Gaming in Retrospective: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
While my main hobby is board gaming, I think the root of my interests in board games really stems from a previous interest in video games. While I do not play nearly as many video games as I did when I was younger, they still hold a fond place in my memories. I have decided to look back on and write about video games I played, and possibly some new ones, to give a retrospective on my experience in video gaming.
When I was growing up and first discovering the wonders of video games, the silly orange bandicoot captured my attention. The colorful levels, the eccentric enemies, and the humorous feel to the whole universe drew me in and the linear, “over the shoulder” platforming kept me coming back through each new Crash game. In my retrospective on video gaming, I decided to start with Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back because it brought up two big questions for me:
- Were these games as fun as I remember them to be?
- Were these platforming games as hard as I remember them to be?
Nostalgia is an interesting concept. And as soon as I started up Crash 2, the nostalgia kicked in. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was released for the Playstation in 1997 and is a platformer where the player controls Crash through different levels from a third-person perspective. The story is pretty odd in my opinion and not necessary to play the game, but here it is in short. Crash defeated Cortex in the first game and contacts Crash from a space station about an evil plan Cortex has intercepted. Crash, for some reason, forgets the entire past games and agrees to help out Cortex, despite his sister Coco, telling him otherwise. So he decides to start collecting crystals and giving them to Cortex to “stop the evil plan” brewing. Needless to say, Cortex is actually hatching an evil plan that uses all these crystals – unfortunately, Crash realizes this too late and must confront Cortex himself. Regardless of the story and the questionable judgement of Crash, when I started the first level, I was instantly teleported back to when I was younger and started my first Crash game. Crash games were all made in a certain unique style and Cortex Strikes Back is no exception.
The first five levels were not challenging, but I had a lot of fun. My nostalgia for Crash pulled me through the generally repetitive levels. When I got to the first boss, I was sorely disappointed – and every boss after that for the matter. While the levels for the most part are interesting, the bosses are simple and lackluster. When I was growing up, I can still recall the memories of coming to a boss in a video game. The magnitude of the encounter was much more significant than the rest of the game. Maybe when replaying Cortex Strikes Back while an adult put perspective on these large encounters. Or maybe this game had poor design when it came to boss fights. Either way, I was never excited when reaching the end of a section because I knew the type of boss stage I would be thrown into.
I will answer my second question first. Crash Bandicoot 2 was much easier than I remember it to be and I think that has a lot to do with my increased cognitive ability even though my twitch skills have decreased. However, there were two levels in the game where I struggled and took me many attempts to complete. The first level is called Ruination and features a variety of enemies as well as many moving platforms. Crash games mainly take place as a 3D platformer where the play has an ‘over the shoulder’ view of the level and runs forward (or backwards if running away from something). In a select few parts of the game, including the bonus stages, Crash becomes a 2D platformer where Crash moved right to left or vice versa. Even in the change from 3D to 2D, the game still retains 3D aspects, meaning that Crash can still move up and back in the 2D sections. In Ruination, there is a 2D section that requires Crash to jump on two consecutive moving platforms. Crash is moving left to right but the platforms are moving back to front. If a player simply jumps right, they might miss the platform because it moved in front of them or behind them in the 3D space. From a players perspective, it is very challenging to identify depth in the 2D sections and consequently, very hard to land on these platforms. I spent a lot of time at this jump until I finally got the cycle timing down.
The second level that I found challenging is Spaced Out – the last level before you fight Neo Cortex. I thought the level itself was pretty standard but the way enemies and platforms were placed in the design, it requires some skill to pass pretty tricky platforming sections. This level is all about the timing. Players must learn the patterns of enemies and the specific enemies they will encounter in order to dispatch them in the right way (spin, slide, or jump). I guess I should have taken the level title more seriously and realized that all enemies and platforms were placed in precise locations and could be easily conquered through learning specific timings. Other than these two levels, the game was an easy platformer.
Now back to my first question – is this game fun? Yes and no.
Yes -> Crash held such an important position in my video game life growing up. I think it was literally the first console game I ever owned and I fell hard for the franchise. Re-experiencing some of the memories I created playing this game was very fun and I think I will always enjoy Crash for that reason alone.
No -> The entire game is basically a regurgitation of the same levels over and over (settings, enemies, platforming sections, bonus levels) and the lack of variety made the last warp rooms drag on. Yes, the difficulty increases a bit from warp room to warp room and the levels with the jet pack get increasingly frustrating, but after 40 minutes of gameplay, the player has seen everything the game has to offer. For this reason, the fun did not carry throughout the entire game and consequently, the last warped room felt like a grind. Thank goodness Neo Cortex was a super easy boss.
Did you play Crash Bandicoot back in the day? What other games create a strong feeling of nostalgia for you?