Sony's ex-mascot crashes onto Xbox in some style
This particular platformer, with its lolloping, jumping around, collecting of apples and boss beating, is more significant than you might think. Before now, Crash Bandicoot and the six games he has starred in were indelibly associated with PlayStation.
The orange critter was Sony's unofficial second mascot, going into battle against Sonic The Hedgehog and Mario the Plumber with only Lara Croft ahead of him. So if nothing else, his appearance on Xbox shows how much of an impact the new console has made, how highly it's regarded on gaming's top table.
But what exactly do you get when you slap The Wrath Of Cortex in your Xbox? Well, the concept is pretty much unchanged from previous bandicoot platform games, with plenty of colourful levels through which to guide Crash and sometimes, his sister Coco.
It's very much a natural progression for the series, from the familiar boss levels, 3D chase sections right down to the extremely linear levels. Whisper it quietly, but this is merely an update of the PS2 game of the same name, with only a few tweaks to the successful Crash formula.
Most of the levels look great. The bold, vibrant environments are the game's best feature, and for the most part Crash moves through them very smoothly. Never mind that you've seen several of the locations before in countless platform games (ice, water, lava), just feel the quality.
This quality extends to Crash himself. Although he's not the most appealing character ever designed, he's superbly animated. The incidental animations - like rolling an apple along his shoulders when he's left alone for a few seconds, or the expression on his face when he does a belly flop - show that much love has gone into making this game look sweet.
There are about a dozen great death animations, too. For example, when Crash falls into icy water, he bobs to the surface in an ice block that perfectly refracts the light.
Extra touches like this make the game more engaging than it might have otherwise been, and it makes you determined to progress - and die a few times, because you can always earn loads of extra lives - to see where the game is next taking you to.
As well as the commendable effort with the incidental details, Traveller's Tales has tried hard to inject some variation into the basic platforming action.
Some sections of the game work much better than others. The rollerball levels are great, for example, while the car level is frustratingly poor. But they do stop the game from becoming stale too quickly, and make playing through the entire thing significantly more interesting.
But it's not all good news, sadly. Basically, the gameplay could have done with a fine tune, and a few annoying faults undermine what could have been a really great platformer.
The most annoying misfire is the camera, which sometimes struggles to keep Crash on the screen. During the 3D chase sections, the poor marsupial is frequently relegated to the bottom corners of the screen, making it hard to see where he's headed.
More irritating are the sections that require precision jumping into the screen. When performing a jump, the camera follows Crash upwards, and the platform you're aiming to land him on disappears from the bottom of the screen. It makes judging your jumps very tricky. And when the camera changes its position while you are negotiating narrow platforms or performing some precision jumps, the perspective changes. This means you also have to change direction. It doesn't happen that often, but when it does it can be a struggle to execute jumps with any accuracy.
As well as these camera quibbles, the collision detection is occasionally a bit off, and during the course of the game you'll die at the hands of an enemy you swear you didn't touch. It's frustrating, and despite the nifty death scenes as mentioned above, the danger of developing Tourette's syndrome becomes more real with each 'it wasn't me' death.
And if ever a game didn't need niggling faults like this, it's The Wrath Of Cortex, where instant deaths are the order of the day. There are places in the game that can decimate a nice stock of 30 lives in the space of a few minutes. But unlike Nintendo's Mario series, here it can feel like it's not your fault that you've died. And that's a very bad thing.
Still, these problems aren't enough to stop you and Crash from bouncing your way through the levels and having plenty of classic platform fun on the way. It's a shame that the polished look isn't quite matched by the gameplay, but in the main this is an enjoyable platform game experience.
- Full of nice touches
- Some great gameplay ideas
- A big ask for completists
- Irritating camera
- Temperamental collision detection
Doesn't fully exploit Xbox, but this is above-average in the graphics department, and it's very smooth.
One of the best cartoony game worlds there is, and Crash is bursting with personality.
The urge to see new levels is strong, but the camera niggles may put you off.
Not a huge platformer, but the bonus time-trial mode and collect everything mentality add longevity.
A really solid, no frills platform game with plenty to do, but the old bandicoot hasn't learned any significant new tricks.