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     " This game is really the epitome of an old school plat former. "

      Title: Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex by Vivendi Universal

      Format: Platform Adventure game for PS2

      Reviewing Monkey: Simi N.

      The Hype: Dr. Neo Cortex is back again and this time he and Uka Uka (the evil Tiki god) have awoken the four elemental masks of the earth. Together with Cortex's newest Bandicoot warrior, Crunch, the masks are going to wreak havoc on the earth and the only person who can stop them is Crash Bandicoot. So with the Help of Aku Aku and his sister Coco, Crash Bandicoot will have to run, jump, drive, break boxes, crawl, fly and hover his way through over 25, 3-D plat forming levels full of jumping puzzles and tons of bad guys running after him to destroy the four evil masks and stop the evil Cortex in his tracks.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: I was actually kind of disappointed with the graphics in this game. It just isn't that much better than previous Crash Bandicoot games. Obviously the game is in Hi-resolution mode and the textures are much better. Don't get me wrong the graphics aren't bad, but they are just average, in general they won't make you raise your eyebrows. But there are a few cool touches, such as the fact that Crash's face moves around when he is moving (his eyes expand when his nose pulls down) and the water boss who has a really cool translucent effect and is in general really well designed. 3.5 out of 5.

      Sound: Your standard Crash Bandicoot affair, this game is full of zany "boink" and pop sounds and whirling sounds for when your character spins. The sounds are all very appropriate and high quality and they add a lot to the game play. The music in the game is the same deal, it doesn't bring anything new to the game and it is just a throwback to the previous Crash games. It does often have a good jungle beat, but for the most part you will totally forget about it while you are playing the game. 3.5 out of 5.

      Game Play: Again this game is really just the same old Crash Bandicoot standard affair. Like the previous Crash Bandicoot games, it is a platform game (for those who don't know, that means you control advance through levels by having your character jump to and from different platforms along the way). Almost every level is extremely linear, there is a start point and from there you go on a predestinated path to the end of the level. However you will be required to repeat the levels if you want to find all of the secrets in the game, as many of the few branching paths that exist are locked at first. This game is really the epitome of an old school plat former. You run through the levels breaking boxes to collect fruits and get extra lives. The controls are very responsive and it is very easy to pick up. And the cool part is that there are a few extra techniques that you can develop if you take the time to learn them (like the slide jump). But for the most part it is just too similar to the Crash Bandicoot games that already exist to bring anything new and exciting to the genre. Every once in a while they throw you a bone with a new vehicle to drive (or with the "atlas sphere" levels) but they just aren't there often enough. 3.5 out of 5.

      Level and Environment Designs: The levels while being mostly linear are very cool to look at and to play through. There really is a fair amount of variety. With each set of five levels you will be introduced to a new form of transportation that you will have to use on one or more of the levels. Some levels even require you to control Crash's sister Coco. The levels are fairly neat to look at, but for the most part don't really offer any big challenge. The designs are good and will take you through crazy environments like castles, jungles, villages, weird marble tracks and all sorts of crazy places. 4 out of 5.

      Multiplayer: N/A

      Replayability: The essence of this game is in repetition of the levels. You will actually have to visit most levels at least three times to get all of their secrets and even then if you want to unlock all of the bonus levels you will have to get really good times in the time trial mode (basically run through the level as fast as you can). Not to mention the fact that the game is so linear, there is really no chance to play through it in a different way the second time through. So if you ever actually get 100% of the game completed, chances are you will have had enough for about a year. 3 out of 5.

      Story/Dramatics: Dr. Cortex is up to his old tricks again, but this time he is at the behest of Uka Uka, the evil Tiki god. So with the help of the newly unleashed elemental masks, Dr. Cortex sends his newest Bandicoot warrior out to wreak havoc on the world once more in hopes to finally defeat Crash Bandicoot. So as Crash you must use the help of Aku Aku (the good Tiki god) and your scientifically advanced (especially for a rodent) sister to defeat all four elementals and finally get rid of Dr. Cortex and his evil creation Crunch. The story is presented with a lot of whimsy, if not whit and I'm sure many younger children will find it to be fairly amusing. But for the most part the entire story only really comes at the beginning and at the end of the game. 3 out of 5.

      Instructions and Learning Curve: This game is extremely easy to pick up. The biggest curve that this game throws at you is movement away from the camera: the foreground to background jumping takes a good while to get the hang of. You'll find yourself cursing under your breath many a time after you misjudge a jump. The instructions however do a good job of telling you everything else that you need to know to get started with the game. They are very thorough. 4 out of 5.

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Man this is where this game takes a big dive. To put it simply the load times are just god-awful! Goodyear Chimp and I actually timed the loads at an average of 50 seconds. Now in writing that doesn't seem too bad, but believe me when you are playing the game it is horrible and it happens every time you enter and exit each level. Other than that this game is good, it takes up little space on a memory card and it utilizes the analog and dual shock functions. But overall it certainly doesn't push the PS2's capabilities. 2.5 out of 5.

      The Verdict:

       This game is pretty good. Don't expect to be astounded by anything, but you will definitely have fun playing it. The game is for the most part average to above average with the exception of the incredibly horrible load times. These alone may drive you to drink but give it a shot you may like it.

      The Good: There are some good touches in the graphics, easy to learn, a multitude of vehicles to use.

      The Bad: Overall the game isn't original enough to keep you coming back.

      The Overall Ugly: This game is just not fresh enough to keep a person interested. If you've never played a Crash game before, you may enjoy this, but if you have played them and would like to see the game taken further, you will probably be a bit disappointed with this one.

      What it's Worth: I'll say that this game is worth a good $30.00.

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