Developers: Naughty Dog
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Plot: Crash’s idyllic life is interrupted by the appearance of his old nemesis, Cortex, who needs his help retrieving crystals to prevent an evil force from rising. Can he be trusted?
There is the weird, or maybe not so weird, sensation of playing this game, where the second the gameplay begins, you are instantly thrown back to your childhood, a big, goofy grin plastered onto your face.
Last game saw you knock Cortex out of the sky, as he attacked you on the roof of his castle. The second game opens with him falling out of the sky and crashing into a mine on one of the islands below. There he finds a crystal and senses its potential. He calls up an old friend, mad scientist, Dr. N. Gin, who confirms that the scientific possibilities are endless, allowing them to make even stronger weapons than the unpredictable animal modification that failed last game. However, with old rival, N. Brio, taking over his army of genetically altered minions, including the ferocious Tiny Tiger, Cortex needs muscle. That’s when he comes to our hero, Crash Bandicoot, trying to dupe his old enemy into doing his dirty work for him.
A lot of these old childhood games have a habit of disappointing you, when you look back on them. They are either too easy, badly made or simply lacking in substance. This isn’t necessarily their fault, as we have grown spoilt on the major success of the gaming blockbuster. How can something made in the early 90s compete with masterpieces like ‘The Last of Us’? Crash Bandicoot 2 somehow remains strong, even in its old age. Seeming timeless and still an enjoyable experience, there seems to be no stopping the amount of fun that can be squeezed out of my fondest childhood memory.
Dropping the linear aspect of the original, Crash 2 comes up with a new system. You are given 25 levels, broken up by 5 floors. Each floor has 5 levels, which you can do in your own order. This is a fantastic idea on the part of Naughty Dog (perhaps borrowing one of the more successful elements of ‘Spyro the Dragon’). When one level proves too frustrating and you need a change of pace and scenery, you can simply change the level you are doing to a better suited one. Sure, you will have to return to that level at some point, but it subconsciously helps you. It is much easier to approach a tricky level, once you have just mastered the one before it. When you’ve gotten the grasp of the game’s mechanics, you can find your own order to the levels to make the game work for you.
The levels are varied too. Sure, you get the Point A to Point B aspects, but on top of that there is the ‘running from a snowball levels’ and riding the cutest polar bear sequences. It keeps the game from getting stale, like we could argue the original did. We also get vehicles, ranging from a jetpack to a jet-powered surfboard. If this isn’t enough for you, Naughty Dog have thrown in even more secrets than the last game. There is a hidden warp room that requires you to find a secret path, stashed somewhere in the available levels. You need to unlock them to get 100% completion on the game. This is where the game gets tricky, yet the race to totally beat the game is a thrilling and satisfying one. I have yet to complete that particular task, yet I am loving the struggle.
Crash Bandicoot 2 also finds new strength in the game bosses. The original’s mini-bosses were a little lacking, only a few remembering characters like Koala Kong and Pinstripe. Here, each enemy is more stunning than the last. We have Ripper Roo, the one success from the last game, getting even madder than before. His boss fight is simple fun, before moving up to the harder challenges. My personal favourite is when you face off against Tiny Tiger. This fight takes up a more strategic tone. It plays out similar to a game of chess, raising the stakes high and making you think fast, rather than simply waiting for an opportunity to spin attack the boss when his back is turned. It is the personal highlight of the game. Also sticking to this idea of finding a new experience for the bosses, the final showdown with Cortex, is a chase scene, rather than a straight fight. You have to run your enemy down and hit him three times, before he gets to his wormhole and escapes. It feels right and although skipping on the more action-packed finale of the original, it is satisfying in its own way.
Final Verdict: A much more polished version than the last game. There is not one point in the game that feels flawed. In many ways, this is the perfect platformer.