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Review : Crash Bandicoot 3 : Warped

And at last, we’ve finally arrived at the last of the original Crash trilogy in this Vicarious Visions remaster: Warped. For me personally, this was the one I always remembered the most fondly when I look back at my otherwise extraordinarily uninteresting childhood (as if Crash Bandicoot makes it more interesting, amirite?). Maybe it was just because I never had that many games to play back then, so what few I had I played unto absolute death, but Warped really was the pride and joy of my collection. And even now, when I fired it up again after so many years, I still remembered so much of it: every level, every little detail is still pretty crisp and clear in my little ol’ noggin, and I have to say it was a real thrill seeing Vicarious Visions bring it all back to life in such appealing fashion in this remastered trilogy.  And hey, you know what? It still holds up pretty damn well, which is real swell too.

I’ve always maintained that the original Crash 3 really was Naughty Dog finally perfecting the Crash Bandicoot formula they had been developing between two games prior. They’d had plenty of time and experience to work out the kinks, to figure out what wasn’t working and what was, and all that work-shopped goodness was mixed and distilled neatly into Crash 3: Warped to make it, in my humble opinion, the best of the whole dang bunch. It comprises pretty much all the winning features of the last two games while adding in fresh new little tweaks and perks to boot that just add to what’s already there.

I think what stands out for me the most in Crash 3 relative to the previous two is variety. Both Crash Bandicoot and Crash 2 didn’t lack for charm in its level design, but it too often felt like they were over-reliant on the same environments just a little too often. Warped really rectifies this. The, erm, “plot” (used very loosely) that hinges on a new version of the warp rooms called the Time Twister gives Warped a great excuse to cycle through a wide range of fun time-hopping worlds and levels: you go from medieval fields and castles, to ancient Egyptian tombs, to cyberpunk-esque slick future metropolises. Whereas the first two Crash games tended to repeat particular kinds of levels a little too often, Warped does a far better job pacing out the similar level designs in such a way that they don’t feel too over-used.

And you know I just joked about it, but I honestly kinda love the “story” in Crash 3, limited though it is. To elaborate: things in Warped kick off immediately following the events of Cortex Strikes Back. His space station destroyed, Cortex lands smack-bang in an ancient temple, and in doing so unleashes Uka-Uka, the evil counterpart to Crash and Coco’s trusty guardian mask Aku-Aku. Irate at Cortex’s endless failures, Uka-Uka takes charge, and with the help of Dr. N.Tropy and his Time Twister, seek to steal Power Crystals from throughout time to complete Cortex’s plans; thus its up to Crash and Coco to travel to the Time Twister themselves and liberate the Crystals from Cortex, Uka-Uka, and their band of nefarious minions. Even if its incredibly rudimentary, Warped’s small amount of story gives everything a nice weight to it that the previous two games don’t quite have. It really feels like much more of an adventure this time around, and I think its pretty neat how the bosses of each Warp Room are displayed with all the crystals, gems, relics, and such when you first touch the level button, and then transfer to you when you claim them. It makes every triumph feel that much more heroic and far more measurable. I also like that the warp room bosses drop in to taunt you after collecting a certain number of crystals, as does Cortex and Uka-Uka (though this isn’t strictly “new”, but whatevs, its cooler in this one, okay?)

Gameplay-wise, Warped feels much the same as its predecessor in many respects, though for my money this is hardly a bad thing since Cortex Strikes Back was really the point in which Crash’s platforming mechanics were fine-tuned to a point where just the mere act of trying to play wasn’t a frustrating nightmare. The only real things that Warped added in terms of gameplay mechanics were the powers you receive for defeating each boss, and while they may seem like a nice addition, they do raise certain issues in my mind upon revisiting Warped. The Super Belly Flop doesn’t really seem to add all that much that wasn’t already provided by the normal belly flop, the double jump is just a slightly more convenient way of executing the long jump, and the Wampa Bazooka can reduce certain levels to a joke. The Cyclone Spin and the Crash Dash on the other hand are actually pretty practical additions; although one could make the case that the dash hurts the fairness of the time trials just a little bit. With the benefit of hindsight, the powers almost feel like they were tacked onto the original just for the sake of throwing something new out there in relation to the game’s mechanics, and Vicarious Vision’s remaster has done little to make the powers age well in this respect.

Its not too often that a series tends to improve with each successive title, but with Warped and the rest of Vicarious Visions’ remasters prove that Crash Bandicoot didn’t really have too much trouble with that at all. Warped is a wonderful culmination of all the best parts of the series up to the point Naughty Dog handed over the reigns to Vivendi: great detail, varied and exciting levels, precise and great-feeling platforming mechanics, and great presentation with a fantastic amount of charm, marred slightly (and only slightly) by some superfluous new additions and the retention of some of the franchise’s long-running and niggling problems (like craptastic boss battles). As far as everyone’s favorite three-quarter jeaned orange marsupial goes, Warped is as good as it gets.

Review by Sam Jones

 

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