Gamestyle Archive intro: we’re back in November 2001 with a hugely popular character from the original PlayStation platform. Maybe I’m just out of touch with gaming nowadays but whatever happened to Crash? Writer JJ.
Being with Gamestyle does have its advantages, not only do you meet some great people, go places and play games, it also provides an opportunity to experience new things. When Dean first asked me to review Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, I thought I was in his bad books and that this was some sort of divine punishment for my previous sins. I was not looking forward to experiencing the latest Crash Bandicoot adventure and visions of console rage were foremost in my mind.
Never judge a game by its history or characters or you will be making the same mistake and miss out on something different, then again… Crash Bandicoot was one of the biggest worldwide successes on the Playstation by taking the elements that made Mario and Sonic so popular, then adding its own identity. Sequels and spin-offs soon followed while his popularity remained high. While the original creators of Crash (Naughty Dog) have moved onto something new with Jak & Daxter leaving Travellers Tales to do the honours, Crash remains and in a bizarre twist of fate his new adventure arrives just before his replacement is exposed to the world. Both look suitably impressive and come complete with slick presentation but given even the marketing muscle behind Jax & Daxter, Crash may prove to be more popular.
The story begins sees the return of Dr Neo Cortex and his ultimate weapon, this time determined to defeat Crash and spread his evil everywhere. Of course, Crash as usual is the thorn in his side, the nemesis that must be destroyed. In order to achieve this Dr Cortex awakens the Elementals, the natural power sources for earth, air, water and fire – sounds like some dodgy 70s prog-rock band. Crash must battle against each of these elements in a series of levels (over 25 in total with 5 boss levels) and at the end of each one; collect a certain item i.e. crystal before facing Dr Cortex and his ultimate weapon in the final battle. If all that sounds familiar then you’ll be glad to know that the same applies to the game itself. Given the task of continuing the success of Crash, the new developer has quite rightly followed the same formula as before.
Any fan of the series will not be disappointed as the basic objectives remain the same, reach the end, obtaining as many icons as possible and avoiding dangers such as TNT or ferocious creatures. The game features a large number of levels for you to explore, each adopting a variety of styles which was initially impressive but then given their short nature and ease of completion, fade away into obscurity. Once complete you rarely go back as there are no alternate routes or secret areas to be revealed. Levels can vary from traditional platformers where you are jumping over obstacles and destroying enemies by landing on their heads to Super Monkey Ball styled escapades to flying through the air, gunning down targets.
The adventure takes you across the world varying from the Wild West to the jungles of Africa, facing tsunami waves, tornados and stampeding herds of animals to mention but a few. Crash is now very much multi-skilled as in this latest adventure he takes control of aeroplanes, vehicles and a variety of weaponry in pursuit of his objective. The graphics shown in the game are some of the sweetest seen yet, full of detail and displayed at such a high resolution. The whole feel of the game is of a cartoon and the visuals enforce this without having to resort to cell shading. Effects such as lighting and water have been implemented and show off what the Playstation 2 can produce.
Playing the game for the first time reminded me of when I first experienced Sonic Adventure, very impressive and slick. On screen there is plenty of activity to keep you amused but a distinct lack of creativity and originality. These are things that even the greatest graphics in the world cannot disguise because after the initial levels, the graphical impact wanes, exposing the shallow game that is Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex. For the first time you also have the opportunity to play as Crash’s sister Coco that provides a welcome change of pace from the usually frantic, full-on approach of her brother. Yet given this and new touches such as Super Monkey Ball rip-offs the game lacks any new dimensions to attract new fans to the series.
This is, at heart, a straightforward 128bit version of the Psone titles that will annoy those as before and entertain the younger generation. Apart from the lack of creativity the game contains many frustrating elements that brought this reviewer to his knees. I will admit I loathe platform games but some the precision jumps necessary here shed Turok in a whole new light. The game is overall easy given the market that it is aimed at but on certain levels this is forgotten as you have to repeat the same jump, over and over again until you land it. Camera angles in the game are prefixed and this would be bearable if the camera was well implemented. On many levels you form the belief that the camera is just a touch slow and soon even paths become precarious. Annoyingly the game also includes levels where you have to run towards the camera, not knowing what lies ahead, fun in brief spurts but not for whole levels.
Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex is a game for the younger generation and an ideal Christmas present for someone who falls into that category. For the rest of us, there is nothing new or original here other than the graphical enhancements that are just eye candy.
Gamestyle Score: 4/10