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Developers: Naughty Dog
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Plot: A malevolent force breaks free and teams up with Cortex, sending Crash and his friends through time to stop it.

How can you make a winning franchise better? Time travel, of course!

This instalment sees Crash Bandicoot, Aku Aku and Coco travel back through time in order to take on Uka Uka and Cortex. This is a great idea on Naughty Dog’s part, as there are limitless possibilities for the levels now. At one moment, we are running across the Great Wall of China on a tiger and then we are exploring Egyptian tombs like a furry Lara Croft. The Dinosaur levels will become a fan favourite, pitting Crash against a deadly Triceratops and even letting him ride a baby Tyrannosaurus. This version of Crash is one that has several ideas, maybe too many, making the third game a varied, exciting experience.

One new addition to the game is the option to play Crash’s sister, Coco. Looking back on the games of old, it is very typical for the third game to introduce a female double of the hero for the girl gamers. Coco is a much more likeable figure than the dialogue-less figure of Tawna, the damsel in distress for the first game. She is smart, gets to come to grips with several vehicles throughout the game, including the aforementioned tiger, and we get the impression that without her sharp wits, Crash would have been defeated by Cortex long ago. Sometimes it is a jolt of life to the game when we learn that this particular level asks us to take control of Coco. It is even her we play when we take on the penultimate boss, Dr. N. Gin, in a left-field, yet smart, choice by Naughty Dog.

The good thing about the third is that, although it finds several new avenues to take Crash Bandicoot, it still keeps the good stuff that worked so well for ‘Cortex Strikes Back’. The five levels in any order feature remains here and works well, allowing us to pick and choose the stages. It is twice as helpful here, seeing as so many ideas are thrown into the pot that there is bound to be one level style that we struggle with and appreciate leaving until last. The return of the format cements Crash Bandicoot’s staying power as a game and the reliable structure is one of the more comfortable things about this franchise. We instantly know the deal and enjoy the game right from the off.

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A new, exciting feature is the time run bonus. When a level has been completed, you get to re-attempt it, but this time, against a ticking clock. I would prefer the secret stages feature being applied better (although there are some fun bonus levels hidden in the game), yet I have to admit the time run feature does give the game staying power. When the game is complete, you will find yourself returning, intent on beating the game 100%. Sometimes, there are certain layouts that make this feature a little too hard for its own good, but nonetheless, by the time you are done with Warped, you will find yourself emerging as a master of the Bandicoot franchise. It is a rewarding experience.

So is it as good as the last one? No. Why? There is sometimes too much going on. Cortex Strikes Back might come off as a little unimaginative in comparison, but when you get stuck on a racing mission that asks you to forget everything you thought you knew about the gameplay, you might find yourself longing for the second’s straight-forward nature. Even the standard levels get a little frustrating by the end. Crash Bandicoot seems to think that it needs the stereotypical future levels to end the game on. They are too tough and pedantic in this one. The entire last group of levels are more frustrating than fun. It becomes a brutal battle to finish the game, rather than a fun experience like the rest of the levels. There is definitely a low point at the end of the game.

Final Verdict: A few ideas fall flat, but some might enjoy the variation of levels. Crash Bandicoot is still a dependable franchise.

Four stars

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