December 23, 2001
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex - Review
Release Date Publisher Developer Players Rating Price
29/11/2001Universal InteractiveTravellers Tales1G8+$99.95
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The levels are quite detailed.
While Nintendo has Mario and Sega has (or had) Sonic the Hedgehog, Sony was left without a recognisable mascot for the PSOne. Naughty Dog came up with the closest thing with Crash Bandicoot, the little orange guy from down under. With some wonderful gameplay the three platform games in the series have stood the test of time and managed to capture the hearts of gamers around the world. Sadly, Naughty Dog lost control of the Crash Bandicoot series and Universal Interactive, the publisher, handed development to Travellers Tales who have worked on games such as A Bug's Life on PSOne/N64, Sonic R on Saturn/PC and Toy Story 2 on Dreamcast/PSOne. While none of those games inspire much confidence, the developers look to have created a wonderful new Crash game, and certainly their most polished product yet. But does it offer anythign new, or just more of the same?

The storyline should be fairly familiar to those who have played past games with Uka Uka and Dr Neo Cortex once again looking to destroy Crash Bandicoot. Dr Neo Cortex has developed a new invention to make use of the four elements - earth, wind, fire and water. Using these elements he can create disasters such as earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanos and tornados to try and defeat Crash once and for all. Crash Bandicoot must beat Cortex, and his experimental creation, Crunch, to the elements before Crunch becomes the ultimate power in the world.

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The amazing in-ball type level.
As with previous games in the series Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex includes several different styles of gameplay across 25 levels within the game, as well as 5 separate boss encounters. This variety includes side scrolling platform levels, 3D roaming levels where you run into or out of the screen, swimming underwater with scuba gear, riding a submarine, as well snowboarding with Coco. New to this game is the ability to fly a glider, control a mech loader similar to those Ripley has in Aliens, and fly a helipack, which are all terrific fun and a great distraction from the standard platform levels.

These levels are littered with familiar features from past Crash games including TNT boxes, Nitro boxes, apples to collect with 100 giving you an extra life, electric water, and plenty of varied enemies to defeat. The Wrath of Cortex includes a few new abilities for Crash to use including a sneaking function so he can walk along the top of nitro boxes without exploding them, as well the now obligatory double-jump for more height. The game includes many bonus rounds as seen in previous games to help rack up the extra lives needed to complete the game. Unfortunately, the game is still fairly rather easy to complete, although it's a lot tougher in the earlier levels, but collecting every crystal in every level will take some time.

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The game is now in a higher res.
Unfortunately this game is actually quite a disappointment. Travellers Tales haven't tried to mess with the style of game which, when you look at Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter, makes it look like a missed opportunity. The power of the Playstation 2 could have allowed the developers to create a more free roaming game, but it was not to be. Possibly even more concerning is that there are some massive load times between levels. Between the main warp room and every level, and then back again you will be sitting there twiddling your thumbs for at least 30 seconds. It becomes quite annoying and should not happen on the PS2, especially when you look many recent PS2 titles.

Graphically, the biggest change from the PSOne games is that Crash Bandiccot is now in high resolution. While this sharpens the graphics considerably the same improvements can't be said about the actual levels. The entire game has a very similar look as the PSOne games with fairly flat shaded areas, some bold colours and cartoon styled characters. Sure, there is a little more detail in some of the backgrounds but there is always a sense that you've been there before. The animation, which has always been one of the strengths of this series, is still wonderful with plenty of neat touches and variety.

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Yep, the nitro boxes return.
Unfortunately, the music remains largely unchanged from the earlier games in the series. As soon as you boot up the game you will hear the familiar music, and wonder if your back playing the old games. Sound effects are also largely unchanged while, somewhat fortunately, the voice acting is one of the highlights with all the characters having distinct personalities and the same voices as the previous games despite the developer change.

When you have a look at this game and then have a look at Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter you have to wonder what this game could have been. I'm not saying that Travellers Tales has done a bad job, far from it. This is a great platform game that fails because of a lack of new ideas. People who have played previous games in the series will know what is in this. Perhaps if Travellers Tales had incorporated some more free roaming levels then this game would be worth more of a look. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is a solid platform game, let down by a lack of originality.

GRAPHICSRetains the look of previous games a little too much, in high resolution.
SOUNDPretty much the same old music and sound effects as previous games.
GAMEPLAYSame old Crash Bandicoot with very few developments on PS2.
VALUEThe main problems are here. It's too short, too similar, too uninspired.
OVERALLHopefully the developers will add more variety to the next game.

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