It’s a shame that Spyro, being a dragon, is covered in sleek scales. One of the joys of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was its hero’s fur. Soft, like orange felt, with a bristly ruffle, you could count every hair, if – like me – you had nothing else going on. Fortunately, the star of Spyro Reignited Trilogy, while as smooth as purple icing, finds plenty of other things for you to count: (a) gem stones, (b) dragon eggs, and (c) yourself lucky, if your memory is in need of an embalming.
Developer Toys for Bob has you very well served on that last point. Going back to the ghosts of games past with a spiffy remake often makes one feel like a quivering child approaching an open casket at a funeral; only, when you get there, you realise what a good job the undertakers have done on grandma. (I’ve been watching The Haunting of Hill House recently, sorry.) As such, my first minutes with Spyro Reignited Trilogy were spent ogling.
True to its name, the game offers you the original three PlayStation games: Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! (though, this being the UK, I would really rather we refer to it as ‘Gateway to Glimmer,’ and ditch the exclamation mark while we’re at it) and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The first thing you need to know about these three games is that the sheep are back. They gambol about the green hills looking better than ever, and when they succumb to a singing of fiery breath, they stand shorn and shivering.
The grass is glorious, too. Each blade stands and sways to attention, and when I unleash hell on the local sheep population, it turns to burnt black pools, speckled with orange embers. I think the world needs saving, as well. I wish I could tell you about it. I wish I could say I was still ogling. But no, my time with Spyro is spent collecting. The aforementioned Gem Stones and Dragon Eggs, yes, but also the Talismans, the Crystal Statues, the Skill Points, and the Orbs.
In Slavic folklore, it was believed that vampires suffered from arithmomania – the obsessive compulsion to count things. In order to keep the undead busy, it was considered best practice to scatter grain around a grave, the notion being that said undead would count every single one, by which time the sun would be up. Problem solved, or, at least, problem adjourned. For this reason, along with the chance for a canny pun, Sesame Street employed Count von Count to teach kids to count. At least, that’s my understanding of it. What’s this got to do with Spyro? Well, lately I’ve begun to feel like a vampire.
In fairness, I'm not so much counting each individual thingamajig as obsessively making sure they’re all mine. To my dismay, I've found this taking precedence above all other pursuits. Considering I have other games to review, and that my editor has a website to run, this may, in time, become a problem. It’s hard enough to get anywhere in Red Dead Redemption 2 without having to think about the state of my Dragon Egg collection. (I’ve actually started to think less of Arthur Morgan, so pathetic is his commitment to Dragon Eggs.)
During the Belle Époque of 3D platformers – just as the swell of the nineties crashed into the new millennium – games that fired up this frenzied urge were anointed ‘collect-a-thons.’ A benign name for a life-ruining drug. As a design mechanic, it has a pressing purpose: it drives you to the farther reaches of a game’s world, and it encourages mastery of movement – still a novelty in early 3D games. In Spyro’s case, this means scouring the soft-whip mountain peaks and lava-globbed caverns. To say nothing of greasing the paws of Mr Moneybags, a barrel-bellied bear who teaches you to dive, climb ladders, and headbutt – a glowing endorsement for private education if ever there was one.
It’s Insomniac’s numbers that are being lovingly painted over with the Reignited trilogy, and it has covertly been keeping the collect-a-thon alive all these years. There are the Ratchet & Clank games, which didn’t so much evolve the formula as re-arm it with upgradeable gadgets. There’s Sunset Overdrive, which fizzed with baubles to hoover up. And recently Spider-Man, whose New York was entangled with trinkets – no wonder that game gave me so many late nights. The developer seems to have been named in recognition of its ability to torment me. I have Red Dead Redemption 2, I have Hitman 2, and I need to crack on with Fallout 76. But tonight it’s back to the Land of Dragons; I’ve got my sights on those twinkling Talismans. Take pity on me.
COLM NOTE: Not really, I will actually play Fallout like a good employee.