Skipping the original for now, I played one of my childhood favorites. Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back.
Continuing with the story soon after where Crash Bandicoot (the first game) left off, Crash finds himself abducted by the antagonist, Dr. N. Cortex. He appears to have turned over a new leaf, saying he needs Crash to help him with gathering the Crystals (pink and apparently pretty powerful) in order to save the world from destruction. Having no choice but to cooperate (or perhaps just being pretty stupid) Crash follows along, and starts gathering the Crystals.
That’s basically all there’s to the plot. It’s not much, but it’s effective, and not much more is needed in that department anyway. It’s all in the gameplay here. And boy is it fun. You start out in a warp room of sorts, having five levels available to you. Once you get all the crystals, you can take the elevator to the next floor. When traveling to a new floor, you’ll encounter a boss. Sadly, these aren’t particularly challenging. Insultingly easy sometimes, even. It’s not where the game’s supposed to shine, but a bit more polish, a bit more challenging fun wouldn’t have hurt its cause.
So you unlock more and more levels, and then what? What what? The levels are great. There’s a pretty decent variety, twenty-five levels in total spread over a number of types and themes. You have your regular levels, good ol’ 3D platforming with the Crash Bandicoot spin-to-win mechanic. But there’s also levels in which you get to ride a young polar bear. Sometimes you have to escape from a boulder, and you may even find yourself navigating a space-station with a jetpack strapped on your back!
Great game mechanics combined with decently varied and usually fun level design, what more do you want? Collectibles for the challenge-hungry player, of course. And Crash Bandicoot 2, like its predecessor, got just that! In every level, managing to break every single Crate (including the explosive ones!) rewards you with a Clear Gem. Great, but that isn’t always as simple. Sometimes you have to take a Death Route, unlocked by finishing part of the level without dying. These do not always contain crates, but they do hold a Clear Gem of their own as a reward for completing them. In some levels there’s a hidden teleport area as well, granting you access to secret “backdoors” into levels, or even a few hard bonus levels. You’ll often find Colored Gems in these, which activate colored platforms that grant access to parts of levels similar to the Death Routes.
It took me a while, since some of the hidden parts were not always obvious, and some levels were very challenging to get the gems on. Finally managed to do it though, complete the game, allowing me to view a final cutscene, giving closure on a question the “end of game” one posed.
The character design and animation is lovely, the music fits perfectly, gameplay is fun and level design is quite well-made. It isn’t without reason one of the best selling PlayStation games of all time. If you haven’t played it yet, go download yourself an emulator, or hell, even buy a used PlayStation, and get crashing!
Also, I just noticed: Crash, Cortex, Crystals, Crates, Clear/Colored Gems, oh my.