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Game Review

It's easy to look at remastered and repackaged collections of old games from the '90s and think, Ho hum. I mean, when you go back and replay an old game on an antique console, or plug in some blocky take on 3D gameplay, you usually can't help but think that things never quite live up to your nostalgic memories of long-ago fun.

So, when the facelifted Spyro Reignited Trilogy first released at the end of 2018, we opted to skip Activision's collection of Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Recently, though, we got a chance give that trilogy a quick look-see. And boy, am I glad we did. Can't help saying that it's good to be, uh, reignited by some old favorites when they look and feel like this.

Bringing a Bit of the Old Heat

For those who have never played any Spyro games, the first thing you need to know is that they're very kid-friendly affairs. Spyro is a little spitfire purple dragon with a quick scowl and a quick quip ever on his scaly lips. And with each game, this little guy simply has to use his head-bumping, fire-breathing and leap-and-gliding skills to triumph over wicked wizards, gnarly gnomes and other evildoers in order to save the surrounding fantasy worlds.

In Spyro the Dragon, for instance, it seems that a half-gnome, half-orc baddie has used a bit of magic to turn dragons into stone statues after one of their number insulted him. Then it's up to little Spyro—the only fire-breather too small to worry over—to roam throughout the five dragon realms, each containing gateways to other levels, and then bring their winged residents back to life. Of course, while pursuing his gotta-free-'em-all goals, he'll also collect scattered gems, bash through treasure chests and find hidden goodies around the kingdom.

Any foes Spyro meets can be dispatched by a thump of his horns or a quick belch of his flames. He swoops in to dispatch flying foes and zap snarky soldiers who might waggle their backsides in his direction tauntingly. And when he gets properly thumped himself, or splashes into any given pool of water, his little firefly sidekick will help reignite his flame and get him up and gliding once more. No mess or goop in any of it: those who are defeated simply puff away.

Oh, What a Beautiful Soaring

The joy here comes in finding ways to reach seemingly unreachable levels and in making it past any puzzling obstacles in our dragon hero's path. But in this updated and reimagined version of the Spyro games, that joy also comes in many more ways than just the original games' puzzle-solving conundrums. The gameplay feels fun and familiar, but the look … is truly eye-opening.

Scenes that were once comprised of open, barren stretches of green with an occasional flower and a blobby looking castle or blue slash of water, are now lush and full. Waving blades of grass, fluffy powder-puff clouds, clear-and-crisp ice, awesome stone castles and quick-running waterfalls fill the landscape. And they are simply a treat to behold. As for the dragons themselves, well, they're now infused with living, breathing animation. Those reanimated statues of them are no longer just repeated block models of the same dragon but character-driven beings moving with their own inner fire.

And even Spyro's head-butting movements and gliding flights feel easier to control and more enjoyable to watch. The charm of the original games is still evident, but everything else is updated with loving care.

Spyro's revamped trilogy is cute but not saccharine. Charmingly funny without any flushable quips. It's battle-ready without the worries of a bloody mess. And it's all wrapped in a gorgeous new coat of plaster and paint.

It sorta makes me wish all facelifts looked this good.

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Xbox One, PlayStation 4




November 30, 2018

On Video

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