The original Spyro was a technical feat for the PlayStation: It gave us a fully 3D, pop-up-free world, the likes of which we'd only seen in a few titles on the Nintendo 64. Its presentation was exceedingly top-notch on a system that was starting to show signs of age (even last year), and the level design and gameplay also held to high standards. Its downside? The game was over a little too quickly, and its stages felt a bit cookie-cutter toward the end. Spyro 2, however, injects a dose of soul and variety into a game that was already pretty fun to play.
After the events of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro and his dragonfly friend decide to spend some time vacationing on scenic Dragon Shores, only to be pressed into freeing a kingdom from the clutches of the pocket-sized dictator Ripto (a name inspired by the Japanese "spelling" for Spyro). To gain entry into the domains of Ripto and his minions, Spyro must gather a number of items (orbs and talismans, for those keeping track) across a host of different worlds, righting wrongs and completing quests.
As in the first game, Spyro can glide across short distances, breathe fire, run enemies down like a rampaging bull, and fly (with the help of a power-up). In Spyro 2, the dragon has picked up a few new skills, such as the ability to ice skate, spit objects from his mouth, swim, and head butt - a move pretty similar to Super Mario 64's butt-stomp, except you use the other end. The interaction with other characters has also been expanded, and little in-game engine cartoons flank both the beginning and end of each level.
So far, it might sound as though Spyro 2 has only made a few ancillary improvements over the original, but that's not the case at all. Yes, it does look and play almost exactly like the first game, but that's not a bad thing. The control is still elegantly smooth, the camera is still all but perfect, and the graphics are still very sharp. The big changes come from what appears to have been the game's inspiration - Sony's MediEvil. What really made MediEvil shine was that it presented extremely fun puzzles and extra bonus quests within each level. And the greatest addition to Spyro 2? Fun puzzles and extra bonus quests within each level. That's not to say these features are similar to those in MediEvil, because they're not - except perhaps theoretically.
These additions are much more what you'd expect from a full 3D world, and they revolve around things like blasting a number of objects with your flame breath while flying; hunting down monsters; and gathering items for the weak, helpless, and small. For instance, in one level, you play a game of hockey against a yak, but unlike in your normal game of hockey, you pick up the puck with your mouth and blast your opponents with fire if he's in the lead . In another level, you must stop a horde of just-out-of-the-shell lizards from chowing down a group of friendly cave men. In both levels, the timing is set up to be challenging, though not impossible - it hits that perfect level of fun that makes you keep playing long after you had expected to leave the house and go out. Since there are from one to four fairly dissimilar minigames per level, a lot of variety is added to the "collect all the gems" mechanic found at the heart of Spyro 2. And it makes the game almost twice as long to beat.
Spyro 2's addictive features show up early and keep on going right through to its excellent final boss level, creating a game that makes you actually want to acquire every single object and coin to see the alternate ending. That's rare to see, and something you really should attempt. While it won't absolutely blow you out of your socks like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie did, it's the most charming platform game since Sony's infectious little surprise MediEvil.