As someone who was a little late to the party, only moving past The Sims and endless Tomb Raider reruns with the advent of the Playstation 3, there's a heck of a lot of early Sony franchises I missed out on. As such, this generation's tendency towards umpteen remasters and re-releases has been a bit of a double-edged sword - on one hand, it'd be nice to see something brand new, but on the other, I do appreciate being able to catch up on some of the oldies I never played. One such classic I've been itching to play is Spyro, cute purple dragon and platforming extraordinaire - and it's been Christmas come early at Everybody Plays HQ, as we've torched, headbutted and glided our way through not one, not two, but three games. Comprising the original Spyro the Dragon, it's sequel Spyro: Ripto's Revenge! and the three-quel Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is very much the definitive Spyro collection, and well worth a punt if you're fond of a good old platformer.
At their most basic, the Spyro games are light platforming adventures, with a heavy emphasis on collecting. Armed with a flame attack, a dashing headbutt and a glide (with many more moves to be unlocked as the games go on), the plucky little purple dragon must run round creepy forests, cloud-top towns and glistening beaches, beating up bad guys and rounding up gems and stolen dragon eggs, in an effort to save the world from some nefarious evil. The good thing about Spyro is that it's nowhere near as hard as some other old Playstation platformers we could mention (*cough* Crash Bandicoot *cough*), and the challenge comes more in scouring every last inch of each level in search of collectables instead.
Spyro the Dragon
This is where it all began. An 'ugly, simple-minded creature' by the name of Gnasty Gnorc has taken umbrage at the inhabitants of the legendary dragon kingdom, and has turned them all into crystal statues. All except one - a diminutive dragon by the name of Spyro, deemed to puny to pose much of a threat. It's this oversight that soon becomes Gnasty's undoing, as Spyro travels all across the dragon kingdom, freeing the imprisoned dragon elders, beating up Gnasty's gnorcish army (half gnome, half orc) and generally saving the day.
Very heavy on the collecting, you'll head into each new world in search of several crystallised dragons and stolen treasure - and once you've rescued enough dragons, you can then move on to the next world. Each area also has an egg thief to find, usually taunting you from some hard to reach spot, before you can chase them down with a dash. A handful of boss fight style encounters crop up along the way too, like repeatedly burning the bottom of nudist shaman Doctor Shemp whilst dodging his attacks.
Spyro: Ripto's Revenge!
After the events of the original game, Spyro decides he fancies a holiday - after all, a trip to the sunny dragon coast would be the perfect antidote to the constant rain the world of the dragons is currently experiencing. However, when he tries to take a portal to his holiday destination of choice, he finds himself not on a beach, but in the kingdom of Avalar, a mysterious world terrorised by a little who-knows-what that goes by the name of Ripto. Turns out Ripto is deathly afraid of dragons, and Avalar's inhabitants had attempted to summon forth a dragon to help them overthrow their new dictator - and that dragon just happens to be Spyro. He'll need to travel to each of Avalar's fourteen worlds to collect talismans to help him put an end to Ripto's evil reign, whilst also snaffling some orbs to power up the various portals, and eventually get him back home.
Whereas the original Spyro the Dragon was fairly open and relied on you finding collectables for yourself, Spyro: Ripto's Revenge! takes a slightly more mission-based approach. You're still running round areas and picking up scattered gems, but now you have specific goals to complete, which reward you with talismans to help overthrow Ripto, and orbs to help Spyro get back home. As soon as you set foot in a world, you'll be ambushed by one of the natives and asked to help, perhaps escorting some turtle-children to the end of a level, or melting the eskimo folks who've got frozen in ice cubes, earning you a precious talisman in the process. Along the way, you'll also find other characters that need a hand, such as a seahorse king whose children have got stuck in some dangerous towers; an evil spirit that's taken up residence in a number of statues around town and which needs to be burnt out; or finding (and feeding!) a lonely guy's missing pet snow leopard. It all feels more structured, with more to do than just finding hidden collectables, which is definitely a good thing.
Spyro now has a few more moves in his arsenal too - or at least, he can have, providing he coughs up the gems to the treasure-obsessed Moneybags, anyway. During the course of the game, he'll learn to climb walls, swim underwater and much more, and you'll often need to head back to previously visited areas with your new moves to reach new orbs, gems and missions, if you plan on hitting that elusive 100%.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon
In Spyro's third adventure, the dragon kingdom is in trouble once more, for reasons that aren't immediately obvious, and a mysterious caped witch by the name of Bianca has stolen all the dragon eggs, scattering them between the nearby worlds. Because a Spyro's work is never done, it falls to the brave little dragon to chase her down, reclaim the lost eggs, and get to the bottom of the sinister plot.
Combining the collectable-hunting of the first game with the more specific missions of the second, Spyro: Year of the Dragon rounds out the trilogy with a bit of a best of both worlds. This time, you're hunting down the stolen dragon eggs, some of which are hidden around levels, and some which you'll get as rewards for completing certain missions and objectives. Such missions include rescuing the mayor from a band of bad guys, escorting a number of flaming 'sun seeds' to the end of a course (while constantly reigniting them so they don't go out), and skating around a skate park, taking out dastardly insects with your ollies, kickflips, and in our case, faceplants. It may seem odd to have a skateboarding dragon, but don't forget, this was the hey day of Tony Hawks games - and Activision obviously wanted to get their money's worth.
There's still plenty of gems to pocket too - however, this time Moneybags doesn't have new moves for Spyro to learn. Instead, he's locked up a number of characters as per the evil Bianca's orders - but if you have enough cash, he's willing to look the other way and let them free. Once freed, these characters have their own unique levels you can play, where, instead of Spyro, you'll get to leap your way around a fort as Sheila, stomping the enemy cannons out of existence, or fly around as Sgt. Byrd, rescuing caged up troops and homing missile-ing the living daylights out of Bianca's minions.
The Spyro Reignited Trilogy may be great fun, but there is one flaw - namely, the flying levels that crop up across all three games. For a creature that's almost as well known for it's flying ability as it's fire-breathing, Spyro is a bit unwieldy when in the air, particularly as Activision have neglected to give you the option to invert the flying controls. While pressing up to fly him down, and down to fly him up can take a bit of getting used to for those not so au fait with flying games, add in a rather tight time limit, and it's all likely to go to pot. Each flying stage has a number of objectives for you to complete - usually flying through some rings, destroying certain obstacles and the like - and you'll be rewarded a number of gems for completing each one, with a final pot of gems up for grabs if you can complete them all in one run. And this is where it gets tricky. Theoretically, completing an objective will add a bit of time to the clock, giving you the extra time you need to complete a few more tasks - but as Spyro is so awkward to fly, and has a tendency to drop out the sky if you skim the ground to closely, it can quickly get frustrating. Likewise, the swimming levels of the second and third games can also be a bit clunky and awkward, although as they don't generally have the time pressure of the flying segments, they're at least tolerable.
However, it's hard to stay mad at the Spyro Reignited Trilogy for long. As someone who never got a chance to play the games the first time round, it's the perfect introduction to the series, with oodles of platforming, enemy headbutting and collecting to be done. And, if you played them the first time round, it's still a great bargain, with three games in one, all lovingly remastered. Now, you'll have to excuse us - we have dragon eggs to find!
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4