Title: Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex
Version Played: Playstation (1997)
So I played the first Crash Bandicoot for last week’s Flashback Attack and, to be honest, I kind of figured that would be the end of it – maybe I’d revisit the franchise sometime in the future, maybe not. Playing the first Crash left me with this incomplete sense of nostalgia, though. It was close enough to the Crash I knew best (Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped), but just far enough away that it’s a different game. Long story short: it made me want to play Crash 3 again, but you can’t just skip over number 2, so here we are.
Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex is, rather obviously, a sequel to the first Crash Bandicoot and it sees the return of the title character as well as the main villain, Cortex, and some of the smaller bosses from the first game. Notably missing from this installment is Tawna, Crash’s love interest from the last adventure. Which, for the sake of preteen boys’ blossoming sexuality, is probably a good thing.
For Furries, though, it’s a bad thing.
Replacing Tawna is Crash’s little sister Coco. Replacing as in, Coco is also a female bandicoot. Not trying to imply that Crash’s sister is his love interest. Ew. Still, I have to admit I rather like Coco as a character more than Tawna. She’s smart, capable, doesn’t get kidnapped and serves as a nice foil to/ guide for Crash.
On another note, yes, it turns out that after being blasted off his death zeppelin in the last game, Cortex is actually still alive. Oh, did I forget to mention the death zeppelin last time? (Also, death zeppelin would be an awesome name for a death metal Led Zeppelin cover band. But enough about death zeppelins).
I don’t know what this painting is or where it's from, but it is amazing
Anyway, Cortex finds out about some purple crystals, which he uses to make a space station and then he finds out about some kind of solar flare that’s going to destroy the earth (like a decade before Assassin’s Creed, too). Because he’s pretty much burnt all his bridges with his past allies, though, Cortex has no choice but to trick Crash Bandicoot into helping him collect all the crystals he needs to power his device and holy crap, look at that, an actual plot.
I mean, let’s be fair, it’s not really a great plot, and considering the fact that the game is called Cortex Strikes Back it’s not surprising when it turns out that Cortex has ulterior motives besides saving the world. Not that it’s ever not obvious that he’s still evil, but come on. I guess the point I’m getting at is that, yes technically there’s a plot (at least moreso than in the first game), but we haven’t quite gotten to Uncharted here, yet.
The pinnacle of storytelling
But, does it stand the test of time?
First off I want to say that I may have been a little hard on the controls in my article on the first Crash Bandicoot. I realized after booting up this game that the analog controls might actually have worked on that title, I was just being an idiot. I haven’t actually checked, though, because I’m lazy, but if you can use the joysticks in the first Crash Bandicoot, I’m sorry for saying that you couldn’t.
The point I’m trying to get at here is that damn is it nice to be able to use a joystick again. The controls have been nicely tuned for this game, which alleviates a lot of the frustration found in the first title.
Crash 2 also adds a nice plethora of moves to Crash’s repertoire. Crash can now slide tackle and crouch, both of which he can use in conjunction with the jump button for different jumps (long and high, respectively). All of these control improvements help the game to feel like a more modern 3D platformer, rather than the kind of in-between state the first title was in.
Adding on to this is feeling of “modern platformer” is the level select screen, which no longer takes the guise of an “overworld map,” but instead utilizes what Crash 2 calls a warp room. The warp room offers you five levels to choose from per floor, with the requirement that you finish all five levels before moving on to the next floor. So, for example, you can play levels one through five in any order you want, but you’ll have to play them all at some point if you want to see levels six through ten. Now do that for a total of 25 levels and throw in boss fights between floors and you’ve got an idea of how Crash 2 works.
Which is to say that the game works just fine. It’s certainly better than the first Crash game, not just in controls and level management, but also in the overall feel of the game. It gets a little repetitive at times, but overall there’s quite a bit more level-to-level variety to shake things up. Still, while everything is fine and fun and I should be enjoying myself, I’m just still not feeling that nostalgic trip I wanted. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s just something missing from both the first two Crash games. Hopefully I’ll find what I’m looking for in the third. If not, I guess there’s always the bastardized reboots.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Friday. In this column, Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.