All Together Then: Crash Bandicoot (Part 2)
What the Japanese call Crash Bandicoot 4 and 5. It's confusing. I know.
Q. Did you know that they made some more Crash Bandicoot games after the initial trilogy?
A. Did you know they are weird?
I apologise, that was just two questions. Not really even questions, very leading. I'll never make it as a games journalist.
You may recall that two weeks ago, we (me and you, specifically, together) had a look at the initial Crash games - that's 1, 2 and 3. On PlayStation. After these games gained unprecendented popularity worldwide, Universal decided to take the series multi-platform following brilliant drive-'em-up Crash Team Racing and uniformly rubbish party game Crash Bash. Thusly, we have the final two true canon sequels to Crash Bandicoot 3 left to gaze upon. So let's get on with it, no?
All Together Then!
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (2001/2002, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube)
Veteran developers Traveller's Tales had their hands on this one, developing a new and more free-roaming Crash experience to overhaul the old-school PS1 gameplay in a new direction. But then publishers Universal Interactive saw what TT were up to and said "MAIS NON! C'EST TROP BEAU POUR ÊTRE VRAI!!" (they're French, now, or something?) and the game was hastily repurposed into basically an exact clone of Crash Bandicoot 3, only much worse in every way possible.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious effort that's gone into it, Wrath of Cortex is a P.U stinker, all the worse for the fact that it's not even bad enough to be funny or remarkable. It's just screamingly substandard, with dull level design that apes the previous games without any of the fun or flair that made them compelling. Crash doesn't even feel good to control, moving at the wrong speed, jumping incorrectly, and generally feeling like an impostor. The gimmick stages return with a take on the already not-great swimming levels from Crash 3 - only much slower, emptier and somehow harder in a terribly frustrating way. There are also levels where you get in the Atlaspheres from ITV's Gladiators (or American Gladiators, if you prefer) and roll around some not-as-good-as-Monkey Ball stages avoiding some truly unfair obstacles.
God, what else? Way too many boxes on each level. Gets glitchier and glitchier the longer you play. The worst bosses ever, in anything. A wretched thing, I'm afraid. But I don't blame TT - they had to make this in a hurry, after committing time and effort to what would have most likely been a vastly superior game. Still, though, doesn't bode well for the next one, does it?
Crash Twinsanity (2004, PS2, Xbox)
Another troubled development, another unfinished game. But wait! This one turned out pretty fun! Originally two games (Crash Bandicoot Evolution and Cortex Chaos), this became one truly bonkers title in Crash Twinsanity, which teams up the intellectually bereft marsupial with his arch-nemesis, the super-deformed looking Dr Neo Cortex. There's more of a focus on comedy here, with lots and lots of dialogue - mostly from Cortex. It pushes the humour into a darker, sort of Ren & Stimpy-ish place and isn't afraid to be weird and silly. It's also actually quite funny in places. Honest. Only a bit, mind.
Twinsanity, though, has ambition. It finally brings Crash into a bigger, more open space - though without sacrificing the linear platforming that made him famous. It's basically a series of Crash stages all sewn together, and very nicely stitched they are too. Hidden gems are off the beaten path and past tricky puzzles and obstacles; you'll need to use your head. Thankfully each collectable will give you some bonus content to unlock; usually concept art, which is oddly fascinating in this game because there's so much that's been scrapped. Characters, areas, and seemingly an entire fifth of the game.
The "Twin" element comes into play with the extremely enjoyable stages where Crash must manipulate a path for Dr Cortex to follow as he panics - think Lemmings, or - more esoterically - Sleepwalker. The ball-rolling stages return, but they play much better here with Crash and Cortex fighting over a gem in the form of a big cartoon punch-up scramble, ala Looney Tunes. It's all joyously daft, with strong level design. It's just a shame it wasn't finished, with a few little curiosities left over such as the bizarre tanking framerate in the school stage and the lack of save points in N.Gin's lab.
There are more Crash games to discuss, and I woudn't be averse to rounding them up in the next All Together Then - but only if anyone's actually interested in hearing about the likes of Crash Boom Bang.