And we’re back with Part 2 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn”. If you joined me last week, I kicked things off by taking a fond look back at the first major series of games I played on the PlayStation, Crash Bandicoot. I went over the first three (and practically the best) games of the series, so now I will continue with the next three games. I enjoyed pretty much all the Crash Bandicoot games to some degree, but as you will plainly see by the scores I give each game, some were certainly more enjoyable than others.
Crash Team Racing (PS1)
Crash Team Racing is the first racing game in the Crash Bandicoot series and also the last game in the series to be developed by Naughty Dog (sniffs). I was never a big fan of racing games, but that pesky condition I have, video gaming OCD, reared its head and “forced” me to buy Crash Team Racing since it was part of a beloved series of mine. To my great surprise, I ended up enjoying this game more than I thought I would. In basic terms, this game was pretty much a Crash Bandicoot version of Mario Kart, but that didn’t make it any less fun. And unlike the Mario Kart games, there’s a story behind Crash Team Racing that explains why Crash is kart racing against his friends and enemies. An alien named Nitros Oxide challenges Crash and the others to a series of races, and if they win he’ll leave Earth forever. But if Nitros Oxide wins, then he’ll turn the planet into his own personal parking lot and enslave all of humanity. What a bastard, right?
From there, you get to choose one character to play through the adventure with, including Crash, Coco, Dr. Cortex, Dr. N. Gin, and others. Each racer has different stats: some have equal balance with top speed, turning, and acceleration, while others have greater speed with crappier turning ability, or vice versa. And also like Mario Kart, you get random power-ups after driving through crates scattered along each race track that include shooting missiles, dropping poisonous or explosive beakers, firing time warp bubbles, and acquiring temporary invincibility through Aku Aku or Uka Uka masks.
There were other modes to play like time trials and collectible runs, and these different modes could be played in both the singleplayer and multiplayer modes (but I of course pretty much always stuck to singleplayer). Getting 100% completion by winning every race, time trial, and collectible run to acquire all the crystals, gems, and relics (just like in the main platform games) proved to be challenging and fun, just what you’d expect from the folks at Naughty Dog. Even my younger sister, who was never a big video game player, enjoyed popping in Crash Team Racing and driving at high speeds through all the different race tracks along the beach, in mid-air between blimps, or in underwater tubes (she pretty much enjoyed anything with cars or driving). While this game was fun, it was still mostly just racing, which is simply one of my less favorite genres. Crash Team Racing gets a score of 80%.
Crash Bash (PS1)
Now this game was very…not awesome. Much like how Crash Team Racing was inspired by Mario Kart, Crash Bash was inspired by Mario Party. Also, it was the first game in the Crash series not developed by Naughty Dog, and it kind of showed. This was the only party game I had played, and it will likely be my last. It wasn’t a horrible game, but it really wasn’t my taste. If it hadn’t been for that annoying video game OCD of mine, I wouldn’t have bothered getting this game, but it’s a Crash game, therefore I had to have it. There was simply no way around it.
As surprising as it was that Crash Team Racing had a story, I was even more surprised that this game had one as well. The two witch doctor spirit brothers, Aku Aku and Uka Uka, want to settle the score between them once and for all, so they gather up Crash, Dr. Cortex, and their allies to compete in different challenges to prove which side is superior. In the singleplayer mode, you can choose to play as Crash, one of his friends, or one of his enemies, and each character has different capabilities that prove useful in different challenges. Some characters are big and strong, others are faster and more agile, etc.
Crash Bash played well, had decent graphics (for its time), and the different party-themed games you could take part in were actually kind of fun. There were four player pinball matches, tank battles, arena battles, hover kart races, challenges where the characters rode on baby polar bears and tried to push each other off a floating ice rink, and more. Some of these challenges were simply unenjoyable for me, and even the ones I did enjoy could be incredibly frustrating when playing against the computer, which seemed dead set on making me fail and retry each challenge multiple times by making sure all my opponents ganged up on me.
And similarly to the original Crash Bandicoot, acquiring all the gems and relics in this game was simply not worth it. In fact, I’m pretty sure one of my fellow writers here on Gaming Respawn (can’t remember who it was) said he is/was attempting to acquire all the gems and relics and admitted he’s having one hell of a difficult time doing it, which doesn’t surprise me. If he’s still sane after such a supremely demanding endeavor, then more power to him. Personally, I always just collected all the crystals in this game and left it at that, which fortunately was enough for me to see the game’s ending. I felt a pang of sadness when I traded-in my Crash Bandicoot games a while back, but Crash Bash was not one of the games I felt sad getting rid of. Crash Bash gets a score of 55%.
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (PS2)
This was the first Crash game to hit the legendary PS2 and it was made in the same image as the first three Crash Bandicoot games. It tried really hard to be just like Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, but in the end it simply didn’t compare. While Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex was a decent game by its own right, there were too many little flaws present that prevented the game from reaching the same level of greatness as Naughty Dog’s efforts. The story/premise was interesting enough. Dr. Cortex has created a new bandicoot warrior, Crunch Bandicoot, who was meant to be superior to Crash in every way and destroy him once and for all. Uka Uka also recruits four powerful spirits known as the Elementals to help them out by using their command over the four main elements of earth, water, fire, and wind. With the bad guys set for global domination (again), Crash and Coco use a transportation device to visit different areas of the world to take care of Cortex’s forces.
One thing I did like about this game was the many different types of levels you could play through as both Crash and Coco, who actually played somewhat differently from each other. Aside from the usual platforming levels, both characters would go through levels where they ride a number of different vehicles such as a scooter, snowboard, jeep, mini-sub, flying mechanical firefly, glider, spaceship, even a mech. Thing is, a lot of the levels in this game were really drawn out, so going back and breaking every crate to collect the gems and beating the time trials to get the relics proved to be kind of a repetitive pain in the ass. This was especially annoying in the levels where you ride vehicles like the scooter and jeep since they were strictly one-way levels and did not allow you to backtrack if you happened to miss just one crate.
While it was possible to miss crates in one way levels in the older Crash games as well, it wasn’t nearly such a chore since the levels were shorter and simply more fun. Furthermore, the controls in The Wrath of Cortex weren’t as tight or responsive as they were in the earlier games, so making mistakes that lead to quick deaths was much easier than it should have been. Even the graphics and music in this game lost that “cartoony fun” feel of the earlier games, which means a lot in a series like this (all the characters seriously had these big bug eyes that made them all look like they had perpetual thousand yard stares).
And the boss battles were fun, but again, not as exceptional as in the earlier games; plus, all of them were against Crunch using a different Elemental to power him up. The biggest flaw by far: the loading times. Every time you start a level or go back to the game’s main hub, you’d have to wait a full 30 seconds for the game to load…every time. All in all, this game was just slightly above average, but when compared to the original trilogy of games, it doesn’t quite cut it. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex gets a score of 73%.
Join me next week for Part 3 of “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” as I reminisce on the next three games in the Crash Bandicoot series.