When I wrote about Tomb Raider II last year, I briefly mentioned about two other games that I received that year, Pandemonium 2 and Crash Bandicoot 2. This time, it’s going to be about Crash Bandicoot, and how Naughty Dog made, what I still think, to be the best instalment.
I’d played Crash Bandicoot before on the demo disk that I received along with my Playstation. I would constantly play the demo, and as I’d just discovered ‘GamesMaster’ magazine, and the subsequent TV Show, I read of a sequel that was coming later that year. For those unfamiliar with the games, it stars an Australian Bandicoot, who has to run, jump, and spin through levels to get to the end. You collect “Wampa Fruit” to gain extra lives, avoiding the TNT, Nitro boxes and enemies throughout, while facing four unique bosses, then finally ending with a show down with his arch-enemy, Dr Cortex.
Continuing the plot of the first game, Crash’s arch-enemy Cortex is falling from his base and lands in a cave with a crystal being the only illumination to this darkened area. He figures that with twenty-five of these he could once again rule the world, but this time he chooses to use manipulation instead of attack on Crash to collect the crystals for him. Straight away, the linear motion of completing a level is slightly looser this time, with your choice of how to complete the levels being up to you. There’s five warp rooms, each with five levels. Once you complete the levels, you’re faced with a boss, and then you’re in the next warp room, about to perform a similar act.
There’s many variations of the levels, some of which are improved from its predecessor, and some that are brand new for the series for its time, such as the snow levels, and my favourite, the jetpack levels.
Alongside having to collect the crystals in every level to progress, the gems from the first game also make a return, requiring you to either smash all the crates in the level or uncover some hidden passage.
At the end of each level, you’re given a number as to how many crates you smashed so far, and you’re left with a dilemma. You can go back through the level, combing through every area until you’ve got the desired gem or alternatively you can choose to restart the level. Multicoloured gems are expanded this time, being not just green and white like in the previous game, but five; red, blue, purple, green and yellow.
When one of these has been collected, it opens up a different route in another level, which can unlock a silver gem, or a secondary silver gem for that level, or even, the hidden warp room, which overlooks the islands of the first game. A big deal was made on saving the game by the memory card, as back in 1997, the way of passwords to save your progress was still prevalent. A different threat than TNT boxes appear across the levels, in the form of green, ‘Nitro’ boxes.
Just one touch of these will cause them to explode, causing Crash to join the heavens.
I’d keep coming back to Crash 2, trying to earn the illusive yellow gem, but always ended up stumbling across it somehow, whether it be on the PS Vita or when playing Naughty Dog’s the Uncharted series, and thinking of how far they’ve come.
Over the coming years, I’d play through Crash Bandicoot 3, then Crash Team Racing, each at the subsequent Christmas. Unfortunately, as Naughty Dog moved on and other developers had their chance at Crash, there would be no more games to match the calibre of the first 3, and I’d have to look elsewhere for another platformer that would match, a task that is still being carried out 17 years on.
With time-travel being a big love of mine ever since I discovered Back to the Future, anyone would think that Crash 3 would be a shoe in for being the favourite in the series of mine. But for me, Crash 3 slightly faltered, with it being bigger and better, it lost some of that charm, with the loss of the snow levels for one, and an apple bazooka that was one feature too many for me.
With Crash 2, they hit the ground running, alleviating the faults of the first, while expanding and improving what made the first game to addictive and immersive. If you’ve only heard of Crash in passing or was unfortunately introduced to him after his classic Playstation 1 days, then I urge you, go through the trilogy, and enjoy every boulder, ‘wumpa’ fruit, and spin that you’re sure to face.