DISCLAIMER: Please refer to the following link for the first part of the analysis.
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
The developers have adapted additional complexity layers on the existing navigation systems, adjusted existing collectable mechanics, and completely revamped how the levels are presented in general.
In this analysis, I’ll be going through each of the updated elements to see how they’ve improved and iterated upon the classic formula, and whether if these changes made actually work for the better or not.
JUMPS, ABILITIES, AND ENEMIES!
The first installment was all about precisely nailing the timings of jumps / hovers.
In Ripto’s Rage, the formula is further amplified with the addition of a jump extender, where while not only focusing on when to initiate the jump, the players will also have to think about when to precisely time the trigger for the jump extender as well.
But the way the jump extender is executed is a bit problematic. You need a minimum distance of [X] meters to activate the extender. Else it just cancels out your jump to free-fall.
This range estimation of when you can activate the jump extender is actually pretty hard to memorize and remember (could be because of the lack of level design scenarios on the mechanic).
it mainly becomes problematic because of the punishment you incur upon failing to activate the jump extender – in which case, you either die / or have to backtrack for X minutes.
But the LD is the saving grace for this addition. There were not too many forced scenarios which make use of the jump extender in ways which can directly kill the player upon messing them up.
Spyro, like in a metroidvania, unlocks abilities in this game.
There are complete sections locked in the early levels due to the lack of an ability yet to be unlocked.
Now in metroidvanias, if I see an area which cannot be reached by my current toolset, I just tag it as something which I should return to once I unlock the power-up.
But due to the linear level structure of Spyro, there were many cases where I didn’t know if I needed a power-up to pass through the level? Or if I just need to get good at my skills?
And since Spyro is not entirely a metroidvania, and is only stepping on the shores of the sea of the genre, I felt such unlocking mechanics only acted as forced replayability additions designed to pad in extra time to the gameplay.
Something which I haven’t touched upon in my first analysis – Spyro’s enemies are like rock-paper-scissors. You see an enemy, and you instantly know what you need to do to defeat them.
This ideology adds onto to your internal motivation where you are in a constant flow of knowing what to do, and how to do it.
But in Ripto’s Rage, the enemies are not so straight forward.
You can’t always throw rock to their scissors. You can kill some enemies, but some you can’t / don’t even need to do anything.
This kind of broke the first game’s achievement of flow, where I now have to figure out who I can kill, and who I cannot. But this addition is not entirely bad. It just… has a different rhythm to it.
The first game constantly fed you information to keep progressing. But Ripto’s Rage on the other hand, takes a different approach, and there’s a level of “what do I need to do now” also involved in the process as well.
ENEMY SOULS AND PORTAL ORBS
In the first installment if you killed an enemy, you will receive a gem. But if you die and respawn, the enemy also respawns, but they don’t give you a gem anymore, but they provide you with extra lives.
In Ripto’s Rage, you obtain the soul of the enemy upon killing them. Although it feels like it solved their issue of keeping the gem motivation pure, I would argue it actually acts opposite to their intention.
This addition brought in a new collectible tree of enemy souls. Each level features some player ability ingredient which can enhance the gameplay in X way.
Yes, they did make enemy souls their own entity, but they also crafted two motivation points for the game now – one for gems, and one for enemies.
With this addition, the gems are not the strongest motivators anymore, as the direction shifted towards increasing emphasis on enemy souls, and portal orbs in levels.
But maybe their objective was not to keep the motivations pure, but only to expand as a collectathon sequel? In that case, these changes do make sense. But such changes are arguably the ones which make it harder to understand – what is “Spyro”? at its core, as a game?
To collect a portal orb, you either have to solve a puzzle, or pass a platforming section, or defeat enemies.
Sometimes the developers also mix these three core pillars where you have to defeat enemies with puzzles, or pass puzzles through platforming.
Each time you complete such sections, you are rewarded with a portal orb. But the problem I have is with the value of the portal gem obtained.
In some cases I have to complete a high difficulty puzzle to obtain one portal orb, and in other cases I just have to kill an enemy to get the same.
In some cases I have to pass a full platforming section filled with enemies to obtain one portal orb, and in other cases I just have to jump to a space to get the same.
Although the level of actions required to obtain one portal orb don’t stray off too much from each other, but it creates a problem in establishing a concrete value for them.
It rarely feels satisfying to obtain one portal gem by finishing complex set of actions, while in other areas I could have just jumped once to get one.
The recent release – Mario Odyssey is a master of this issue. The value of one Moon in that game is super varied from each other. I’m glad Spyro is a better implementation of this system to the latter example mentioned in this case…
In the first game you could clearly see the number of gems obtained differentiated from level-to-level. The second installment has replaced them with only showcasing the total gems obtained from the complete playthrough of the game.
This can be argued to be a good / bad addition depending on the direction they were aiming for. I think they didn’t want the players to replay the levels while aiming for a completionist mentality.
I think they just wanted players to finish levels one by one till the end of the game. In that case this addition makes sense. But if this is their ideology, there are multiple other factors which say otherwise…
The collectibles, the portal orbs, the forced metroidvania implementation scream for the term replayability. Such game design decisions make me question the inconsistencies on how they laid out their designs.
In the first installment, Spyro depended on minor narrative gameplay ingredients for progression.
Ripto’s Rage completely upgrades the gameplay ingredients accessible on all fronts. Upon the base narrative ones, they have also added-in level design progression, additional navigation, and combat abilities.
NARRATIVE AND CINEMATICS
Spyro’s narrative focus this time around is not about rescuing dragons or defeating a gnorc. They’ve expanded the story to a multi-verse setting where you cross path with a villian from the other world called – Ripto.
The ultimate objective of the game is to defeat the mischievous antagonist “Ripto, and his gang” ; And for the completionists, it’s collecting everything available in the game.
This is pretty much the context of the old game, but this time around, there’s a lot of emphasis on the different characters inhabiting the worlds, more bosses to defeat, and more cinematics cutscenes obtained by the power of upscaled production.
Iterating on the first title, the developers have added in cinematics at start and end of each level to amplify the narration of the game.
Although questionable at times, these do add on to the flair of the game.
In all the levels crucial gameplay affordances are displayed in the entrance cutscene.
Although these cutscenes are cute, but if by chance you miss them, you lose your gameplay flow and will have to rethink about the level design situation you are currently in.
Although you can figure out easily on what you missed, I personally despise games which force gameplay information on single time cutscenes.
It was rather hard for me judge this game based on its predecessor. Maybe I shouldn’t have compared, and maybe I should have analyzed like it was its own installment? Maybe so… But after looking at Ripto’s Rage, I felt coming up with a successive sequel might be much harder to achieve than vice versa.
You’d have to constantly question a lot of systems already existing to see whether if the formula established would be boring / still interesting.
It’s definitely a fair question to ask – as I think there are not many things to do with the formula besides what’s already been executed (and I feel this question would have been much difficult to answer when it was originally released back in the days).
Although queued with some inconsistencies, I think the sequel did achieve almost everything it set out to do. It was not about retracing what had been done, but more about expanding it to its true potential.
With that I’d like to conclude my analysis.
I’ll post one last update on how the series holds up after my playthrough of the last parts of the series. Till then…
See you guys on my next post.