Apologies guys for the long wait for this review (considering I did my review for Crash Bandicoot back in February and my review for Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back in March). But fuck it, I’m finally reviewing for you today Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (a mere few days before the release of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy).
As established in my previous reviews I think that Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped is the definitive version of the original franchise. It’s clear that Naughty Dog had found their groove, worked out all the kinks, and could finally go about making the perfect addition of Crash. Everything just falls into place with this one, from the gameplay, the level designs, the music, it just all works and looks gorgeous. And one thing that was clear from the get-go was the scale. My fucking-God, Naughty Dog really wanted to be bold, and inventive, with this third instalment, opting to take Crash on a journey through time.
Honestly, you can’t help but think, “Has Naughty Dog been smoking fucking crack?” I mean, moving Crash into such an ambitious setting was certainly exciting but it also felt fucking mental, and out of place from what was set-up before. But, strangely enough, this new aspect doesn’t take away from Crash, but rather adds to it, helping to seal Warped as the best game of the original trilogy. The difference really does play a key part in this because it stands-out from the previous two instalments. Gone are the “Jungle” levels and hello levels set across different continents and points in time.
The structure remained practically the same as Cortex Strikes Back, in which you had a Warp Room to access your levels, and there was a set amount of level types featured throughout the game (with each new version of the level adding something different, such as time-of-day or weather), and had five bosses to face at the end of each area. But things were vamped up and made even more impressive. For starters, the Warp Room looks fucking awesome. Instead of the Warp Room being made up of multiple levels of flooring, this Warp Room was one massive area, with a centre piece where you could access the “Save Point” (similar to Cortex Strikes Back). From there you could access bridges to reach the individual Warp Room areas and their respective levels (each modelled from a different point in history).
Like with Cortex Strikes Back, Warped streamlines the easiness to locate and enter specific levels, making your gameplay a lot faster and more concise. Also it’s made fucking cooler by the fact that you’re entering time portals (like the mother-fucking Terminator himself) in order to access the different levels and bosses. And that music! Oh, I love the Warp Room music from Warped. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the Warp Room music from Cortex Strikes Back was wonderful (and somewhat beautiful in its relaxing nature) but returning composer Josh Mancell wanted you to feel like you were about to participate in the most awesome experience of your life, and thus, delivered the best composition he could possibly imagine.
Heck, the music throughout Warped is fucking amazing. It’s so catchy. Yeah, I think that bests describes Mancell’s score here. Whereas Crash Bandicoot was really basic (and bland) whilst Cortex Strikes Back tried being more experimental (and bold) with its structure, Warped just went, “Fuck-it! Let’s just be fucking ballsy (and hip)!” I will admit that sometimes I prefer the music from the previous instalment simply because it’s more impacting (and that bass is fucking hypnotic in its rhythm). It seems like that despite the music of Warped being the most ambitious to date it felt too much like a looping soundtrack that you’d expect from an old Sonic the Hedgehog game.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but compare the two soundtracks and you find that Cortex Strikes Back just has more beef to it, lasting longer and having more depth and effort put into it. Maybe Mancell thought his score for Warped was so awesome that it didn’t need to be lengthy and people wouldn’t care if it was loop over and over again because it was catchy, and fans would just adore it. Probably… (Maybe?) But like always, when Mancell needed a certain level to have a certain tone or feel, he fucking nailed it.
And considering he had such a wider variety of levels to work with this time round, consisting of different locations, periods, and cultures, he went the extra mile. And he made each level feel fun, bold, exciting, and incredibly detailed. I particularly like the fact that he made the music sound like the culture and period you travelled to (most apparent within the “Arabian” levels). Christ, he even made fucking underwater levels sound interesting! And finally, without a doubt, Warped has the best boss music in the history of Crash games (there, I said it!)
Where are my manners (probably back in the barn where I was born)? In all this praising I failed to even mention the narrative. Silly me! Well there’s not much really added in terms of “masterpiece” storytelling. It’s the same-old, same-old scenario with a few minor tweaks here and there. Most importantly the time travel aspect. If you were fortunate enough to finish Cortex Strikes Back (not me!) then you would’ve collected all the gems and given them to Dr. Nitrus Brio so that he could blast Dr. Neo Cortex out of the sky, thus sending his Cortex Vortex crashing down to Earth.
Unfortunately, this act of heroism merely enacts more problems for the mutated Bandicoot to face. The Cortex Vortex ultimately crashes into an old temple on one of the Wumpa Islands (which I swear is the same one that Ripper Roo lives in – so, RIP I guess) and unleashes the mighty Uka Uka, Aku Aku’s evil twin brother. It turns out that Uka Uka was behind all of Cortex’s schemes (which I find is the one downfall of this game in terms of character progression because it makes Cortex less of an evil threat, now becoming a more clumsy and cowardly lackey) and he’s pretty pissed at Cortex’s repeated failures.
But due to his bumbling setting him free he decides to give Cortex one last chance, teaming up with new villain Dr. Nefarious Tropy (who has built the Time-Twister Machine to travel through time) in order to collect more crystals to aid in their quest for world domination. Though it does add in more villains to face, and a larger scaled playing-field, it’s still “classic” Crash in which you have to travel through the stages and find the crystal hidden within (or should I say the crystal that you’ll directly pass on your way through the area because whoever decided to hide them didn’t do a very good fucking job), beat the bosses that try to steal them from you, and ultimately fight and defeat Cortex.
However, it’s the ambition that went into Warped which makes it more impressive. Looking past the repetitive nature, you see a culmination of everything that was great about the previous two instalments and then some, combined with some new cool aspects to make the definitive experience of playing Crash Bandicoot. From the moment you start the first level, “Toad Village”, you are hit with everything that makes Warped a fantastic experience. The sound effects of minions trying to kill you, the amazing looking scenery, the tight gameplay controls, the grand sense of adventure, and of course, the fucking score!
The level designs are much more impressive here, giving you a larger scope to look at with wider areas to explore. Well, that is to say to look at whilst you travel along your tightly constructed linear path. I don’t know, it really feels like Naughty Dog wanted these latest levels to look outstanding, block-buster standard impressive, by spreading the landscape so each area had more depth and looked organic. The medieval areas, in particular, you can see the land go off into the hills, along with you being able to see your journey told through your ever moving approach towards the next castle wall, to which you progress through the gate and head towards the next wall.
Then with the “Arabian” and “Futuristic” levels you have this sense of grand-scale landscaping as you clearly see yourself travelling through massive city areas, meaning that Naughty Dog have gone to a lot of trouble to make the levels seem more expansive. It’s made even cooler when you can see an extra area behind the actual level in which you can later access to reach one of the coloured gems. Also both of these levels enjoy using camera sweeps, or having Crash travel through a section via floating platforms, to showcase the huge area of level design, pushing the boundaries of the PlayStation software.
You’ve obviously still got your more enclosed levels but I find this look more inventive because they cram plenty of content in, whether it be the way the platforming is designed, the obstacles you have to face, or the fucking gorgeous environments which make you feel like you’re trapped within an Egyptian tomb or a Dino cave.
You of course have the infamous “Boulder” levels reworked into the Triceratops chase sequences featured within the two “Prehistoric” levels, resulting in you running towards the camera avoiding lava pulls, water currents, plants, mini-volcanos, and fucking Pterodactyls! These sections are really fun, incorporating nostalgia with progression, as it blends nicely with the usual platforming sections of the rest of the level, acting as a nice little surprise woven in to keep you on your toes.
And of course we have the return of “animal-riding” (which, to be fair, when you consider how Crash gives you that suspicious, cheeky look in the previous two games it does look kind of dodgy). This time it’s left up to Coco Bandicoot… Wait! Oh, yeah! I forgot to mention that Warped includes Coco as a playable character. So now you have two mutated Bandicoots to play as, but I wouldn’t get too excited as (oddly enough) her levels are restricted to only vehicle sections. But they’re still fun though. I would argue that her “Tiger” levels beat Crash’s “Polar Bear” levels as being even more fun, bouncy, intense, exciting, and overall, challenging.
They’re very fast-paced, have plenty of fun obstacles to avoid, and the overall feel (and music) amplifies the enjoyment, because it’s just so much fucking fun. Plus if you die you immediately want to jump back in again and try, try, and try again because the rhythm is so intensely addictive. And then you have her “Jet-Ski” levels and “Plane” levels, which are less fun than the “Tiger” levels but still enjoyable. They’re certainly less fun to collect all the boxes within because (unlock the “Tiger” levels were it becomes a fun game of timing) it just becomes a long, slow, tedious chore in which it always bores me to redo.
But the actual levels themselves are tightly controlled and come across as nice bouncy fillers to squeeze between the more intense, serious levels. The “Plane” levels are certainly the most obscure levels in terms of deviating away from the core Crash Bandicoot format as you’re no longer faced with a pre-rendered level with a set obstacle course, but rather an open battlefield in which you dodge enemy planes as you try to take out Cortex’s blimps. It’s quite fun actually.
This certainly puts Warped ahead of its predecessors due to adding new layers of gameplay, now incorporating proper vehicle levels. And it doesn’t stop there. Crash even gets his own “Plane” level, as well as a “Motor-Cycle” level in which you actually have to race Cortex’s minions to the finish-line through 1950s American desert highways. These levels are certainly the most trickiest as the controls can be a little stiff at times, particularly when it comes to the very sharp turns (especially in the latter levels). And you’re vehicle is susceptible to damage if it hits one of the other racers (who, might I add, are driving around in fucking bulky cars whilst you’re driving a fucking bike – fucking fair much?) you pretty much get taken out, or nudged into a nearby ditch.
Unfortunately collecting all the boxes in these levels require you to drive extra carefully, meaning you have to collect everything in one sitting otherwise you have to start the level from scratch. Plus, it is rather annoying when you have to slow down to a snail pace during a fucking racing level.
And then you get the extra annoyance within Crash’s “Plane” level when you have to take down bombers instead of blimps, but this time instead of shooting anywhere you have to concentrate on the engines. Easier said than fucking done! Plus, for some reason or another the enemy minions are far more aggressive this time round, meaning within a split second of them firing you can go down from 100% health to 66% health. Bullshit! Pretty much, this particular level is like a fucking chore (and not one I enjoy doing).
Right, onto the boss battles. These are certainly some of the funniest boss battles to fight, but again (like most previous boss fights) they are rather easy (sometimes painfully). However, a neat little addition to Warped is the cut-scenes between certain levels which has the bosses pop up in the vortex as floating heads, granting us a little introduction as to what we’re up against as well as a little threat here and there. I find this helps to make the villains less one-dimensional (with previous bosses simply there as glorified obstacles between progression jumps).
Tiny Tiger is brought back as the first boss but this time round he’s less than impressive, hopping around trying to crush you again, only this time you can freely move around without fear of the floor caving in. Honestly, as a boss battle, he’s really pathetic and doesn’t do much. The actual threat and difficultly comes with the lions he unleashes, which can sometimes be a massive pain in the arse to avoid (depending on how friendly the game is feeling).
And then you move onto Dingodile. Oh, my! I really do feel sorry for him because he is a really fun villain to face (what with his Australian accent and threatening to turn you into toast) and when you play his boss properly it is actually rather tricky. In fact, I’d go as far as to say he’s one of the hardest bosses within the original trilogy. But, due to the way the boss is designed you can actually exploit it.
Dingodile is surrounded by multiple layers of crystals and you’re supposed to dodge his various different attacks until he starts blasting the crystals apart, to which you can sneak in and attack. But you can avoid all of his attacks by simply sliding and jumping over the walls of crystals, hit him, and then vamoose before he explodes and resets the cycle. So, yeah, great boss but completely flawed by becoming the laughing stock of the whole bunch. I can defeat him within about 10 seconds if I’m fast enough (that’s not good, or maybe it is – I can’t tell).
Dr. Nefarious Tropy comes up next and he’s really tricky throughout. His boss revolves around platforming, hopping over his multiple laser attacks and fire balls created by his time staff. You then have to cross a serious of floating platforms which are designed to be carefully jumped across, but you have to hurry otherwise you lose your one and only shot at hitting Tropy (although I really don’t get why he [and other bosses like him] practically gives you the opportunity to attack him – why would you fucking do that?) Rinse and repeat. Though each cycle gets slightly harder with increased staff usage and the path that leads to Tropy becoming more complicated and fiddly to get across. Also, Tropy’s music is fucking awesome (enough said).
We then have N. Gin (and all his creepy glory) returning as Cortex’s right-hand man, and Naughty Dog actually managed to make his boss even better than the first one (which was also really fun to play). Of course this boss is even more special as you play as Coco, flying a spaceship as you take down N. Gin above the Moon. He once again uses a robotic suit, this time packed with even more dangerous gadgets to try and blast you from existence.
But just when you think you’re done the crafty evil scientist attaches himself to a secondary robot packed with even more dangerous weaponry, meaning you really need to keep on your toes with this one, conserving plenty of health to last both sections (which can be difficult if you’re not good at manoeuvring). Also it’s always satisfying to blow up N. Gin (especially since this is his second defeat, and you’re a girl, so extra humiliation!)
And last (but certainly not least) we come to Cortex. Now, I wouldn’t say this was a bad boss (and certainly not as infuriating as the fucking ridiculous piss-take we had in Cortex Strikes Back) but it’s certainly an anti-climatic battle. It more looks impressive by the fight going on between Aku Aku and Uka Uka. Oh yeah, even Aku Aku gets in on the fight in this instalment, meaning you’re completely defenceless whilst he’s having a sibling squabble.
But I shouldn’t let that worry you because Cortex does basically fuck all to attack you. He fires at you a few times (rather slowly and without any effort) and then starts dishing out bombs to which you have to get past in order to hit him once his shield’s down. And honestly, that’s it. The only major thing you have to worry about is avoiding the two fucking masks as their fight gets more and more explosive each cycle (and if you’re not careful the mask that usually helps you will fucking kill you) and of course making sure Cortex spins down the fucking hole when he’s fucking told.
However, the game isn’t over yet because you still have to collect all the usual 42 gems, as well as (wait for it!) the newly introduced time consuming induced Relics, which you can only claim by completing time trial mode (and I think that fucking speaks for itself). Added with this is the ability to unlock more levels hidden in the secret Warp Room beneath the Time Twister Machine (which is a really cool looking area as you can see Cortex’s minion assembly line in the background sending them all into different time periods).
And, to be fair, when in the right mood I actually find this extra content a fun challenge, but it is really time-consuming and will at times break your sanity as your patience is tested. Of course all of this is aided by the fact that you have obtained all of Crash’s power-ups through defeating the five bosses. Hell yeah! You can now unleash a super body-slam, double jump, a tornado spin-attack, use a Wumpa Bazooka (which is fucking awesome may I add), and you can now dash (which comes in really handy for the time trials). Also it’s really fun figuring out how to obtain all the secret gems, via finding hidden areas, unlocking hidden levels to access secret areas within previous levels, performing certain tasks, backtracking, the list goes on.
I think I love Warped so much because I am actually able to clear the fucking thing 100%. Yes, it could well be because the game itself is a lot easier than Crash Bandicoot and Cortex Strikes Back, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s fun, and extremely enjoyable to play. The challenge is just right and gets difficult when it needs to be (although there are certain levels than can become a nuisance due to either bad controls or poorly designed levels). Plus, it’s not even really a particularly long game when things are said and done. If you’re out to just collect the crystals and fight the bosses the game actually whizzes by, leaving you feeling like the game lacks any real substance. But all these nit-picks don’t matter because the countless positives without a doubt outweigh the negatives, making this a near flawless game.
So, yeah, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped! A PlayStation classic that is still great to play to this day (although I find playing it on the PlayStation Vita is less entertaining and more, “Fuck me, these controls are fucking horrendous!!”) Like I kept emphasising over and over again throughout this review, the game reached new heights, surpassed everything it accomplished in the previous two instalments, and cemented Crash as a household name for the PlayStation (until of course Sony sold the rights and Crash became a generic Third Party platformer that went from company to company, slowly getting more and more arse raped as he went along, until he was no longer recognisable [although compared to Spyro the Dragon he didn’t do too badly for himself], withering away into a cold dark corner to be forgotten – but that’s a topic for another day I suppose).