Looking Back: Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer

  • Name: Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer
  • Also Known As: Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! (USA), Spyro X Sparx – Tondemo Tours (Japan)
  • Developer: Insomniac Games
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Originally Released: November 2, 1999

The story of Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer is an interesting one. Spyro and his dragonfly companion, Sparx, decide they needed a vacation, and want to go to Dragon Shores. Upon going through a portal, Spyro and Sparx are brought to Glimmer, a world inside Avalar. Here, Spyro meets three new companions – Elora, Hunter, and The Professor. They accidentally opened a portal that let Ripto, an irritable Riptoc trying to escape dragons, into Avalar. Ripto wants to rule the land, with the help of his two huge Riptoc pets, Crush and Gulp – and it’s up to Spyro and Sparx to defeat them.

Ripto & his pets, Crush & Gulp. Photo credited to spyro.wikia.com

Glimmer, where Spyro meets his new friends, is one of three worlds located in Avalar. The game begins in Summer Forest, then moves to Autumn Plains, and finally ends in Winter Tundra. Each hub world houses its own unique levels – six in Summer Forest, eight in Autumn Plains, and another 4 in Winter Tundra. Along with these worlds, however, there are also Speedways to play through. These are basically time trial levels where the player must guide Spyro through an area and kill all enemies within an allotted time limit.

Each world in Avalar has a problem Spyro must help to solve. At the end of each world in Summer Forest and Autumn Plains, Spyro is rewarded with a Talisman. After receiving all of the Talismans in one of the hub worlds, Spyro is allowed to enter a dungeon, where he has to battle one of Ripto’s pets. In Winter Tundra, there are no Talismans to be found.

There are two other items to collect in the game apart from the Talismans – Orbs and Gems can be found as well. Gems are used as both currency and collectible, and there are a few hundred in each level, including the hub worlds. These gems are used to pay Moneybags, a millionaire bear, for new abilities, opening paths, and letting Spyro into more worlds. Orbs are used to activate portals in Avalar, and Spyro requires a certain number of them (gathered from side quests inside worlds) in order to face Ripto in the final boss battle of the game.

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The Professor activating a portal with Orbs. Photo credited to spyro.wikia.com

Spyro 2 has very enjoyable 3D platforming design. The mechanics are fairly simple, but the game as a whole feels like it has a lot of depth to it. The dialogue is well written and amusing, and players should love the level of variety between worlds. The atmosphere is light and happy, and is established even further by the fantastic music composition from Stewart Copeland.

The game has a very comfortable control scheme which can’t really be faulted. The actual platforming can be difficult at times, possibly due to the game being an early 3D Platformer from before the fundamentals of level design in that medium were worked out. It can be difficult to see how close Spyro is to certain objects, but most of that is adjusted for by the fact that players can move the camera manually. The great thing about the platforming in this game is that while precision is needed, it’s not overly difficult to achieve. The addition of the hover mechanic, which gives Spyro an extra boost up at the end of a glide is very useful. Spyro the Dragon, the first game in the Spyro series, did not include this feature, and was a lot more difficult as a result.

There are normally two enemy types in each world, but some levels feature more. The enemies require different abilities to defeat them, but it’s usually a case of either charging them or breathing fire on them. This combat system is simple, but players also have to learn to time their attacks. In some cases, enemies will wait with a weapon raised, and if Spyro gets too close to them, he’ll be flattened.

Defeating enemies gains Spyro a spirit. Some Orb challenges require Spyro to activate a gate to use a power-up (like supercharged fireballs, super speed or invincibility) for that challenge. There are a certain number of spirits that players have to take from enemies to turn these gates on.

The health system is very unique, and the dragonfly Sparx adds some very innovative mechanics. If Spyro has not been damaged, Sparx (flying around Spyro), will be yellow and glowing. If Spyro is hit, Sparx will turn blue, then green, then disappear entirely. If hit again, Spyro will die.

Sparx collecting a nearby Gem for Spyro. Photo credited to mobygames.com

To gain health, players can find small creatures in each world that produce butterflies when defeated. These creatures are not harmful, so players just need to find and prey upon them. Sparx will eat these butterflies, making Spyro regain health.

Sparx picks up Gems for Spyro, too. As Spyro runs by them, Sparx will zoom over to grab them – although he can only manage to pick them up one at a time, so players should be careful not to pass over too many gems. If Sparx is busy eating butterflies, for example, he cannot pick up Gems at the same time. When Sparx is gone after being damaged too much, players will have to manually touch each Gem with Spyro in order to pick them up. This is an incredibly simple but immersive system to implement, because it changes Spyro’s health from a simple and arbitrary game mechanic to something that materially affects his journey through the world.

Visually, the game’s textures don’t look great anymore, but the aesthetic is wonderful, in a way not many games manage any more. This was something Insomniac Games were great at doing – Delivering a beautiful dream-like landscape in their worlds. The sound effects are spot on, with the only downside being that the same sound is played whenever Sparx gets a Gem, and players could easily get annoyed at the repetitive noise.

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Birds-eye view of Summer Forest. Photo credited to survivorsucks.com

There are several interesting facts about this title. Spyro the Dragon and The Professor are both voiced by Tom Kenny, best known as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, among other famous characters. There are many other appearances from well known voice actors throughout the game. In the level ‘Hurricos’, the two enemy types that are fought are early designs of the protagonists from the Ratchet & Clank series, later developed by Insomniac Games in 2002.

Overall, Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer is still a fantastic 3D Platformer with a very inviting universe that will make players want to keep going. This game can still be played with the same amount of enjoyment as when it was first released almost 16 years ago.

Story & Character Development8.5
Gameplay & Mechanics 7.8
Audio/Visual Quality8.5
An extremely enjoyable videogame. From the aesthetic to the music to the characters players will meet, Spyro 2: Gateway to Glimmer will always be a fan favourite.

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