Finally Crash Bandicoot has made his way to the Xbox. Publisher’s Universal Interactive and developer Traveller’s Tales present Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. The game which originally appeared on the Playstation 2 had many faults, such as long loading times, and a distinct lack of effort. Now we have the Xbox version, which is luckily much better than its cousin on the Playstation 2. Strap yourselves in because Crash is getting ready for a whole new adventure on the Xbox.
The Story of Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex
When we last saw Crash Bandicoot he had just defeated Dr. Neo Cortex and Uka Uka and was finally going to take some well earned time off. So now here he is, with his super-smart sister, Coco, and friendly companion Aku Aku, soaking up a few rays on the beach. But, as we all know, diabolical evil always finds a way to ruin Crash’s day.
Somewhere else in the galaxy, Uka Uka, holds a ‘bad-guy convention’ in a newly built space station. The attendees are Dingodile, N. Tropy, Tiny, N. Gin, and of course Dr. Neo Cortex. Uka Uka is furious: evil’s productivity is way down and something has to be done. Luckily, over the past couple of years, Dr. Cortex has been working on a super-secret weapon that will surely crush Crash forever–a super-bandicoot named Crunch. Unfortunately, he needs more power to finish it. Uka tells the group of baddies a story:
“Several thousands of years ago, the Ancient Ancestors fought a brave battle against the Elementals–a group of renegade masks who had control and power over the elements of Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Each mask reigned over a specific element and used these elements to ravage the globe. The Ancient Ancestors were able to imprison the Elementals through the use of special crystals that put them in a state of hibernation.”
Uka Uka explains that if they can release these masks and harness their destructive power, Cortex can complete his super-secret weapon and rid themselves of Crash Bandicoot once and for all. Back on Earth, all hell breaks loose.
A volcano erupts, showering the land with lava and charred rock. A tornado rages through the jungle and then a thundering earthquake shakes the Earth off of its hinges. Aku Aku knows something is very wrong here. He knows the Elementals have been unleashed on the world once again. The only way to put an end to the Elementals is to find the crystals that are scattered all across the Earth. Utilizing her brilliant technical savvy, Coco creates a Virtual Reality warp device that will take them to different points on the globe to retrieve the crystals.
The same Crash style that we have all come to know is back. The game’s manual covers all the necessary basics and is your typical fare. You can either Load or Start a new game at the main screen. We are treated to a nice opening video, which explains the story (as written above), and then we are off to play. There’s a nice free roaming menu atmosphere where Crash can either go to Save/Load, choose which levels he wants to go to, or view how many crystals he has collected by pressing start.
In-game we have the traditional Crash system. By pressing Y, you pull down the data screen, which will show how many crates have been destroyed, current amount of lives, and how many apples have been collected. In this way, the game stays true to the original Crash style.
We are mostly presented with top notch visuals. The only problems evident lie with certain level designs. Only a few levels seem to suffer from a dull design, which doesn’t help the Xbox in showing what it is capable of, but then we are presented with many levels that are simply beautiful and contain some very creative elements. All the levels make great use of the Xbox hardware: beautiful snow textures, water, and particle effects. Some of the levels are really a huge amount of fun, like the one level similar to Super Monkey Ball, which sees you playing as Crash in a ball, and the level designed for use with Crash was clearly done well.
Crash has never looked better because he now sports fur-shading, which gives him a much more realistic look, and the rest of the cast haven’t been neglected, either. Whoever has fur gets the fur-shading effect too. Character animations are extremely good and mostly represent Crash’s stylings from the past. Leaving the controller inert and watching Crash should provide for a laugh, especially when he starts dancing or pulls an apple out of his ear and throws it to the ground.
The sound aspect of Crash is mediocre at best. The ingame music is quite catchy and fits the stylings very well, although it’s not particularly memorable. The sound effects are your average Crash fare, which includes the crate smashes, Crash’s tornado spin, etc. There seems to be a problem with the audio levels in the game, meaning that the voices are, at times, very hard to hear during play. Yes, the audio levels can be adjusted, but unless you turn the music down completely, you will have a hard time hearing dialog. There is some notable voice talent that includes Star Wars celebrity Mark Hamill. On the whole, though, it’s all rather moderate stuff.
Crash is fun and simple to pick up and play. This is where the game shines on the Xbox. The most important porblem has been fixed for this version, and that lay with the horribly long loading times (45-60 seconds, literally, on the PS2). Now that’s been adjusted to around 10 seconds for loading, which is a major improvement. The Playstation 2 version really was affected by this problem and now that it’s solved, Crash is once again enjoyable to play.
There are 8 vehicles to use in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex and they are: Firefly, Glider/Space Fighter, Copter-Pak, Jeep, Coco’s Scooter/Snowboard, Sub, Mech, and the ball that’s similar to the one in Super Monkey Ball. Many people may be worried about the controller for use with Crash. Let me just say that I had no problems using both the regular and ‘S’ incarnations of the Xbox controllers. They both do an excellent job when playing Crash, and continue to show that the controller is designed for all genres of game play.
All of the same items such as apples, crates, Aku Aku, etc, are in the game and remain true to the previous Crash episodes from Naughty Dog. Crash as I mentioned earlier is still simple and still a blast to play.
Crash is great fun, and definitely has a considerable replay aspect. You can’t just brisk through the game expecting to get that 100% completion rate; no you’re going to have to go back and replay levels to get all those crates collected, time trials etc. Accomplishing 100% completion will take anywhere from 6-10 hours, depending on your ability. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is definitely worth your hard-earned money and, being part of the very small Platform genre currently available on the Xbox, makes it a must have for platform lovers and Crash fans alike.
Well, people always seem picky when it comes to platformers. They often criticize them for their short game time, but thankfully Crash is a very fun game to play. The improvements over the PS2 version are definitely present and, because of them, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is certainly a fun, enjoyable and vastly playable game.