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Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PlayStation) artwork

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (PlayStation) review

"Crash may be dumber than Mario, but he's the king of what he does. "

Crash Bandicoot 2 needs no explanation to those who have played the original. It's quite simply 'Crash Bandicoot: Special Edition'. And it's great fun too. For those who really liked the sequel and wanted more, this is a shinier, faster paced and slightly more varied package. For those not in the know (You've resisted the furry freak all these years?) Crash Bandicoot 2 is a corridor platformer in which you must collect one crystal in each level (Which isn't much of a feat as it is always in plain view).

The story once again centers on the Evil N. Cortex. A twisted professor bent on ruling all of the world's inhabitants. After being thrown off his blimp by Crash, Cortex lands in a cave with a crystal inside. He concludes that he can build a machine to enslave the world by collecting crystals to power it. So he lures Crash into a secret world in which Crash can access 25 parts of the world (Levels) where the crystals are hidden. He fools Crash into thinking that it's to stop the planets aligning and destroying the world, and Crash sets off on the mission.

Crash Bandicoot has always been about lighting fast no-time-to-think platforming, with excellent level design and layout of obstacles. It was all about timing, and getting the leaps and attacks at the right moment is now more crucial than ever. Since developers Naughty Dog couldn't be bothered to change anything, they have at least upped the ante considerably. As well as the usual running from A to B levels there are also some excellent jet-ski, Polar bear and Jet Pack riding sections. Which makes the game thoroughly replayable just for the simple but high fun factor.

It's also a lot less pain-staking than before. Which proves to be good and bad. It's a lot more engrossing and easy to slip into now, but it's also a lot easier. Don't get me wrong, it's sometimes hard and very frustrating, and the learning curve is brilliant. But it's not curved enough, it starts 'incredibly easy' and only seems to rise to 'occasionally tricky'. And for Bandicoot veterans like me, the game can be whizzed through within two hours (Not counting the secrets).

Those who have been fed on the intelligent gameplay of Mario or the original and enchanting loop the loops of Sonic may write this off as unoriginal and brainless. And you'd be right. But out of sacrificing depth of gameplay and sprawling levels comes exceedingly thrilling rushes of adrenaline as you leap and spin your way around the enemies. Of course, it's the wonderful level design and the concepts of the level challenges that really draw you in. Hurrying to time your leap with the sudden stop of an electric fence as a relentlessly furious swarm of bees tail you is both tense and exciting. And it requires a certain amount of strategy. Your reflexes will be seriously tested throughout the levels, be it weaving around totem poles on a baby polar bear, or flying over heaps of explosives as you guide your jet-ski up a ramp, the rush never stops. And neither does the fun.

The boss levels are gloriously presented and dramatically fought. The platform jumping competition with Tiny tiger particularly represents the speed and cunning used in the game as a whole I feel. And although the first two bosses are two simple, the next two make up for it. But the final boss level is (As it was in the last CB game) an extremely disappointing anti-climax, and actually one of the easiest of all the boss fights.

Another feature I feel I must mention is the appearance of Jet-Pack levels. These give the complete feeling of control. They are also perhaps the only two levels in the game that require slow exploration, and intelligent manipulation of the controls. It's decidedly slower paced than the other frenetic affairs, but, tellingly, they're the most rewarding levels in the game.

Visually the game is a real gem. After the decidedly uninspiring muddy level settings used in the original game, Naughty dog have opted for more primary colours and typical platforming locations. Even the jungle levels feature brighter and more unusual enemies, and much MUCH more detailed scenery. The character models are also a lot less lumpy and are bursting to the brim with charisma. The expressionless human enemies that dwell in the game are actually fairly disturbing, attacking as they do with unbridled serenity. Levels such as ice and 'space factory' also make for some interesting imagery and fantastic enemies (The robots that change their weak spots every couple of seconds will provide some of the most frustrating, but still enthralling, moments in the game). Overall it's detailed, energetic and exactly what the first game should have looked like.

The classic theme tune is still there (As is the hilariously over-acted introduction crediting the developers and publishers). Really it's the most catchy music to appear on a playstation game. Not even the third installment in the series could beat the hauntingly infectious tunes. And they fit the game so well. They are busy, slightly eccentric and fun. Say what you will, but good music adds to the end experience immeasurably. The sound effects are the same as before, but now come with all new bigger explosions. Setting off the box that makes all the nitro crates explode is a brilliant screen shaking experience.

As I said before, it's short. There are twenty five levels (And five hidden ones) but it's over in a flash. It may flow better than the original CB and offer more variety and thrills, but it doesn't offer nearly as much challenge. But, while it lasts, Crash Bandicoot 2 is frantic, addictive euphoria. And plus, there are secrets to find and an extra ending to unlock. So it's not that bad.

Being less good than CB one and three in certain ways has meant CB2 has become the most overlooked of the series (Which doesn't mean to say that it's overlooked in general). Crash Bandicoot 3 is the best of the series, so if you only want one of the series get that. But as for Crash one being better due to the bigger challenge, well I'm willing to sacrifice that extra challenge for the amount of sheer playability provided. Crash may be dumber than Mario, but he's the king of what he does.

Crash, Bang, Wallop
+ It may not be ground-breaking but Crash Bandicoot 2 takes the phrase 'fun factor' to a higher level
+ Utterly engrossing level design
+ Extremely fast paced
+ Compelling level challenges
+ Gorgeous cartoon like visuals
+ More voice acting than before
+ A couple of classic boss encounters
+ Outstanding music
+ Plenty of variety
+ It may be simple, but it still requires quick reflexes and skilled use of controls
+ The best at linear platformers
+ Lots of secrets to be uncovered

Crash and Burn
- Too simple for some
- Too similar to the last one
- Too easy to play through, and too short
- Not as good as Crash 3
- Not original
- It's linear. Take that how you want.

If you like this....
Crash Bandicoot - Playstation: Longer and more challenging, but not quite as satisfying as this.
Crash Bandicoot Warped - Playstation: Easily the best of the series. More varied, longer and simply just lots more fun

maxh's avatar
Community review by maxh (Date unavailable)

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