Crash Bandicoot 2 : Cortex Strikes Back – PlayStation
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date (NA): November 1, 1997
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
Oh Naughty Dog… You’ve taught us so much about video games! You delivered gems like the Uncharted series and the universally praised The Last of Us, but most people have forgotten about your early work. You’ve been going strong since the late ‘80s, and you’ve been delivering top quality gaming since the original Crash Bandicoot was released on PlayStation. The great thing about your games back then was that they had the feel of an indie game with a major league punch! Crash Bandicoot may have been the first step to success, but following up a blockbuster seller like that took some tremendous effort. Did you deliver? Hell yes you did.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back sees our titular character Crash return to action as he is out saving the world from evil misdoings. Having a pretty typical and standard plot akin to the Sonic the Hedgehog series, games like this proved to be an easy cash-in. While the Crash Bandicoot series might have been jumping on the platforming bandwagon spearheaded by Mario and Sonic, its success is attributed to an entirely unique game structure, one-of-a-kind presentation, simple gameplay, and masterful execution of fun-value! While Crash Bandicoot 2 might be mostly antiquated in today’s utterly fascinating world of realistic graphical presentation, nothing can rid our hearts of Sony’s unofficial mascot of the ‘90s! Sorry Spyro.
In Crash Bandicoot 2, we see the female character of Crash’s girlfriend Tawna replaced with his sister Coco. She’s mostly a useless and pointless addition to the game, but nonetheless, she is present and her existence helps drive the story. The camera angle follows Crash in a mostly rear third-person perspective like much of Super Mario 64 (the game Sony was really competing with), but occasionally the angle is switched over to a side-scrolling “2D” perspective in a 3D environment. The graphics and sound are vastly superior to the previous title, but let’s not use this review as a major platform for comparison. The graphics, music, and sound effects in Crash Bandicoot 2 are excellent as standalone entities.
3D representation during the days of the 3DO, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and Sony PlayStation were a true challenge for developers, and many of those 3D games have been cast into obscurity never to be enjoyed again due to overly-antiquated 3D graphics. Not all games fall into this category, and some are very playable even as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of a number of these titles. Naughty Dog gave this game everything they had and their efforts pop out of the screen with excellent textures, decent polygon counts, and vibrant color and shading. That statement could only hold true if the developers aimed for a semi-cartoonish video game, and that’s exactly why they succeeded so well.
Each level has a unique design, but the limited and linear environment might wear on those gamers who are now used to the extreme popularity of open-world games. Crash Bandicoot 2 is definitely NOT an open-world game, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. In fact, the simplicity and lack of brain-draining complexity might be the best thing I can say about this game. Crash Bandicoot 2 has the ultimate feel of a traditional platformer the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Sonic the Hedgehog 2, except from an entirely new perspective. Between worlds, there is a central hub (the Warp Room) where you can warp to each world for a new environment (sewers, jungle, etc). Each Warp Room has 5 levels, and you must collect a crystal in each level. Once you have collected all 5 crystals, you will warp from that Warp Room to the next, but you must defeat each Warp Room’s boss before gaining access to the next. There are 25 crystals altogether, and you must collect them all in order to face the final boss.
While most of the game revolves around quick reflexes (such as when sprinting around a corner and coming face-to-face with an enemy), much of the game maintains the classic platforming elements of clearing gaps, jumping on boxes, jumping on the heads of bad guys, collecting apples (compared to collecting rings/coins), and so forth. In 1996, this third-person perspective was a refreshing approach to the overplayed genre, and it was still going strong for years after. Crash Bandicoot 2 isn’t all about the looks or the excellent level structure, though, as the music is what really sets the mood and ambiance of the game!
The music is extremely upbeat and bounces around with semi-complex nuances that are perfectly suited for a platforming game of this kind. Each zone has a unique soundtrack that compliments the overall feel of the level’s environment. There’s not enough that can be said about the composition of Crash Bandicoot 2’s musical soundtrack. Same goes for the sound effects, which were supposedly created at Universal Studios! This is the kind of game you’ll want to play with the volume up. If you’re a deaf person, I feel very sorry for you.
The controls in Crash Bandicoot 2 might be showing their age more than the graphics. Okay, that’s not entirely true. They might be equal in that aspect. But what I’m trying to say is that the controls feel a little old. If playing on a standard PlayStation 1 controller, you might struggle trying to match the 3D world with the bare directional pad controls. Timing your jumps perfectly can be a huge pain in the ass as the margin for error is truly minimal. Even with an abundant amount of practice, it can sometimes feel like everything is out to get you and keep you from advancing. This will certainly dampen your spirits a bit, but it shouldn’t deter you from continuing to play! Keep your chin up and figure that crap out!
Crash Bandicoot 2 is a uniquely fun game in that the solid gameplay keeps us from wanting to put down the controller despite vaguely similar feel of each level. This game might have the traits of a kid’s game, but it certainly is not a game made just for kids. Any age can enjoy a Crash Bandicoot game, and in fact the challenges in clearing jumps and timing your reflexes might be better suited for someone with a little age and experience.
Crash is a very likeable character and has all the traits of a true mascot. Why Sony never made a solid deal with Naughty Dog to either purchase the rights from them or keep the series alive is beyond me. There was so much potential here for a true Sony mascot, but that is a different topic altogether.
The reality behind Crash Bandicoot 2 is that this game is timeless. It is leaps and bounds ahead of its precursor. You might not have your original PlayStation anymore, but you can download this game on PSN and guess what…? The original PlayStation controller doesn’t feel THAT different from today’s Dualshock 3 or Dualshock 4! So you can still get the “feel” of playing Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Even with graphics that haven’t aged all that well, discerning everything on the screen is easy due to its simple animation (thank you Naughty Dog for not trying to make realistic graphics). Lending a hand to the amazing visual presentation is the bounce-around upbeat music, spot-on sound effects, and excellent gameplay.
I highly recommend getting this game on disc or on your PS3 or PS4 hard drive. It’s worth every dollar. I was fortunate enough to find a complete copy (with the 3D picture and all!) at the flea market for just $5! Playing Crash Bandicoot 2 was just what I needed to liven up my day. The fun value is almost infinite here, and the nostalgic value has no limits either. Does fun and nostalgia always equate to a good game? No, definitely. Actually, it is commonly the opposite. Crash Bandicoot 2 is the exception in that even nearing its 20th anniversary you can still have an inordinate amount of fun due to the straightforward gameplay and all the other wondeful details! Live on Crash… And please come back. Are you hearing us Naughty Dog?
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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