“It’s the simple things in life that give you the most joy.” They stand the test of time in a way that more complicated things often, just, don’t. When I think back to my childhood many of the things I enjoyed fitted this particular bill. So many things that were simple to enjoy yet decades old by the time I was enjoying them; Some of them were decades old when my parents were born that’s how old they were. Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes and a slew of animated Disney films from the 1940’s & ‘50’s. There were games like checkers and dominoes as well as card games like solitaire and gin rummy that have probably been around so long I’d be shocked at the actual date of them. Then there are the video games; Pong, Tetris, Pac-Man & Space Invaders that were spawned from the arcades. There’s one thing that connects all of these different examples that I’ve given – and there are many more I could have added from my own childhood such as Crash Bandicoot – which is simplicity.
There’s a simplicity to the premise of each of them that makes enjoying them easy. That makes them stick in your mind and that keeps them relevant decades on even though the world is a very different place. Don’t mistake me here, I’m not saying these were simple to make and that anyone could have done it. That’s not what I’m saying at all, I would never dream of devaluing the work that went into making all of these various properties in that way. I’m actually saying the opposite because for every Pong or Looney Tunes there are likely a thousand other things that haven’t withstood the toughest test of all.
So what makes these properties different?
It’s different for each one but they are all derived from the same place; the simplicity of the premise. Take Tom & Jerry as a first example. The premise at its core is one of nature. Mouse chases food and the cat chases the mouse. Whether they are ice-skating across the frozen flooded kitchen floor or fighting one another with swords in a parody of The Three Musketeers, it doesn’t matter because at its core that simple premise is still at play. Tetris is very different but the result is the same. The core premise is that you maneuver the blocks as they fall to fill a row and clear them off to get points and achieve ever higher scores. It doesn’t matter how fast it gets or what tricks they throw in to put you off the premise remains the same. Each of these properties has their own version of this and that was just two examples of how very different and yet similar they are.
So what about something that was actually made when I was a young child in the ‘90’s? The natural place to look, in video game terms at any rate, is in the genre of platforming. One platformer that stands out for me is Spyro. With the recently released Reignited Trilogy on PS4 I’ve been able to replay Spyro 1, 2 & 3 in the true, glorious detail that my fond memory paints over the original PlayStation 1 versions with. The work that has gone into them is truly astounding and I recommend checking out some interviews with the developers about how they went about this project because it’s really interesting. I’ve now 100%’ed all 3, something I didn’t manage as a child back in the day, got the platinum for all 3 and the one thing that has really struck me is that, of the 3, I prefer the 1st one.
All 3 bring out an amazing childlike wonder and joy in me. Watching Spyro bound around on screen with Sparx buzzing around him collecting gems and so on makes me incredibly happy. The first one stands out to me and it is because of the simplicity of the controls. There’s no hover at the end of a glide, there’s no barrel rolling, there’s no climbing, no ground smash from the air, there’s just the simple actions. You charge, flame, jump and glide your way through almost the entire game. Yes there’s sections with additional power-ups like Super Flame, there’s a level with ice breath, but they are used sparingly. Those moments complement the rest of the game brilliantly.
Sometimes we all need to go back to basics, reset ourselves and find some joy again after a rough time. Sports teams talk about it all the time after a run of bad results. They strip things back to the basics, reset and then rebuild from there. Games like Spyro are the perfect way for me to do the same. Reignited indeed.