It’s been 15 years since Naughty Dog released their last Crash platformer and since then both the video game industry and the company itself have come a long way. Driven by the narrative aspect of their produce, many developers have become more concerned as to the story behind their works of art rather than just the gameplay and Naughty Dog have this year undeniably provided us with one of the most enjoyable examples of a title that offers both entertainment and thought provoking scenarios. However, mindless video game fun is still always welcome, especially when it’s done right and that’s why Crash Bandicoot: Warped still remains as one of the above developers greatest creations.
By now you must know the deal: set directly after Crash Bandicoot 2, Dr Cortex, aided this time by Aku Aku’s evil twin Uka Uka (we see what you did there…), is up to his old tricks, with world domination once again in his mind. This time the dastardly villain has hatched a plan to gain control of 25 crystals from yester years, whose power he intends to use to enslave earth. To do this, the balding scientist and his crazed mask, have enlisted the help of Dr. N. Tropy, who has built them a time machine with which to go back and get said crystals.
However, our bandicoot hero’s aren’t going to let this happen without a fight, so playing as the toothy-grinned Crash and his blonde-bombshell sister Coco, you must use the aptly named Time-Twisting Machine to travel back in time, grab the crystals, defeat Cortex’s minions and stop the wicked duo from unleashing their evil plans. Heart-wrenching stuff it is not and whilst Warped’s story was never going to be compared to that of a Jane Austen novel, here is not where the games real majestic goodness lies. Instead it lies within everything else such as the gameplay, controls, soundtrack and of course that good ole’ fun factor.
Let us first start with the controls. Easy to use and quick to understand, Crash doesn’t exactly have a pile of tricks up his sleeve to begin with but everything he needs to do is easy to accomplish and often entertaining to watch (belly-flop anyone?). Even when you do start to unlock new, more ‘complicated’ moves, which is made possible by defeating one of Cortex’s five cretins, it takes all of 3 seconds for you to comprehend how to make the words on the screen happen. The controls are in short very easy to both learn and execute, especially if you’re a hardened gamer but since Warped is aimed at the ages of 3 and up, this is no surprise. However, just because Crash, Coco and their variant of trains, planes and automobiles are simple to manoeuvre, doesn’t mean that you always get it right.
Whether your being undermined by strategically placed bombs when on your jet ski or being shot at by annoyed jet fighters when in your plane, Warped’s gameplay is awesomely addictive but often infuriating. At first this annoyance is minimal: you might fall off a ledge due to a lack of concentration or perhaps walk into a nitro box because you’re busy eating but these incidents are few and far between. The longer the game continues on however, the worse your vocal obscenities start as the game becomes more and more frustrating. That isn’t to sayWarped is hard: it’s no Dark Souls put it that way, but one lapse in concentration and you’ll find yourself facing the same dragon infested spot over and over again. All you can hope is that you’ve got those lives banked up because if you don’t you’ll be god damn sorry. No matter what happens though, you will always go back. Alas is the power of Warped: even when your eyes have just about given up, you’ll always try and try again because you HAVE to do it.
Graphics wise things are in typical 90s platformer style. Set in five different zones, with each of their six levels emulating past eras including the Medieval and Prehistoric periods, the 3D graphics are vibrant and colourful. The levels of Warped also take the history of planet earth and add a comically reflective spin on them, which is amusing to both watch and play through.
As for the soundtrack, each period of time gets its own musical number to accompany Crash or Coco on their journey. For instance, you may be on the fifth world but that particular Egyptian style level will still have the same music as the previous ones because it’s depicting the same era. On paper, this may sound boring and lacking in variety but each soundtrack complements the situations very well as does the sound effects that accompany your triumphs, fails, box smashing’s and so forth. The real trick in Warped however, is in the silence. Crash and Coco may not say one iota of a word throughout the game but their body language, especially Crash’s victory dance, tells you all you need to know.
Aside from everything though the best thing about Dog’s third series instalment is the replay value. Once all the crystals from the worlds or a world for that matter are found, you can replay these levels to find the coloured gems, which can be found by getting all the boxes or by not dying in a level and collecting everything from the ‘Death Route,’ which will appear as an extra bonus platform to hop on to. When that’s done you replay them again, this time taking the time challenges, which when completed will produce a collectable relic.
Even when you’ve fully completed Warped however, you’ll still find yourself, once again, going back. Whether you’ve had enough of shooting people or you’re just looking to unwind without your brain having to do too much work, Warped provides an entertaining rest-bite from the more mentally challenging and violently stimulated games. Or maybe you just want to see a half-naked marsupial thrust at your screen because, for yours truly anyway, seeing that never gets old.
Crash Bandicoot: Warped may not have the depth or rich storytelling capabilities of the current outputs being produced in todays industry but the fact that it’s still fun to play all these years later, really counts for something. If you haven’t played this title yet then apart from asking your parents some vigorous questions, you need to put down the headset and start smashing boxes like there’s no tomorrow. Warped, you may be a pubescent teenager now but you’re still the same awesome little git that you were back then.