Genre: Sidescrolling Platform
Publisher: Universal Interactive
Developer: Universal Interactive
Release Date: 01/08/2003
Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced is an entirely respectable sidescrolling platformer with all the right moves. Satisfying level progression, excellent visual presentation, and a surprising amount of diversity thrown in for good measure ensure that you’ll have a Bandicoot-tastic time. While N-tranced brings nothing new to the table for fans of the furry bandicoot, it does manage to replicate a good chunk of his glory days from when Crash was making the rounds on the original Playstation. Seeing Crash perform double-jumps, spins, and slides just like in his console counterpart but on a handheld system is quite impressive. And while it is true that Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure (released to Nintendo’s portable system just about one year ago) was also an excellent recreation of the cd-rom games, the newest entry in the series improves upon its already solid foundation in nearly every area.
Taking place shortly after the events of the first game which seen Neo Cortex and his evil host of cronies being banished into space, N-Tranced n-troduces a new n-emy named N. Tropy. Joined by the evil twin mask of Aku Aku, Uka Uka and N. Tropy have devised a master plan for world domination. This so-called “master plan” entails the kidnapping of Crash, his kid bandicoot sister Coco, and the Schwarzenegger-ey Crunch who will pump *clap* you up. But in the process of abducting this fuzzy trio an evil clone of Crash is taken instead of the genuine article. Oops, guess that leaves Crash free to rain on N-tropy’s parade by rescuing his buds and ridding the world of the evil duo via running around and jumping atop question-marked boxes.
Bandicoot games have never really been known for their cohesive or intriguing storyline, so it’s no surprise that N-Tranced doesn’t deliver a magnum opus of a plot. Instead, the majority of N-Tranced niceties come in the form of well-designed sidescrolling action replete with loads of destructable crates, an assortment of colorful but one-trick-pony enemies, 3D-style chase sequences, and actual 3D Monkey Ball-ish stages. Crash also has a collection of unique abilities on top of his standard running, jumping, and spinning techniques. Most of which are available right from the onset of the game. Crash can execute a ground-shaking body slam, slide under tight spaces, and jump extra high right from the get-go. As you progress through the game he will acquire new abilities too, though most of these new techniques are simply enhancements to his already-adequate roster of maneuvers; super slides, turbo run, rocket jumps, and so forth.
Aside from the obligatory sidescrolling action, Crash will also be able to get down with some serious wakeboarding in a move-towards-the-screen style of play. In these stages a oversized shark will constantly be nipping at your feet and occasionally swim towards you in an attempt to make Crash get in his belly. You’ll also be able to catch some major air off of conveniently placed ramps and collect tons of wumpa fruit and power-ups in the process. The Monkey Ball-style stages are particularly cool, borrowing from the Atlasphere concept introduced in Wrath of Cortex. You’ll control Crash, Coco, Crunch or the Crash clone as they roll around inside a sphere through half pipes, inclines, and around damaging nitro crates. This mode of play uses the same engine that Vicarious Visions included in the popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater GBA ports, meaning the character you control is rendered in true 3D but is set against 2D backdrops. The precision required to avoid obstacles like rolling barrels on half pipes, the aforementioned nitro crates, and just making sure you don’t fall off the edge of rail-less areas can get frustrating at times, but by holding the A button down you’ll move around at a slower pace, making fine-tuned maneuvers a breeze.
Completing the well-over-three-dozen stages that are included in N-Trance won’t take more than five or six hours but just like the original games doing so will open up a time-trial mode that extends the lasting appeal of the title considerably. In addition, the included multiplayer modes are plenty fun in their own right as they include the abovementioned Atlasphere gameplay in a variety of circumstances. Owners of Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure can transfer data from that game and open up new multiplayer stages and playable characters in N-Tranced via a link cable, nifty indeed. So while the main mode may not be enough to quench the thirst of diehard Bandicoot fans, the included optional modes of play and unlockables surely will.
Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced delivers a graphical presentation that is nearly on par with the 32-bit Playstation games from way back when, which in itself is a pretty impressive feat. The wakeboarding stages kick out some really keen visuals, the water in these stages made me rub my eyes and do a double-take to make sure I’m not seeing things. But the hands down most impressive visual addition to this title has got to be the Atlasphere stages, just seeing real-time polygon action on a handheld system sets my heart aflutter. The audio facet of the game, with its kooky, light-hearted music and cartoony sound effects, feels perfectly suited to the on-screen action. The production values in regards to audio/visual are excellent in N-Tranced, no two ways about it.
People going into this game expecting a from-the-ground-up makeover of the original Crash on the GBA will inevitably be greeted with a fair amount of disappointment. In no way does N-Tranced attempt to reinvent itself, but it does do a great job of ditching the tired elements from the original, retaining what made the first game fun, and innovating just enough to be adequately original. The bonus multiplayer modes are a great addition, not to mention the extra playable characters and added alternative perspective stages – even the been-there-done-that sidescrolling fare is more than enough to keep you playing till the end. If the lack of decent platforming action on the go lately has got you down then Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced is the perfect cure for what ails you.