Crash Bandicoot returns for his first multi-platform console game ever. But does the Crash series remain strong without Naughty Dog?
The last time we saw Crash, (or in GameCube players' case, didn't see) he had just defeated Neo Cortex and the villainous N. Tropy, ruining their plans to alter history with the Time Twister. We see Crash and Coco relaxing on the beach, taking a rest. But as in all platform games featuring villainous madmen, we know that this will change very soon.
Up in Neo Cortex's latest space station (where does he get the money for these things?) Uka-Uka is holding a villain's meeting, chiding the group. World evil is at an all-time low, (There's a graph and everything!) and their performance is pathetic. Cortex accidentally reveals his super-secret weapon, a genetically engineered bandicoot far superior to Crash, named Crunch. All they need to complete Crunch is a power source - one that can be obtained from the four elemental masks that were imprisoned long ago due to their violent nature. Naturally, they are released, and chaos ensues. Aku-Aku (Crash's good mask who says "Aboogaboodah!") explains to Crash and Coco that they will need to *sigh* collect crystals to imprison the masks and restore peace to the earth again.
The layout of the game is incredibly similar to Crash Bandicoot 3 - in fact, it's dead on to Crash 3, aside from different locations. To finish the game, all you need to do is progress through the levels and collect the purple shards in each level. Fight the bosses, and it's game over. But for a complete ending, you'll need to collect the gems as well, not to mention all the relics that are earned by completing the Time Trial in each level. Some gems can be collected by destroying all the boxes in a level. Others can just be picked up. While the basic game structure is a carbon copy of Crash 3, new elements have been added to give it a unique feel.
Firstly, there's the roll cage levels, where Crash is inside a giant ball and you have to roll him around to the exit. There are levels where you can fully control Coco, something that wasn't possible in the previous games. However, Coco is much harder to control than Crash, and you don't have the advantage of being able to use any of Crash's power-ups with her. There's also a number of new vehicles, including a sub, a jeep and an Alien-like Mech. Then, there's the downloadable Crash Blast.
Crash Blast is a neat little game you can download to your Game Boy Advance. Basically, it's a Crash-ified shooting gallery. You play as Crash with his Wumpa Fruit Bazooka, and your aim is to shoot Cortex and his cohorts, but avoid shooting Coco and your friends. It starts off simple, by enemies just popping up, but later on they move a lot more quickly. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to interact with the GameCube game, and since it's only saved in the Game Boy Advance's memory, any scores will be wiped once the power is gone. According to the manual, there are more Game Boy Advance bonuses if you complete the game fully.
Graphics for Wrath of Cortex are pretty nice. They're clear and colourful, and while the game does slow down a bit, it only does so when there are a lot of things happening on-screen. For example, in one section, there are lasers and enemies throwing chemicals and smoke spurting out. It will slow down there, but not to the point where it becomes unplayable. Levels are varied and different, too. But I have yet to understand why there's an ice level in the Rock Domain and a Western level in Cortex's space station. It just doesn't seem to make any logical sense.
Sound is also well done. There are no glitches with sound or music, although something occurs that I really despise in games - the pause while the music track reloads. There's about 5 seconds of silence while it tries to find it again. Sounds are all from the previous Crash games, and the voice acting is fairly good. Cortex is great, as always, and while there are a couple of good lines, there's nothing like "I need women with a couple of great big...bags of ice for my aching head!" from Crash 3. Ah well, you can't have everything.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is a good game. The initial game is easy enough for younger players to complete while more experienced players can strive for the better ending if they wish, and it's nice to see that there's Game Boy Advance Cable support out there from a third party. Gamers who have played the previous Crash games probably shouldn't play this if they're expecting something completely new because it doesn’t offer much, but gamers experiencing the wacky mascot for the first time may enjoy it.