Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review #143: Crash Bandicoot - The Wrath of Cortex

 Just about what one would've expected of a then-next gen Crash game.
 By this point in time, Naughty Dog was done with the series, so Universal Interactive Studios got a new developer to create the next Crash game on next generation consoles, Traveler Tales.

 Y'know the drill, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex takes place right after the last game, with Cortex and Uka-Uka defeated. So Uka-Uka decides to hold a meeting between all of Crash's enemies(Actually, the ones featured in 3) in order to come up with a way to destroy Crash, turns out Cortex has another genetically engineered bandicoot under his control, Crush Bandicoot, plus, they wake up four elemental masks in order to aid them. Now it's up to Crash, Aku-Aku and Coco to thwart their plans. Crash Bandicoot 4 saw a huge number of character redesigns, from small ones, like N.Gin's face, to bigger ones like Aku-Aku and Uka-Uka's shapes. All in all, the redesigns weren't needed, but they didn't ruin the characters in any way, and the story is very typical of Crash Bandicoot.
 Gameplay is almost exactly the same as in Crash 3. Large HUB, divided in five sections with five levels each(Plus 5 unlockable levels). Each level houses a Crystal, one to two gems and a time trial ankh. And just as in Crash 3, defeating a boss grants Crash a new skill... except that this time you are basically earning your moves back, except the Super Ground Slam which was changed with the sneaking ability. Sneaking is downright worthless, you are only expected to use it on some Bonus sections of the levels, and it allows you to walk over Nitro Crates, but it does have a fundamental flaw... if you walk over a Nitro box while possessing an Aku-Aku mask, it will trigger the Nitro boxes, costing you the Aku Aku mask. Oh, and loading times are a bit on the long side, making replaying levels(Or exiting-returning if you wanted to trigger a Skull platform) a bit more annoying than on previous games.

 Levels are now wider and larger, which makes evading enemies incredibly easy. About two thirds of the levels possess enemies that have Crash Bandicoot 3-like range in their attacks, which means you can simply walk by their side and evade anything they throw at you. The levels themselves are also the easiest they've been in a Crash game yet, but they aren't as tightly designed as before, with a couple of stages that have obstacles that are impossible to avoid unless you know they are coming, the stages in which you pilot the robot being particularly bland in this regard. This game also features some of the worst underwater levels I have ever played, with bombs falling all over the place, most which you can't avoid unless you have very fast reflexes, and have to remember that underwater movement always works against the player, and know that they are coming. Definitely some of the most unfun moments I had with the game. On the bright side, the game does have a couple of interesting ideas, like having vehicle sections during a platforming level, which sometimes works against it, different vehicles have different controls which can confuse you and cost you a life, sometimes X will accelerate, while others it will make you jump and so on. Other standout ideas being the levels in which Crash must roll around inside a sphere, or the new mine cart levels, one being a 3-lap race against Crush, with different routes, and you must take all at least once if you want to break all crates!
 The game boasts about having Coco playable on foot for the first time, and it's a neat idea, on paper. Coco plays just like her brother Crash, but with a widely limited moveset. She doesn't get the double jump, instead of crawling or sliding she gets a sweep that takes ages to go off, and instead of spinning, she gets a spin kick(Which looks much cooler, but is less useful). This makes playing as Coco a bit disappointing, since she doesn't have any unique qualities to herself or advantages over Crash, although she does get to drive different vehicles, if that's your thing. Lastly, there's five bosses in the game... except that all five of them are against Crush Bandicoot. True, the fights are different, but having the older bosses reduced to obstacles or racers on racing stages feels a bit of a waste, Crush isn't so charismatic as to deserve five fights against him.

 Presentation is one aspect where the game shines. Character models do look fairly dated, no in small part to some animations feeling a bit off. However, this game has the most visually appealing stages in a Crash game yet, they all look gorgeous and there's a wide variety of them, it's a shame some of its platforming sequences aren't on par with the older games. Music is as good as ever, with very fitting tunes. It looks and sounds like a Crash game.

 Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is exactly what one would've expected of Crash's jump into the next generation. It follows the formula to a T, and while it doesn't really add much to it, it does have some original ideas that spice it up, even if just a tiny little bit. Crash Bandicoot fans can do no wrong with The Wrath of Cortex.
 8.0 out of 10

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