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Psychotic Reviews: Crash Bandicoot: Warped

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After the criticisms of the second game Naughty Dog regrouped and started working on a new followup. This third in the series would be the most ambitious yet. After two extremely successful games Naughty Dog had a large budget to work with, but less than a year to build and finish the game. Like its predecessors the game saw immense success in Japan, and dethroned Crash 2 as the most successful Western developed game in the country. It was the first non-Japanese game to earn the Platinum Prize for selling over 1 million copies in Japan alone.

Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped would move away from the tropical islands somewhere off the coast of Australia and have our heroes trek through time. Dr. Neo Cortex is one again Crash’s adversary, but he is shown as little more than a subordinate under the powerful mask Uka Uka. Since Crash has had his own mask since the beginning this only serves to increase the rivalry between the two as well as deepen the story of the series. Each world’s boss also contacts Crash a couple times as you beat levels, so even they get more character development than most video game bosses. I’m not sure how many people really care about the story of platformers, but its there if you do.

In my review of the second Crash game I had some issues with the level design, and that level design showed unpolished physics which hurt the controls. The level design has been changed more to focus on the 3D elements of the Crash formula. Side scrolling is used fairly sparingly. The ice problems are gone as a result of the time trekking levels, there’s just not an Ice Age level in sight! Much more variety has been added to the overall level design. There are racing, jet ski, and flying levels on top of the usual platformers,┬áso this game has wonderful shifts of pace that keep you on your toes.

There are also more playable characters. Crash’s sister Coco is available as the playable character in certain levels only, and like Crash she gets to ride a cute little animal (a tiger in her case), ride a jet ski, and fly through the skies. Crash does all the racing though, which only shows that the team was already building Crash Team Racing when they were developing this game. As you defeat bosses you get extra abilities to help you explore future levels and complete the bonus areas. These also help to access previously blocked off areas in previous levels.

The difficulty has been toned down quite a bit. I did not run into any problems getting through levels until the last few, and even those were not hard to overcome. Boss fights are mostly a joke, and a formality. Because of the lowered difficulty this feels the most kid friendly of the trilogy. This game could seem easier to me though since I did own this growing up, and I might still have some muscle memory buried deep down in the back recesses of my mind. Overall I do consider this the best game in the trilogy, despite the low difficulty. There’s just so much variety and fun to be had in this game. If you’re looking for legitimate challenge the first Crash is what you want. In my opinion the second game is the worst in the trilogy, but its by no means a bad game, just annoying.

Psychotic Reviews: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

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The international success of the first Crash Bandicoot allowed Naughty Dog to get started on a sequel, and most of the team made the transition intact. This let them build on the ideas from the first game and polish its problems up, while adding new ideas. Sadly this created quite a few new problems. Despite all these new issues Crash 2 was more successful than the first game, replacing it in Japan as the best selling Western developed game when it released. Its international sales ended up with the game falling a bit short of its predecessor though.

If you recall my previous review of the first Crash, my main issue with it were the quirky controls. These have been improved slightly, but are still not where I would like them to be. Ice levels can be quite infuriating until you figure out how the game calculates momentum. That is to say, it doesn’t stop calculating momentum even after you smash into a wall. So these ice levels can involve you moving in place until this momentum will eventually stop, then you go flying in the opposite direction. Also beware of small boxes with gaps across from them, you might think that hitting the box would stop you, but if you try and immediately jump onto the box you will assuredly overshoot it and fall to your death. All of this is just trial and error and has absolutely no regard to player skill, you’re just meant to figure this out on your own and probably die doing so.

Progression and exploration have been changed as well, with a hub based world instead of a linear map system like the first game. Each hub has five levels, and you must find the crystal in each level before you can go on to challenge the boss and move onto the next world. Each world has a similar layout of levels though, and there’s not much variety. When you move from one world to the next you can expect to play a combination of a polar bear level, a rock level, an ice level, sewer level, a temple level, a jet ski level, or an outdoor island level in every single world. The only thing that changes is the actual layout of the level, gone are the unique backgrounds and settings that permeated the worlds of the first game.

Each level does contain a bonus area that you can use to gain extra lives, but you also need to break every box in these bonus areas if you wish to collect the gems. There are also secret areas in many levels that require a colored gem to access. These colored gems are extremely difficult to find, mainly because the way you get them is so cryptic. You will almost never guess or find how to get a single one of these colored gems without a guide. In the first game the colored gems were collected by just getting to a certain number of gems, so there was nothing special you needed to do other than find out which levels you can get a gem in without a colored one. For most of the game your success is limited to trial and error. Deathtraps litter the levels, so you’ll probably have to farm the early levels for lives so you can learn how to avoid cheap deaths. That really sums up how this game is designed.

There are some new additions to the control sceme, a slide and jump added onto the spin, a face plant to break certain boxes and kill some enemies. This adds in more variety than just a simple jump attack and the spin, but it fails to add enough to save the game’s poorly designed levels and bad physics as a result of said design. This may be the weakest of the original trilogy but I still have one game to play through and examine first.

Psychotic Reviews: Crash Bandicoot

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Many remember Crash Bandicoot being an unofficial Playstation mascot after his release until the launch of the Playstation 2. The first trilogy of his games are fondly remembered as early 3D platformers done right. The series was created by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin of Naughty Dog, who went on to develop it for Universal Interactive Studios. Sony Computer Entertainment joined for publishing and marketing after the game’s E3 showing in 1996, making these early games exclusive to the Playstation. One of the reasons why Crash was chosen as an international mascot by Sony was due to its success. At the time it released Crash Bandicoot became the most successful Western developed game in Japan, mix that with the overwhelming sales in the Western markets and Sony had a killer app on its hands.

What about the game helped it become such a success though? Crash was instilled with tight art and design philosophies. While it can be said to be a 3D platformer it is not a full roaming 3D platformer like its peers at the time Super Mario 64 and Croc. Those games and many other games using the 3D perspective up to this day would suffer from camera issues. Crash avoided this by having linear paths to follow, while also mixing up the gameplay with areas based on 2D platformers, with side scrolling action. This helped keep the game from having a crippling camera that could quite literally be your lifeline. How many of us remember making leaps of faith because the camera sucked? Crash avoids this by keeping the path straight and keeping the camera in front of, behind, or beside our bandicoot hero.

The controls in this game feel a bit stiff. The game controls quite well overall, but there is a bit of a pause in starting the running, as well as jumping control. Just holding the button down while you’re jumping feels fine, but having to make precise, short jumps can be rather annoying at times. There are a few levels which are almost sadistically designed to exploit this issue with the controls. Most of the levels are quite tight, and there is variety between the themes and worlds on top of the perspective. The game is anything but boring and predictible for your first playthrough. Boss battles are easy. They are spread throughout the worlds though, so the big boss fight is not always at the end of a land.

The music fits the game quite well. Crash is set in a chain of Pacific islands, so the Tiki styled theme is quite strong with it. The music and the levels fit in with this design quite well. The final world is mostly machine based though, and that has to do with Dr. Neo Cortex and him being a mad scientist and all that jazz.

Its quite easy to see why Crash would be the sensation it was, and why the once wombat, now bandicoot became the face of a system. Naughty Dog would develop two more Crash platformers, and a racing game, before moving onto another series for the Playstation 2, Jak. These three early Crash games are still considered the best in the series, and after playing the first one now and with nostalgic memories of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, I do remember why this is believed. These games are not too expensive, and are quite common. This first game can sell in the $20-30 range, but 2 and Warped can be bought in the $10-15 range and have that extra polish. I found all three of them at a thrift store run for $4 each, so deals can still be had for them with local hunting.


Bane of my existence.

Retro Video Game Christmas Commercials: The 90’s

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I am a child of the 90’s, a love child. This was the age of Mode-7, Blast Processing, 3D, Playstation, and encompasses the rise and fall of Sega. So let’s take a look at as many Christmas commercials from the 90’s as we can possibly fit on our monitor.

Nintendo

What exemplifies the early 90’s more than the constant playground war of Nintendo vs. Sega? So it makes perfect sense for retailers to pick one side of the other in this argument or face everybody’s wrath!


Gee, would you look at the time? I missed the memo that I must write in rhyme! When it comes to your games, Sears has them all days. In the front or the back, come buy your new cartridge pack, and play the kiosk in store to curb your hunger for more.

Seriously, Sears kicked ass in the 90’s for gamers. What the hell happened?


This is just amazing, if there is one piece of media that makes me remember what it was like being a kid in the 90’s it is this right here. Entitlement of youth, grungy attitudes, snarky remarks, and a desire to sit down and play video games. I like how the rhyme goes, “South Park will be fine,” as if they’re just settling for it. “Yeah I’ll take it, but I really wanted Mystical Ninja you dumbass parents!”


A nice, generational war, of course. Then as soon as the douchey 90’s teens find out that grandpa likes to roll with some Tetris they decide that old folk aren’t bad. If grandpa’s hearing aid worked he might learn that Tetris was made by a dirty Communist!

Sega

So those were some pretty entertaining commercials from Nintendo’s side of the ring. But does Sega always do what Nintendon’t? Can they top the Big N and encourage people to buy any of the 3 systems they released in the 90’s? How about the add-ons?


Sega advertising at its finest, if you want your kid to be the cool kid on the block then go out and buy him a Sega Genesis for Christmas, then every kid in the city will want a piece of that Blast Processing action.


As a constant follower of Midget Wrestling this is one of the quickest ways to grab my attention, and they have good taste in video games since they just made a ton of money selling the game to Sega, somehow.

Ok, now let’s move away from North America for a moment and take a look at what Sega brought out for their Japanese commercials.


This may very well be the greatest thing I have ever laid eyes on. I am going to perpetuate the story of Segata Sanshiro as Santa Claus to my children, citing this commercial as definitive proof. If you’re unfamiliar with Segata Sanshiro and why he helped the Saturn dominate the Japanese sales charts then just check out this playlist.

Word of warning, the American Saturn commercials are weird as all hell, and incredibly frightening in some cases. Search at your own risk.

Sony
A newcomer on the scene of home video game hardware in the mid 90’s, Sony and their Playstation quickly rose to global dominance and kept its grip firm for over a decade. Is it because their commercials were great?


Yes, yes they were. Oh that sound and the PS logo really take me back, excuse me while I nostalgia-gasm all over my room. Again, this commercial shows what the 90’s was all about, trying to find your own voice, going against the grain, and supporting Bill Clinton.


What’s awesome about this commercial is that everything the singers say about Crash Bandicoot: Warped is 100% factual. This is one of the greatest parodies of a Christmas carol I’ve ever heard, I might start singing it this year. I feel bad for Canadians though, $50 for a new PS1 game and its already $10 off? Man, you guys will hate when I say brand new PS1 games in the States were $40. What was the exchange rate in 1998? Tell me Crabby!

Let’s head back to the Land of the Rising Sun.


Crash Bandicoot and PaRappa walk up to a random guy bearing Christmas gifts, just another thing to add to my list of things to experience before I die. Cosplayers, make this happen!


Kick! Punch! its all in the mind.

Well that about does it for the nostalgic video game Christmas commercials. I will be going on a small hiatus until 2013 rolls around. Until then, please share if you’ve enjoyed this post and my others, comment with feedback, and hit that follow button on the sidebar. SirPsycho out!

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