Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: May 21, 2002
Pop quiz, hotshot: What’s big, orange, furry and no longer exclusive? Nope, it’s not a bachelor’s attempt at buying fruit, so much as it’s Sony’s erstwhile mascot Crash Bandicoot. Having foiled enough vile and nefarious plans to have earned him a stable of opponents, Crash will now face his greatest threat ever in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, now available for the Xbox and thus marking the marsupial’s first non-handheld foray away from his former home at Sony.
Even Nintendo’s golden plumber wouldn’t dare create a platform jumper without some sort of story on which to hang his hat, and Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex wisely follows this trend with a clear cutscene to set the stage. As the forces of evil gather together, Uka Uka the disembodied voodoo mask of evil, sets a plan in motion that pits Crash against not one, but a whole host of foes. As it is revealed, Cortex has been secretly working on a project that sounds like a Microsoft initiative: He’s devised a way of stopping Crash from interfering with his operations. Unlike Mr. Gates’ code optimizations, Cortex elects to craft a new, Super Bandicoot known — almost predictably — as Crunch.
Aiding Crunch in his Bandicoot eliminating rampage are four powerful masks known only as the elementals. Unlike Uka Uka and his benevolent twin Aku Aku, the Elemental masks are more concerned with advancing their own agenda by destroying the others, causing tidal waves, earthquakes and worse to befall the Earth’s surface. These masks come from a time before humanity, and certainly before genetically altered Bandicoots, and are basically forces of Chaos that had been restrained years ago by an unnamed force. As teletubbie-esque as it may sound, the masks are named Rok-ko, Wa-Wa, Lo-Lo and Py-ro; understandably, it’s not hard to imagine which represents which part of the quartet. Reaching an uneasy truce with Uka Uka, the elementals team up with Crush, Cortex and company to put an end to our fuzzy protagonist once and for all.
From here your goals are textbook examples of platform gaming. You’ll need to clear a series of levels, collect a bunch of mysterious crystals, and fight a horde of boss characters in your quest to restore peace to the planet. Aiding you on the way will be Coco, Crash’s technically minded sister, and Aku Aku, who acts as a guardian spirit and advisor throughout the game. Following the minor cataclysm that grips the planet, Aku Aku investigates and realizes what has happened, prompting an early trial of Coco’s Portal chamber as a means by which Crash can retrieve the requisite crystals to re-trap the elementals and restore balance to the world.