Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review #140: Crash Bandicoot 2 - Cortex Strikes Back

 So good. SO GOOD.
 Remember that little platformer, Crash Bandicoot? One year later, it got a sequel, and it's not just an "Assassin's Creed" kind of sequel, it's a sequel that manages to improve or fix almost every single thing the previous game got wrong. Plus, it hasn't aged as badly.

 Crash Bandicoot 2 begins exactly right after the previous one ended, and now N. Cortex seems to have turned over a new leaf and needs Crash's help to save the world... or so he claims. You don't really need to know or care about the story, it's not the game's focus and it's just there to give you purpose as you go throughout all 27 levels, hunting for gems and crystals. There's new characters, like Coco, Crash's sister, and a whole new slew of bosses(And a few returning ones) and they make for a decent cast, even if the don't get much screen time.
 Core gameplay remains the same, jump around, and spin to kill enemies, or use either to break crates and collect Wumpa fruits to earn lives, Aku Aku also returns to grant Crash up to two "hit points"(Since Crash dies in one hit), but there are a variety of new additions that make it much more involved and fun. Crash has new moves, crouching, sliding and a ground pound, and you can jump off a slide for a long, high jump or jump off a crouch for a slightly higher jump, finding all the game has to offer will require the use of these new skills. The game also introduces the new Nitro crates, which explode on contact, a variety of new enemies that need to be defeated in different manners(Some can't be jumped on, some have to be killed with a slide, etc). By this time, Sony had introduced the Analog sticks to the Playstation's joystick, and it's a godsend for the precise jumping this game requires.

 Not only does the game add upon its predecessor, it also fixes and tweaks some of its most frustrating and obnoxious elements. Instead of an overworld, the game now has a HUB from which you pick which level you want to play, but there's also a new section where you can save your game. You can actually save your game at anytime while on the HUD, and now it also saves the amount of lives you have hoarded, genius. Getting Gems is a much easier affair, not longer requiring you not to die on a level, however, some levels have some platforms that will only be available if you haven't died up to the last checkpoint before said platform, it also means that if you die while on the the secret section, you can retry it without having to restart the level. The game has a total of 27 levels with a ton of secrets to find, there some levels have more than one gem with special requirements, some levels leave to warps for alternate sections of other stages or even two secret stages, and finding all of these is actually fun thanks to the game being more lenient on players.
 Speaking of leniency, if you die too many times in a row, the game will grant you a free Aku Aku mask. Bosses are also pretty easy and forgettable, the last boss being particularly disappointing. So yes, the game is a bit easier than the previous one, but it does offer some pretty challenging bonus sections if you aim for 100%. Furthermore, a lot of Crash Badicoot 1's challenge game from the lack of analog support and the frustrating saving system, it was more frustrating than challenging, which this game remedies pretty well, it's hard without being vexing. One thing that remains a bit iffy is the collision detection, just as with the last game, sometimes you'll be wondering how or why you died at times if you aimed that jump just right or what have you, regardless, just as with the last game, it will sometimes work on your favor, allowing you to stand on air and recover from a botomless pit falls!

 The game looks slightly better than the first one, but it's mostly reflected on the environments which now feature a higher degree of detail and more variety, although it could've used less Jungle levels, since they all look very similar! Crash also received a ton of new animations when it comes to dying, and the enemy selection is almost entirely new, although they still look a bit too simple. Music is as good as the last one, with catchier tunes than before, it also has voice acting on some characters and they sound pretty good! And the sound effect for collecting Wumpa Fruits sound so good that it actually makes you want to collect as many of them as you can.

 Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back is everything a sequel aims to be. It fixes almost everything the previous game did wrong, and while the collision detection still needs work, it's not a deal breaker. The simple, but satisfying gamplay, the tricky, but rewarding platforming sections and huge amount of secrets makes it one of Playstation's finest.
 9.0 out of 10.

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