be disconcerting to open up the guidebook and see unfinished levels throughout it, but it’s also motivation to keep progressing.
Health and Lives
Sparx has made himself more useful in this sequel. Not only does he have a further range in gathering treasure, but holding down the top buttons of the controller causes him to point to treasure not yet collected. This comes in handy when you’re missing a couple of rogue gems and wish to track them down quickly without retracing all of your steps. To keep Sparx healthy, even cuter animals than in the first game are required as a sacrifice. The saddest might be the ladybugs, who sound a sad whistle after being destroyed.
Extra lives now take the form of sparkling butterflies contained in glass bottles which shatter musically. Just one of these will restore Sparx to full health.
Friends and Foes
Fairies are back, but mostly just as checkpoints. They zap you as a form of saving your progress in case you run into any trouble, or run off any cliffs. It can be irritating when you have to run through a certain part of the level repeatedly to complete a task and they feel the need to zap you each time. The game automatically saves when traveling between portals. Enemies are random and dependent on environment like in the first game. Flaming and charging are used as attacks. Later, a headbash ability can be used to defeat enemies and smash boulders. Some are vulnerable to flame attacks and some are weak against being charged.
Whirlwind has the same function as the first game, twirling Spyro upward into in a sparkly cyclone to reach higher platforms. The difference in this game is that Whirlwind has some sort of relationship with orbs, in that collecting orbs can activate whirlwind in places it didn’t exist before.
Enemies no longer give treasure but instead contain “spirit particles.” Spirit particles are a form of energy that activate a gate in the level. Requiring between 10 and 25 enemies to activate, these power-ups allow Spyro to spit explosive fire, go into supercharge mode, temporarily be granted the ability to fly, and more.
Another added feature is “Skill Points.” Doing something random and obscure actions like flaming all of the plants within a level can result in a skill point. An extra life butterfly appears and the collection of every skill point in the game leads to a reward.
This is a new feature that replaces the menu screen in the first game. The guidebook can be selected through the menu screen, and every level you’ve played is summed up into a neat percentage, representing your level of completion. If you select specific levels, you get details on the number of orbs per level and what you had to do to acquire them. If you haven’t gotten an orb yet, the game offers a hint as to where it can be found.
Perhaps the best features added to the game are Spyro’s new abilities. He can swim, climb ladders, and headbash. These abilities are learned over time, of course, by paying off Moneybags. Swimming offers a whole new dimension to the game since water was harmful in the first. The underwater physics are well done, and bashing open treasure chests and letting the gems rain down underwater feels exceptionally good. Another new ability is using spitting as a method of attacking and puzzle solving. Spitting rocks is frequently required to take down objects or enemies out of Spyro’s range. Sypro can also spit seeds in required levels to grow plants, or light bulbs to carry to certain destinations.
Controls and Cameras
Even when simply running around, it is apparent that the controls have been improved. There are smoother transitions between movements like jumping and sprinting. Spyro now has the ability to hover instead of dropping straight down mid-glide. A faulty glide can be corrected at the last second if necessary. The physics of gliding are celebrated more when Spyro must glide across the top of a castle to a remote cliff side you can barely see, giving the player a more exciting experience. The cameras have also been improved, but still a can feel out of control and inhibiting while swimming underwater.
Visually the game has also improved. During in game talking scenes, animations can occur fluidly in the background while in the first game, the background animations were halted. It’s full of texture and visual details that characterize each location without compromising the ability to focus.
Sound Effects and Music
Some sound effects changed from the first game but nothing drastic. Now, Spyro’s jumping sound is a wafty, floating sound instead of a croak. Treasure, while it still rings deliciously, has a warmer sound. Again, that percussive soundtrack that defines Spyro is ever present. There does seem to be a slight change the style. In the level music, more vocal sounds and repetition are worked in, which parallels the newly focused, task-driven game play. The original essence remains in tact. The biggest musical change occurs in the home worlds, where the proggy tracks are replaced by an ambient ensemble of chimes in a dream-like soundscape. A clear boundary is defined between home worlds and levels with this mood change and characterizes Avalar as a peaceful, airy world. No enemies exist in these homeworlds, so the soul-whooshing ambiance is an excellent choice.
Every problem with the first game was addressed and improved in the second. The game managed to be extremely loyal to the original without being a carbon copy. New characters and mechanics freshen up the already fun gameplay. The addition of the new characters does have its drawbacks; the “cool” factor that Spyro had in the first game is dampened because of the company he now keeps. At first, the addition of characters makes the game feel more childish, but it’s balanced out by moments of warped adult humour if you give it a chance. While I miss the detached, mysterious gameplay of the original, this game feels more complete than its predecessor.
+Loyal to the original
-Hunter and Moneybags
-Silly cut scenes
-Geared toward a younger audience
Alicia is a Games Reviewer for The Geekiverse. She often writes about games that will sweep a wave of nostalgia over you.
What is a hindsight review? It’s an article in which a Geekiverse writer reviews a game that they have never played before and is outside its launch window. It offers a fresh perspective and shows which games in your backlog are worth playing through.
Past Hindsight Reviews:
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
Far Cry 4
Spyro The Dragon
Resistance: Fall of Man
The Lego Movie Video Game
Sniper Elite: 3
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Lego Marvel Super Heroes