After two incarnations, some people may be sick of Crash Bandicoot. Sure, there are the funny commercials, but many people were angered by the linear, old fashioned platform gameplay. If you were in that group, let me be the first to alert you that there isn't much of a difference in Crash Bandicoot: Warped - most of the levels still play the same. There are a few new ones thrown in, such as swimming, driving, and wave runners, but for the most part you are still walking forward and backward on a path.
But has the gameplay in Crash ever really been bad? No -- and Crash Bandicoot: Warped is certainly an improvement in the series. The story picks up where Crash Bandicoot 2 left off. Dr. Neo Cortex's space station is exploding and parts of it are falling towards Earth. One of the fragments hits a mountain, unleashing Uka Uka, freeing him from the spell that was holding him back. Uka Uka is a big Hawaiian floating tribal mask (much like Aku Aku, Crash's friend) that has an evil voice and glows. Cortex, under Uka Uka's command is now out to collect the crystals that you previously stole.
However, since there are no crystals left in your time period, Uka Uka and Cortex create a time machine where they travel all throughout history looking for crystals. You of course, have to get to them first. The graphics in Crash: Warped are by far some of the best on the PlayStation. The smooth, cartoonish (in a good way) animation is top of the line, bested by no other game. The limitless rendering distance coupled with beautiful 3D models make Crash the pinnacle of PlayStation rendering. Ripples in the water, smoke when you peel out on a Harley, the realtime shadows, and all of the other eye candy and special effects make the game all the more pretty. Crash has incredible texture quality, lack of noticeable dithering, and some of the best backgrounds ever seen in a game. Naughty Dog has outdone itself with Crash: Warped.
On the other hand, while the enemies look good, they are a little boring. Every foe in the whole game disappears with one hit. And when I say disappears, I mean it. There are no death animations at all. Hit a shark (three times the size of crash) just once, and he simply vanishes. It just doesn't look quite right.
Control in Crash is impressive. The tight controls of the earlier games have only become tighter, making jumps, belly flops, and spins all the easier to do. There are even special upgrades you can get for you moves, for example, after beating the first time travel area you receive a more powerful belly flop that sends out shock waves from you point of impact. Bonuses aside, control is really acute; it all feels coherent, and perfectly augments the attractive graphics.
Sound, in terms of voices, fits perfectly into the cut-scenes. Crash's friends and enemies are equally funny, everything is over-exaggerated. I would go so far as to say it is the best voice acting in a game - the voices are like those in good cartoons, and sometimes even better! The music is equally cartoonish, there is lots of old Warner Brothers type stuff in Crash, but then again, he's always been awfully similar to the Tazmanian Devil.
The creativity just doesn't stop, either! The levels are all interesting, there is not one generic, ugly, or boring level in the whole lot. The are both fun to play and fun to look at. Crash has jokes aplenty up his sleeve, and the character and level design really show it. Dr. Cortex's head is engraved all throughout the game on historical landmarks. It's the little details that count most.
The game is fun, funny, and challenging - I don't think you could ask for much else. Crash Bandicoot: Warped is a barrage of good things. The graphics, sound, music, levels, and difficulty all come together perfectly. Naughty Dog has made Crash a much better game, something that is commendable when so many sequels come up short. If you haven't given Crash a try, definitely pick this CD up - and if you are already a Crash fan, this game far surpasses its predecessors and you should get it immediately.