SlimKirby Reviews: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

SlimKirby Reviews: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

Hello everybody, SlimKirby here!

As you know, recently I played through Crash Bandicoot (1) for the very first time and had a very enjoyable experience. Because of that experience, I was also looking forward to playing through the rest of the original trilogy, which I had also picked up in addition to the first game, and since I made a review for the first game, I decided to also do reviews for the following two games as well. So here is my review of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes back!

Crash 2 Box

Crash Bandicoot 2, of all the Crash games I got to play when going over to my neighbor’s house (because I didn’t own any of them then) was the Crash game I was most familiar with. At the time, it just seemed like it was the more interesting title, as it was easier to play due to better gameplay mechanics and it just presented itself in a much better way. So whenever I went over to my neighbor’s house, it was a game I looked forward to playing, and if anything, it was kind of a shame that I never got to finish it because I don’t think my neighbor had a memory card, so I only got to see the first 5-10 levels on most of my sessions. It was still a very fun game though and I had good memories of it whenever I got to play.

After completing Crash 1 about a week and a half ago, I was really curious to see how the 2nd game would improve on the first one, and let me tell you, I was surprised to see how much it did. A lot of my concerns and problems with Crash 1 were addressed or remedied in the second game, and I think that’s pretty cool considering that the second game didn’t come out that long after Crash 1, and it wasn’t as easy to investigate consumer feedback as it is these days. Like the first game, you have two basic ways you can complete Crash 2. You can just play through the game and each level normally by grabbing the newly introduced pink crystal and beating each level and the boss of every area until you get to the end. Or, you could go the 100% route and collect all the gems, where much like Crash Bandicoot 1, you’ll have to go through every level in Crash 2 and break all the boxes in the area. Once again, I feel like the in-game reward for 100% isn’t as great as it could be, but after thinking about it, I think the reward in fully completing a Crash Bandicoot game is moreso how the gamer feels at the end of the accomplishment and not so much what the game presents to you.

Getting 100% this time around isn’t as stressful as it was in the predecessor. In the first game, you had to do the entirety of every level in one go, making sure you didn’t die and if you did die, restarting the level from the very beginning instead of starting at the checkpoints you get along the way. In this game, it’s a lot more lenient than that. For one, getting checkpoints will save your progress and you won’t have to start from the beginning anymore…in a majority of the cases. There are some cases where you will have to start over, but only in levels that have specific “no-death” routes, where a pad that leads to a new area will only appear if you make it to that point without dying. However, the game is still very lenient in that department as well, since once you make it to that point and ride the pad once, it will save that platform and allow you to die after the fact. In other words, the game isn’t strict about perfecting a level and any further perfection will be based on your own self-imposed challenges, which is the way I think it should be. Also, in general, the game just feels a lot more fair and should have less instances of sections that will just suck the extra lives away. There are still challenging parts of the game and I’m definitely not saying that the entire game is “Easy Mode” or anything, but it’s a fair challenge and has a very standard progression of difficulty when moving from the beginning to the end.

There are some things that Crash 2 does that are still kind of strange though. Like in Crash 1, there are colored gems that are offered throughout the game and in order to get some of the box gems, you will need specific color gems to reach alternate paths and areas in specific levels. Some of these gems can be found in alternate stage routes and death routes, but in some cases, the objective for the gem may not be entirely clear. This is especially true for the first level of the game; Turtle Woods, where in order to get the Blue Gem, you need to go through the entire stage without breaking a single box. I knew about this quirk from watching playthroughs of the game from other Youtube channels, but for a new player, this requirement may not be entirely clear and could send the player on a wild goose chase for something they are unaware of. There are also some stages that cannot be completed on the first go-around, but not because of a colored gem path, but because you need to warp to a hidden part of that stage from a later area’s level. Some of the warp points are obvious if you experiment in certain levels and pay attention to your surroundings, but considering this is the first Crash game that does this kind of thing, it’s kind of hard to know for sure what exactly you are looking for and when you are looking for it, so that could have been a little more clear. I think the N. Sane Trilogy remedies this problem by giving hints in the loading screen of the level, but that’s not so much the case for the original version.

It took me a lot less time and way fewer sessions to complete Crash 2 compared to Crash 1. While the first game took me an entire week (and then some), the Crash 2 experience only felt like a weekend, and even then, on my first night of playing, I came to the realization that one part of my 2-sided memory card was completely full and the game wouldn’t allow me to save until I turned off the game and deleted some save data. As a result, everything I did on the first night was completely erased and I had to start from square one the next time I played. I made a lot faster progress the next time, but it was still essentially a complete redo of what I had already done. By the end of the second night, I was more than halfway done with the game and made a big push on the following day to finish up the game completely; so really only 2-3 days to beat the game, which I think is pretty good considering it was my first full playthrough and with more than half of the experience being blind.

My only trouble spots in the playthrough came from very unexpected places…and I say that based on the horror stories of certain levels I’ve heard from other people who have played this game. For some reason, I couldn’t quite get the timing of the polar-bear riding levels down; which are automatic-moving levels that are based on timed jumps and movements while avoiding enemies and other annoying obstacles. For some reason I had a really hard time controlling the bear and lost a lot of lives in the process, especially on the secret level, “Totally Bear.” And on the level “Unbearable,” a level where you get chased by a giant polar bear while running towards the screen, I ran into an issue of missing 3 boxes by the very end of the level, which confused me because I was very thorough with investigating every nook and cranny of the stage, including the discovery of two hidden boxes that were off camera in a specific part of the level, yet even with those two “trollish” inclusions, I still managed to miss three boxes elsewhere, which just doesn’t make sense to me. On my second run through, I did it no problem and without missing anything, so I had to have blanked out something somewhere.

My biggest surprise was the level called “Cold Hard Crash,” a level that is notorious by fans to be the hardest level in the game. It has ice physics, a death route, the most boxes in any stage of the game, and an annoying gimmick that can mess you up if you don’t know the entire level well enough. Basically, in the death route, you have to make it to a certain point and then backtrack through the death route after activating a switch. Once you destroy the boxes that get activated by that switch, instead of exiting the level through the natural route, you have to keep backtracking to exit from the entrance pad and continue the level normally because the death route’s exit takes you to a much further part of the stage where you can’t backtrack to get back to the normal route, which sure enough has boxes on it. It’s quite the troll when it comes to playing the game for the first time and admittedly, it did trip me up as well. And to top it all off, in the bonus stage for the level, there is a box out of sight that you need to hit and there is just no indication that it is there. You just need to assume that something is up there and experiment until you make the discovery, which I am very sure was annoying for all of those individuals who did everything in the level perfectly and then reached the very end of the level just to see the box counter at 154/155. Anyway, as I was trying to get at earlier, I had heard horror stories about this level, but surprisingly, I did it relatively quickly and with not much issue. It definitely helped that I figured out the death-route gimmick very quickly and that I was aware of the troll bonus box, but still, I expected my life counter to melt away as quickly as an ice cube in the desert. “Piston’ It Away” was another level that I was expecting to be challenging, just based on stories I  had heard, but I also got through that one pretty quickly as well. I guess everyone just has different experiences in terms of what they struggle and don’t struggle with, huh?

So when I finished Crash 2, I was ultimately surprised at how quickly it had come and gone. On some level, it was a shame that it was already over, but after thinking about it, the game itself is probably considered to be pretty “retro” now, and over time, especially due to continuous play by gamers, older games will generally seem to be a lot shorter and faster to get through then more modern games that have better technology to work with and more content to sift through. Besides, sometimes it’s good to have a shorter game, one that you can breeze through after a few nights and then you can start fresh on the next one the following day, so it’s length is definitely not a negative. The experience did get me interested in starting the third game, so much that I actually tried to start Crash 3 on the following day. However, once again, I had memory card issues, and also figured that it was probably better to focus on getting this review done first before I started the next Crash game anyway. Since then, I have fixed the problem and have gotten a new memory card, so I’ll probably get to working on Crash 3 immediately, but as I said, I want to get this review done first, so this will be further elaborated on in the next review.

Overall, I consider Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back to be a much better product than first Crash Bandicoot game. It presents itself very well, makes it playable and approachable for all gamers of every skill level, and improved on many things that were either lacking or problems I had with its predecessor. That final detail alone shows that the game had good production and development values and is something I can appreciate from the perspective of a gamer and a consumer in general. Looking forward, Crash 3 has some pretty big shoes to fill, but from what I’ve heard from Crash fans, I have a pretty exciting experience to look forward to, so we’ll have to see how that goes when I finish the game and post the next review.

Thanks for reading everybody, I will see you guys next time for whatever game I decide to finish and talk about next!

~SlimKirby

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