It has its problems, but Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back is easier to recommend and much more entertaining than its predecessor.
The original Crash Bandicoot is fondly remembered by most people who had a chance to play the three-dimensional platformer back in the day, but unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up very well, especially by today’s standards. But what about its first sequel? After all, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back features lots of improvements over its predecessor. Does this sequel have everything it needs to improve upon the original Crash? Although Crash Bandicoot 2 is inherently a better game, this isn’t the terrific classic platformer you remember from your childhood.
As in most platformers, the premise behind this game is remarkably simple: you assume the role of Crash Bandicoot, a marsupial who collects crystals and gems to save our beloved planet from an evil force. But the story isn’t important. What you should know about Crash Bandicoot 2 is that it tries to fix some of the worst parts about its predecessor and I’m happy to say that for the most part, it succeeds.
The original Crash was a difficult game that punished you for your mistakes and this made playing the game both frustrating and infuriating, since most deaths weren’t necessarily your fault. So what changed? This time around, levels are well-crafted, checkpoints are truly checkpoints, exploring your surroundings is entertaining and the overall difficulty has been toned down a bit. Some of these improvements are more than welcome. When you reach some of the bonus levels, you don’t need to reach the end to be able to save and you can try bonus rounds as many times as you want. For the first time, you can save between levels. Environments are varied and while you’ve seen all these places thousands of times before (levels include jungle, ice levels and so on,) they don’t feel repetitive.
Apart from improved elements, there are new ones as well. For the first time in the series, there’s voice acting and animated cutscenes. Also, the structure of the game’s a little different, since there’s an over-world map where you can travel to different locations and there’s also new environments, levels and enemies. Apart from the regular levels, there dark levels where light bugs guide your path, levels where you ride animals, levels where you use a jetpack and so on. This variety makes sure that you never get the feeling that you’re doing the same thing again and again.
Unfortunately, for the every new elements and improvement, there’s a serious flaw. For whatever reason, Crash can’t swim (as far as I know, most marsupials can) which leads to some frustrating and unfair deaths. Jumping in the 3D environments is still troublesome, since it’s usually impossible to predict where you’re going to land, so every jump feels like a leap of faith, which is never fun. Also, most of the game makes you rely on repetition and memorization. To defeat bosses, for instance, you have to recognize patterns and one single mistake usually ends up in a game over screen. Also, the game forces you to memorize the layout of levels by sheer repetition, so get ready to die again and again.
I feel like Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Again is a great improvement over the formula of the first game. For the first time in the series, I feel like I can sit down to play this game and have fun, which definitely wasn’t the case with the original Crash. It still has problems, but Crash Bandicoot 2 is easier to recommend and much more entertaining than its predecessor.