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RELEASE DATE (NA): November 4, 1998 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

Crash is back, and not quite as bad-icoot.

Back in 2012, I played through the original Crash Bandicoot for PlayStation and discovered just how putrid that game was. Loaded with clumsy camera angles and a terrible save system, it was far from my most desired experience. Two years later, I succumbed to brutal temptation and took on Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, a sequel that improved the overall game mechanics, but still had little zeal to reach past mediocrity. Now it's 2015, and it's time to put a lid on this trilogy once and for all with Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, the most ambitious of the Bandicoot saga thus far. I hope my stomach can handle a third helping of orange fur clumps and tragically misshapen facial features, or as developer Naughty Dog likes to call it, "Crash Bandicoot".

Once again, our madcap marsupial mainstay finds himself toe-to-toe with Dr. Neo Cortex, the evil scientist genius. We discover that, due to Cortex's inability to do much right, the evil Uka Uka, brother of Bandicoot associate and floating mask aid Aku Aku, has been freed and, after scolding Cortex for basically being a moron, suggests a new plan to collect crystals and gems in an effort to control the world. Since Crash has already twice foiled these plans in the present time, the only place to find new crystals and gems are in different time periods and begin the hunt for them by using a Time-Twisting Machine. Yes, I guess they had one just laying around, waiting to be used. Aku Aku advises both Crash and his sister Coco (yes, Coco Bandicoot — not to be confused with the Australian cereal of the same name) to rush to the Time-Twisting Machine and retrieve all the crystals from different eras before his nasty brother and Dr. Cortex get their hands on them.

In the end, you're doing exactly the same thing as before. Instead of one solidly united world, the Time-Twisting Machine acts as a main hub and portal to a variety of areas. Crash and Coco get to visit new ethnic scenery such as Ancient Egypt, the Great Wall of China, Arabian towns, Medieval times, and even a futuristic city, all in hopes of finding crystals. Much of Crash's time is spent doing the same style of platforming as before, where the camera follows behind him as he progresses (or in some cases, in front of you if you're being chased by some crazed dinosaur), seeking the purple crystal within and destroying all of the stage's crates to earn additional gems, all the while avoiding obstacles, pits, and enemies suited to the area. Bonus levels for extra crates are probably the most fun, as they're straightforward and side-scrolling. These areas haven't changed much in design since Crash Bandicoot 2, although the chase scenes seemed far more manageable; perhaps the camera's been pulled back a little.

The classic platforming stages are clearly the highlights of Crash Bandicoot 3. Not the highlights? Everything else.

In an effort to "stay fresh", Naughty Dog diversified the gameplay by adding a number of gameplay styles, few of which were well-polished. The second stage of the game, "Under Pressure", threw that freshness in my face by taking Crash underwater. Let me be perfectly clear: underwater levels are the bane of video gaming. Some are tolerable, like in Super Mario games, but even there, they are among the least favourite of the community. Thank goodness there are only two, but they lack the quality of control found in the platforming.

And then we have vehicles. Crash games of the past had animals to ride, and Crash Bandicoot 3 is no exception: Coco can ride Pura the Tiger through two stages on the Great Wall of China, both of which aren't entirely terrible, although it would've been nice if they had eased up on putting every obstacle imaginable on there. Crash also gets the opportunity to ride a dinosaur, which would be great if it didn't look so distressed on the game's cover art. I mean... LOOK AT IT!

But then there are the new ones. Coco can ride a jet ski, which is perhaps the most pleasant of the additions. She'll spend more time dodging bombs and jumping ramps than actually enjoying the sights (which might be a good thing, considering the water effects always look like a bad acid trip from the 1970s). This actually isn't so bad, but I can't say the same for the motorcycle racing strips. If you're used to any racing game, you'll be sorely disappointed by the distinct absence of controls here. One accelerator button, one brake button, and that's all. Fans of Mario Kart (from 1992, I might add) will be caught off-guard by the antiquated lack of the ability to slide (or do much else aside from driving forward), making corners more of a bother than they need to be. Any actual effort in developing a fully competent racing engine went into Crash Team Racing, which was released almost a year after Crash Bandicoot 3. To make matters worse, it's always a race, meaning if you don't get first place, you don't get a crystal. That's no easy feat when you're too busy just trying to stay on the road and not fall into what appear to be the world's largest potholes. Where are the tax dollars going? One such race is even set in the dark — how is THAT fair for the player?

But nothing is as tooth-grindingly infuriating as the biplane stages. Granted, they're not COMPLETELY without merit, and they're pretty short as far as game stages go, but having unlimited enemy planes coming at you left and right, trying to shoot you down (with the potential of taking insane chunks of health off in one fell swoop), is no exciting matter while you're trying to deal with other goals such as destroying all crates (hung by balloons) or attempting to decimate a number of other giant sky vehicles. Biplanes often have a pilot AND a gunner, but in this case, you have to do it all yourself. Even Coco has to do it, and she doesn't seem too prepared for such combat. She's still in overalls... and can't even put them on right.

An improvement over the last one... but the frustration factor remains strong.

What gives Crash Bandicoot 3 an extra edge is the inclusion of Time Trials. Once you successfully complete a level and return to it a second time, you'll see a yellow timer ahead of you. Walking into that begins (as you'd expect) a timer, and you now want to get to the end as quickly as possible. Doing so under a certain time limit earns relics, which unlock additional levels to play through. But let me make this clear: it's hard as heck to meet their hellishly high expectations. Controllers will be thrown. Hair will be torn. Corncobs will be snapped. All this must be done if you want to earn the coveted 105% completion rate on your file! I'd rather keep my hair intact, thank you very much. I'm sure I'll lose it if I ever decide to review something truly terrible, like Fester's Quest or Ninjabread Man... Hmmm...

If it's any consolation, Crash Bandicoot 3 still delivers in the presentation department. The game looks great in its 3D form, especially given the PlayStation's relatively limited graphical prowess. Some of the textures are as gritty as possible, but for the most part, it's a nice-looking game, boasting the same level of unusual wackiness as before. I think the music composition has matured a little with a wider variety of styles to accompany the game's broader global scenery. The soundtrack is still very cartoony to match the rest of the game, but there's less corny xylophone. *listens carefully* Oh — it's still there! Can't get rid of that, can we? The voice acting hasn't improved much; they really need to do something with the voice audio levels. I know I can change audio levels for music and sound effects, but the game should come optimised for, you know, hearing things. Maybe it's for the best: hearing the awful Australian accent of Dingodile is best left for someone else.

Thankfully, despite the many vehicular disasters (and they're far more numerous than they need to be... and they may alienate fans of the first two a bit too much), Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped is the best of the trilogy, edging slightly over Crash Bandicoot 2. Unfortunately, only the most skilled and self-torturous of individuals will ever see a perfect score or anything close to it. They may have to settle for seeing a 60% completion rate and calling it quits, and that's rather sad. It appears Naughty Dog learned from their mistakes while simultaneously making brand new ones here. Like the other two Crash games, I'll still advise to approach with caution. There's definitely fun to be had here, but don't expect everything to be peaches and cream. More like peaches and cream that is beginning to expire.

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