Welcome to Bonus Round Games, and my first post, which will probably be terrible. I apologise in advance. The reason I am wary about the crappiness of this Appreciation is that it is of my favourite game of all time, Crash Bandicoot 2. I always feel that the games I find the most difficult to explain in mere words are the ones that I hold dearest, and as such this will probably be the worst thing I ever write on this blog.
Crash 2 is not only my favourite game, it is also the first game I ever played, receiving it along with a PlayStation for my fourth Christmas. Understandably, I was absolutely dreadful at it, and struggled to master even Turtle Woods, the first level, but I remember the sheer sense of awe and wonder at the feeling of controlling a cartoon. I have yet to experience this since. It is the only game that I have never stopped playing, and I would estimate that I have played it every three or four months since I got it. Pretty much every single other PS1 game I own has been consigned to a dusty cupboard, having failed to make the cut with the advent of next-gen consoles. A true testament to Crash 2's timeless playability.
Originally released in 1997, the relatively early days of 3D game design, the ease of control and the joy of movement in Crash 2 cannot be underestimated. As it was the only game we had for our PlayStation for a little while, we did not realise how remarkable Crash was in terms of smooth and responsive controls, as we assumed all games would be the same. However, when we finally got a second game for our PS1, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, the difference was a stark one. Steering Croc around was like driving a truck through a swamp compared to nimble Crash, and so Croc just felt archaic, despite being released in the same year. Naughty Dog's mastery of 3D control was not equalled in the entire generation.
I would also say that Crash 2 features the best level design in a 3D platformer ever. Essentially it could appeal to anyone, as the opening warp room was easy enough for the spackers like my four-year-old self, but not so easy as to patronise hardcore gamers. As you progressed through the warp rooms the intensity racked up, enough to keep things interesting, but not so much that the difficulty curve became discriminatingly steep. To be honest, I am genuinely clueless as to how Naughty Dog hit upon such a perfect formula, to appeal to both casual gamers and hardcore alike. Any average gamer could probably bash through the game and collect all the crystals, but there is that added depth there for the hardcore, such as replaying levels to collect every box for gems, or completing some of the special coloured gem challenges, which offer some proper hardcore platforming. There were also secret levels which were unlocked in truly bizarre ways, for example climbing up a stairway of Nitros, the explosive boxes your brain has been trained to avoid for the entire game. Discovering something like this as a child, with no Internet assistance made you feel like a genius. Screw Portal, Crash Bandicoot 2 is the game which truly makes you feel clever.
It seems to be the popular opinion that Crash Bandicoot 2 was bettered by its sequel, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, but I take umbrage with this. Crash 3 was unarguably a brilliant game, which built upon its predecessor in many ways, but to me Naughty Dog appeared to be scared to include the truly abstract puzzles and secret levels which set Crash 2 apart from a wealth of other 3D platformers on the PlayStation. The result was a more accessible but less hardcore game, which I have revisited far less than Crash 2.
Basically, its a brilliant game, even if I haven't expressed it very well (I warned you). If you've never played it, it's on PSN for you to enjoy. Buy it, it will be the best £3.99 you ever spend.