Time for a Crash course in platforming!
You know, in the prime days of PSone, there were a lot of platform jumping games. I suppose this was started by Mario in his beginning days, but the PlayStation really saw this game genre take off. It was the 'in' genre, the most popular style of game at the time.
And who was at the core of it all? Crash Bandicoot, that's who!
Crash Bandicoot: Warped is the final of the 'official' Naughty Dog series of Crash, and was a grand exit for the marsupial's proper platforming days. After then, whenever Crash came back to platforming, he had lost a lot of his previous talent. Personally, I believe Crash 3 to be the best of the series, as it shows what can happen when developers keep being creative.
The story behind Crash 3 is simple. After destroying the Cortex Vortex at the end of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, the wreckage landed on an ancient ruin, freeing an evil witch doctor called Uka Uka, Aku Aku's evil twin and Cortex's boss. Uka Uka tells Cortex that, by using a device called the Time Twister, they can gather the crystals and gems scattered across time, and use them to enslave the world. Naturally, Crash, Aku Aku and Coco (Crash's younger sister) use the Time Twister themselves to stop Cortex by collecting the crystals and gems first.
The game kicks off in the Time Twister. Initially, only the first 'area' is open, and the first 5 levels accessable. To progress any further, you'll need some crystals. To get crystals, you'll need to find them in each of the levels and head back to the Time Twister via the provided portals. In some levels, you'll need to 'earn' the crystal, by winning a race or destroying some targets, but these levels are not that common.
To progress to a new 'area', you'll also need to fight a boss, similar to what happens between warp rooms in Crash 2. 3 of the bosses are repeats, while 2 are new. In either case, they are easily defeated by learning and exploiting their patterns and learning to recognise the signs of an attack and reacting accordingly. Although they will never repeat their pattern exactly every time, they do become predictable, and easier to fight.
A first for the Crash series is the introduction of Coco levels. In Crash 3, there are certain levels that can only be completed by Coco. Although nothing more than a novelty, they do help to break up the monotony.
The true difficulty in finishing Crash 3 lies within the 'bonus items'. These come in two forms: gems and relics.
The gems are a lot harder to collect than the crystals and rely on cunning and perfection. They can be as simple as breaking all the boxes in a level, to being as difficult as having to complete a special 'Death Level', which can only be accessed by getting to the 'Death Level Platform' without dying. These 'Death Levels' hide the most precious of gems, the ellusive Coloured Gems. These gems can be used as platforms to access the hidden parts of previous levels, allowing you to get more gems. The final level, Level 25, has a hidden gem that can only be accessed using all 5 coloured gems.
The relics can only be won through racing. When you have collected the crystal from a level and go back, you can enter 'Time Trial' mode. In this mode, you race against the clock, breaking special Time Boxes that freeze the clock for a few seconds. Finish the level in a low enough time, and you win a relic. It sounds simple, but it is actually really hard for some levels.
Now, as you would expect from a PlayStation 1 game, the graphics are a bit dated. All sorts of polygon issues and ugly shapes everywhere, but thankfully Crash 3 is the sort of game where you don't notice how bad it looks. Or care, for that matter.
But if you overlook the bad visuals (excuse the awful pun), you are left with a great package of platforming goodness. From start to finish you will be enjoying yourself, be you only after the crystals, or getting all the gems and relics. This is an old game that can still provide a lot of enjoyment to those who wish to dig up this old fossil for one last try.
Viva la Bandicoot!