Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced Review


Looks like it’s time for another Crash adventure. The last two games were both pretty short and the same is true of this one. You can beat it in under 90 minutes so I wonder how you would be feeling about that if you bought it on launch day. Granted, if you paid full price then perhaps you would go ahead and grab all of the collectibles to get the true ending. As it stands, this one is very similar to the last Crash game. It’s a pretty fun adventure that may be brief, but the gameplay is quite sound. It also has more of a plot than the last one so I was all for that.

The game starts with the Mask finally deciding that Cortex has failed him for the last time. He turns to one of the other members of the Cabal, a Time Master. The Master is pretty confident that he can stop Crash so he hires a mind control villain to kidnap everyone. The guy succeeds except for Crash who gets lucky thanks to his own Mask protecting him. The villains now have all of Crash’s friends + an evil version of Crash. Can Crash really save all of his friends and defeat someone who manipulates time with such ease? One thing’s for sure, this is not going to be an easy win for our young Bandicoot. Crash is going to need some kind of plan here.

It’s a pretty epic plot and unlike the last one we do get more cutscenes throughout each world. You get that sense of danger after clearing each world and I do like the idea of fighting all of Crash’s allies. I was a little surprised to see Crash among them though. I guess he was actually a good guy? Based on his dialogue it seems like he was mind controlled the whole time so he’s always been a hero. You can certainly color me surprised on that twist but it was good to see him again. As with last time the bosses are pretty well varied. The final boss even has two phases this time which makes him a true threat. You’ll want to really memorize his movement patterns or you’re in for a tough time. I would recommend sliding under him after every two jumps and then in phase two if he starts shooting the fast energy blasts go directly under him. He can’t shoot at that angle so you’ll be safe and then you can just hope he doesn’t fire off the homing energy blast instead. At that point you’re pretty much just plain ole doomed.

As for the levels, they’re mainly your usual Crash 2D Platforming levels. The actual levels feel a little shorter than the last game’s, but it’s pretty close so that could just be placebo. Either way the controls are smooth and one thing that I liked was how you have all of the power ups from the start this time. It does make the game as a whole considerably easier than the last one, but I really enjoy the double jump. It’s just hard not to play with it so I’m fine with the game being a little easier if that’s what it takes. Just go through the level cautiously and you should be fine. If you’ve made it this far in the series you’ll definitely be okay and if not the game actually has a pretty helpful tutorial at the beginning.

One of the alternate gameplay styles that made a return here is the Monkey Ball style. It’s my least favorite style in this game though. The levels have too many obstacles so you end up having to go really slow the whole time. As a result you don’t get to really capture that fun Monkey Ball spirit. Another gameplay style is the space missions where you have to boost through the levels and blast alien ships. I don’t think the boost mechanic was necessary here but I’m always up for some space blasting. There are only 2-3 of these levels in the game so make them count. Finally you also have the boat levels where you have to try and escape Jaws. These levels are a bit random but pretty fun. I consider them to be an upgrade over the running towards the screen levels from the earlier games.

So I don’t really have any complaints with this game except for one. Naturally that’s the length. 1 hour is pretty short for any console, but especially for one as modern as the GBA. Clearly the goal is to get you to replay it a few times until you collect everything, but I think the main campaign still could have been longer. If it was between the game being short or padding it out though then they made the right move. Collectibles should always be optional so I’m glad that the game made them that way. Forcing you to grab everything has always been a risky gamble and not one that I was a fan of.

As for the soundtrack, I’m finally starting to recognize the tunes after hearing them so much. The music in the game is pretty fun. It may not be the most dynamic, but the tunes are easy to listen to and help capture that Adventure spirit. You feel like you’re on a fun quest with Crash and the gang. Who can ask for more than that right? The graphics are also pretty good. They’re about the same as the last installment, but if it isn’t broken don’t fix it right? The character models are still on point and the whole thing looks pretty good.

Overall, Crash Bandicoot strikes again with another quality game that is just held back by the length. At around an hour to an hour and 20 minutes this game won’t really last you for very long. You could go and grab the collectibles to extend the game though. The levels are quick so playing them all 2-3 times isn’t a big deal if you’re interested in seeing how it ends. It’s always a tempting offer once I have less games on my backlog but at the moment I mainly just play the games to their original completion and just go from there. If you’re a big platforming fan or just want to relive the good ole days of the GBA then this is a solid adventure to check out. The fundamentals are all here so you should have a good time.

Overall 6/10

Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure Review


It’s time to look at another Crash title. This one is the first portable Crash title I’ve played so I was ready to see what it was like. I did see him briefly in the Spyro crossover but I bought the Spyro version so I don’t recall if you actually played as Crash at all. Well, this game is solid and keeps in most of the gameplay from the console games. You can’t help but feel like it’s a pale imitation though. The Gamecube version was already short and this one’s even shorter which is a bit tricky to get around. I beat the game in a little over an hour which is pretty crazy. I guess there is a bit of replay value to work with here, but that’s still pretty crazy.

So the plot is that Cortex has come up with his latest invention to defeat Crash. It’s a device that shrinks the planet to the size of a grapefruit which sounds like a pretty sophisticated piece of equipment. I was certainly impressed at any rate. There’s a lot of pressure on Cortex because the Mask has warned him that he isn’t allowed any more failures. Cortex does tend to fail the guy a lot so you can understand where he’s coming from, but I personally think it’s a bluff to get Cortex working. Crash doesn’t have time to worry about that though. His goal now is to find a way to restore the planet back to its original size and save the entire planet. Can he do it?

The main gameplay here is that of a 2D platformer. You jump over obstacles and smash enemies as you head to the end of the level. At first you only have a few abilities like rolling, slide, jump, and spin. After each world you unlock new abilities though including the really handy double jump. The game becomes infinitely easier once you obtain this skill. That’s because almost the whole game is built around trying to get through it with 1 jump even to the final world so you’re in a pretty good position as a result. Just be warned that the second jump destroys your momentum in the air so be prepared to not cover as much distance as you might think with the jump.

The gameplay is definitely pretty fun. I think the Crash style is good at bringing in some difficult levels that will test your fundamentals without going overboard. Even the toughest of sections will be cleared before long. The game also has some other gameplay styles here like swimming. The underwater levels are greatly improved here from the Gamecube game so I’ll give the title some props there. It’s still not quite as fun as the traditional levels though. Then you’ve got the running to the screen levels. Those still seem to be a bit luck based if you ask me since you can’t see where you’re going. They’re fun enough though.

Finally you have the aerial levels which are definitely a lot of fun. You fly through the air and blast away at all of the objects that stand in your way. It can be hard to dodge the obstacles while still landing hits on the opponents. To that my best advice is to just stay in place while blasting. You can actually deal far more damage than they can so this works in all levels until the final aerial one. There you need to move a bit. So keep in mind that you still dodge minions but for the checkpoint bosses just stand still and blast away at them. It works pretty well. There is one world boss which is in this style and that one’s pretty fun. I recommend knocking out the machine gun on the bottom first since that makes the boss a whole lot more manageable.

When it comes to the graphics Crash looks pretty good. The character models are solid and the illustrations look nice as well. They make Cortex look even sadder than usual but that’s pretty much in character so I can’t really say that there are any issues there. The level designs don’t have a lot of variety though and it feels like the game re-uses the backgrounds quite a bit. Unlike the other Crash games where each world has a theme, pretty much every world in this game is either a forest or a science lab. I think more levels would have been nice.

When it comes to the soundtrack, it’s pretty fun. I wouldn’t say that any of the themes are all that memorable though. If anything the sound effects are really the memorable part of this game and you probably won’t be forgetting those anytime soon. As I mentioned, the length of the game is under 2 hours though so keep that in mind when buying this game. You can extend your playtime a bit though by going back to all of the levels and getting all of the collectibles. It sounds like that would trigger a bonus level or some kind of extra cutscene I suppose. Hopefully it’s something good because collecting everything seems like it would be pretty difficult and take a while.

There isn’t a whole lot of plot here outside of the opening although that isn’t really unheard of on the GBA. You’re in it purely for the gameplay after all. Hopefully the next game will have a bit more story though. As for the boss fights, they were all different so that was one of the best parts of the game. The most enjoyable boss fight would have to be taking on the giant fox as he jumped from platform to platform. It was a fun idea for a boss fight and I don’t believe I’ve fought one quite like it before. I always like seeing a creative new approach to a battle.

Overall, Crash The Huge Adventure is a pretty solid Crash game. It definitely could have benefited from a few more hours of runtime but what we do get is solid. It really just holds the game back a star, but that’s all. At the end of the day if a game is fun then it’ll still earn itself more of a decent star. Maybe if it was something even more excessive like 10 minutes that’d be another story like some of the NES games, but at around 1 hour it could be worse. I look forward to seeing how N’Tranced fares. It’s listed as being a little longer than the Huge Adventure so we’ll see if that is true as my Crash marathon continues.

Overall 6/10

Mario Golf Advance Tour Review


It’s time to take a look at a Mario game that I’ve had on the backburner for many years. Golf is already not one of my favorite sport games to play so even with the Mario factor I wasn’t sure this would be a hype one. I would play a few rounds here and there but the game just didn’t click. Well, now that I’ve played through the whole game I can say that it is better than the average Golf game. I think Nintendo did a reasonable job of making this as accessible as possible. That being said, it still wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues.

There isn’t much of a story beyond the intro. You’re playing as a kid who is trying to get into the game of golf. It’s tough though because you are in a world where everyone is really good for some reason. You’ll have to improve your skills before you can even challenge the top tournaments. There are 4-5 tournaments in the game and every time you clear one you unlock another. Once you’ve beaten all of the human tournaments you will finally be given the opportunity to take on Mario and friends. It’s the ultimate goal and a one in a life time opportunity. You can’t let this chance pass you by.

I’ve got to give the game credit for the amount of content in this game. There is really a lot to do at all times. Aside from the tournaments there are a bunch of mini games in each area. You can work on landing your shots next to the pole in one hit or exploring different tracks. Additionally you can upgrade your racket although I’m not sure how you get the guy to build you more after the first one. The game seems like it’s going for an RPG angle so talking to everyone is a good idea. There’s just a lot going on and this will also help you get more of a story out of the game. If that’s not your thing then no worries, you can just enter the tournaments and ignore everything else. Each tournament has a singles mode and a doubles option. I just did all of the Singles but I wonder how Doubles works in this context.

Each tournament has 18 holes. Your score is tallied over the course of these shots and the goal is to have the lowest amount of points at the end. The quicker you get the ball into the hole, the lower your score will be. When you finish a tournament you gain EXP which you can use to improve your stats. I always improved my maximum shooting distance. The others are things like control and spin. Just be careful because as you increase your skills it can be harder to control yourself. This is rarely an issue in anything beyond racing games but it is something you will want to keep in mind for this game. Especially since learning the controls isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

The graphics are pretty nice and I dare say that they are one of the game’s highlights. Everything is bright and colorful which is always good. The presentation is really nice and if you lose a match you definitely can’t blame the graphics. Then the soundtrack may not be the most memorable but it works pretty well if you ask me. It’s all just got a very calm/peaceful feel to it.

In terms of replay value the game also has a lot to offer. The main tournaments probably won’t take you much longer than an hour, but then you’ve still got the minigames and doubles tournaments to play through. You’ve also got the post game tournament which is sure to be pretty difficult. Finally you can max out your character’s level. I’m sure this will still be around 10 hours or less, but it’s a pretty good deal. I don’t think you can really ask for much more in the end. It took Golf about as far as you could on the GBA.

If I have any complaints with this game it is that the Mario characters should appear more. I’d say that the Mario Tennis for GBA game did a better job with this. They felt like end boss characters and had a presence. That isn’t really the case here largely due to the fact that the story really doesn’t get to happen. If we had gotten Bowser to show up or another villain I think that would have done a lot to make the game a little more memorable.

Overall, Mario Golf Advance Tour is impressive. The gameplay is pretty smooth and the loading times are virtually nonexistent. That being said, it is still Golf so there is a hard limit on how far it can go. In the end it’s just not my thing. It’s fun enough in short doses but I can’t see myself going back to this one. If you like Golf then this is a must buy. If you’re not really into Golf then the only reason to get this title would be to see Mario and the others, but you don’t see them much at all so I don’t think that would be the best option. With Mario Golf you should know what you’re getting yourself into. It delivers on everything it is trying to be.

Overall 6/10

Mario Golf Advance Tour Stats and Records

Stats time!

Tournament Stats

Marion Course Best Score 1 Average 73.0 Best Drive 205
Palms Course Best Score -1 Average 72.5 Best Drive 230
Dunes Course Best Score -3 Average 69.0 Best Drive 220
Links Course Best Score -7 Average 65.0 Best Drive 267.0

Yugioh GX Duel Academy Review


It’s time to look at another game that uses the dreaded day system. I still cannot fathom why games would ever choose to use such a system. All it does is force you to miss out on huge amounts of the game so it’s like the developers are wasting their time adding a bunch of features that we’ll never get to use. The core Yugioh gameplay is still good which keeps this from being a negative game in the end, but it is heavily limited.

The story (albeit it there isn’t much of a story here) is about a new kid who has arrived at Duel Academy. He’s looking to perfect his craft and become one of the greatest duelists of all time. It’ll take a lot of semesters and training to do it, but practice makes perfect. That’s the extent of the game. Every few months you get to take an exam to try and rank up, but the questions are surprisingly tricky. I did well enough in the dueling part…I actually had a positive record. The problem is that if you don’t do very well in the written exam you go down in rank anyway. I thought this was a bit iffy, but I suppose it is what it is. After a bunch of duels and weeks went by I figured it was time for the review.

In terms of gameplay it’s the usual Yugioh rules that you should be familiar with. In every turn you get to summon a monster and play some spells or traps. The goal of the game is to get your opponent’s life points down from 8000 to 0. Once you do that you will have won the game and you get to duel the next person. Everyone’s always got a bunch of trap cards to play so you want to work around those. For example, always attack with the weakest monster first and if you have more than 1, put the others in defense mode. That way when Mirror Force is played you won’t lose all of your monsters. As you play more and more duels you’ll see why it’s very important to protect your backup monsters. Each day seems to have 3 segments so you can plan out quite a few duels per day. You then get to watch the week days go by with nothing happening except a chance to buy some cards at the shop. Then you go back to fighting off more duelists.

One thing that slows down the duels here though is the fact that the characters like to talk a lot. It’s an interesting idea but I think it should be done without interrupting the flow. I suppose voice acting would have been out of the question for a GBA game, but maybe have everyone talk as an intro instead of during the duel. I believe that would allow you to really get in on the dueling and not have to worry about the rest. I was pretty satisfied with my starter deck though. It had a lot of fun fire monsters that I always like to have along with some good traps and spells. I made a few modifications here and there, but mainly kept it in tact.

When it comes to the graphics I’d say that the game was pretty solid. you could always tell what was happening and the illustrations were nice. The dueling effects were good and we got a nice amount of backdrops. The soundtrack is also pretty good. It’s not quite ready to take on the GX anime ost or anything like that, but it has actual variety which is important since you’ll be dueling quite a lot.

This game’s got a long amount of time if you want to truly complete the game. It’s hard to say exactly what beating the game entails but I imagine you would need to conquer all of the exams and reach Blue Rank. Assuming you have a great deck and don’t mind restarting the game during exams a few times maybe you would clear this game in around 20 hours or so. Technically there is a ton of replay value to be had here as well. Obtaining all of the cards feels like it would probably take a life time to achieve. Furthermore you’ve got to abide by the day system so you can’t just go to the shop whenever you feel like it.

It really all comes back to that system. Not to be repetitive, but I don’t like having the game force me to only be able to do certain tasks at specific times. I like being able to choose what to do next. While games don’t have to be linear I also like to have a concrete goal so I know exactly what I am supposed to do and when I am supposed to do it. Things like that really go a long way in my eyes. I prefer the retro Yugioh style where it used to be that you would fight 5 duelists, beat all of them 5 times to unlock the next row and then rinse/repeat the system. At least that way you always knew you were making progress.

Overall, This is one of the weakest Yugioh games. It’s a shame because I love GX and really wanted it to have a solid game to fall back on. Unfortunately this is not the game to do that. Tag Force would end up being a better option to represent GX. This one feels more like a cash-in and there is little that it can offer in place of other titles. I would highly recommend getting one of the World Championship games instead like 2006 which is still my favorite one. Those have more direct goals and the gameplay is completely streamlined. That’s all I really need in my Yugioh games and then I’m a happy camper.

Overall 5/10

Golden Sun: The Lost Age Review


The first Golden Sun was a really great game. Definitely one of those RPGs you probably won’t be forgetting anytime soon. As The Lost Age is the direct continuation (Even called Book II in the opening credits) I expected more of the same. Unfortunately, it does suffer from it’s unclear directions and a slow first half for the plot. The second half picks up quite a bit, perhaps not enough for me to call it a great title like the first, but certainly good enough that it’s still worth getting to complete the saga.

Last time we followed Isaac as he and the gang were sent to stop the villains from lighting the lighthouses. A cosmic being told them that if this happens the world could be plunged into darkness. Unfortunately the villains lit up 2/4 of them and so the game ends with a whole new level of urgency for the heroes. This one picks up with the villains on their quest to light the final 2 houses. The game keeps their reasoning hidden until we get near the end of the game but you’ll probably suspect that something is up. These guys used to be friends with Isaac and the others so how could they defect so completely? Then you’ve also got the more supernatural villains who seem a lot meaner than the humans. It’s definitely a game where some communication would have gone a long way. Can you help these guys light the final 2 lighthouses or will you ultimately throw the fights and lose on purpose to protect the world?

The plot is definitely more expansive than that but the rest is pretty heavy with spoilers so you need to experience it for yourself to really appreciate it. I will say that the game does give you a lot to think about on which side to root for. Also make sure you stick around past the credits as there are quite a few scenes and they are all massively important. The third game definitely looks like it’ll be starting a completely new story in the saga.

The best moment in the story is definitely when Isaac and the gang return though. In the first game since you played as Isaac you didn’t really get to see his character so now that he talks you really get into it. Seeing his team take on the villains is definitely hype and I dare say that Isaac would have won if he didn’t get distracted. The game’s best theme popped up for the scene as well. There aren’t a lot of plot heavy moments until the end of the game so this was definitely one of the best scenes. I also like how Isaac’s group made it before ours, showing that they are still the best adventurer group in the biz. The other best scenes all involve the big villains as well.

The game took me a little over 40 hours to complete but from that time the villains only show up for around an hour or two. Surprisingly most of the game is pretty laid back. It’s not filler as we explore the world and light up the lighthouses, but the main plot surprisingly doesn’t come into play for quite a while. As a result the stakes feel a lot lower than the first game even if that isn’t actually correct. It’s just the way that it goes. I have no qualms with the story though. The main issue I have with this game is that it can be very hard to know what to do next.

Part of why this is the case is because The Lost Age is supposed to be more of an open world RPG. You can actually tackle most of the islands in any order you want as either way you’ll need to do a lot of backtracking once you get more abilities. You do have a map, but the issue is just that you don’t know what direction to go. Of course you will eventually go the right way, but that can feel like a small consolation when you are wandering aimlessly. Even when you do go the right way you can go for hours without a single cutscene. We do get more cutscenes once the second half starts though.

Without an online guide I probably still would have not beaten the game. There’s also the matter of the data transfer. The game has a cool set up where if you played the first game then you could transfer your data into the sequel. Since Isaac and the crew don’t show up til near the end it wouldn’t make a difference until then but it’s pretty neat since you keep your abilities. Of course, that does mean you get heavily penalized if you didn’t play the first game. There are whole areas that you cannot explore and multiple Djinn and weapons that you can’t obtain. It’s a little harsh, but I do like that the developers really wanted you to play both games. It did make this feel like a true saga and seeing the characters you were playing as from the outside is cool. It’s a missed opportunity that the two groups didn’t get to fight though.

The graphics definitely still look good like in the first game. I also enjoyed the soundtrack. In particular the villain theme was downright amazing and I listened to it on loop for over an hour. It really ramps up the tension for whenever they appear. This game definitely didn’t pull any punches on a technical level. Make sure you stick around after the credits as there are quite a few extra scenes and bonus content to absorb. It changes the ending entirely and makes it so that a sequel wasn’t really needed. There are some plotlines that could become loose ends, but if they never continued you could also interpret them as a full ending.

I didn’t really mention the gameplay but it is as solid as ever. The turn based system works really well here and I like the added dynamic of choosing to get your summons ready or just making the base character stronger. In the first game I went with the latter while in this one I did the former with the exception of the final boss. Both strategies definitely have their merits and there are so many different ways that you can approach a single fight. The gameplay is really advanced and while I did have to spend a lot of time leveling my characters up for that sudden spike in difficulty with the final boss, you get the level ups pretty quickly at the turtle cavern. Whenever you spend 40+ hours on a game you know that the length was quite good.

Overall, Golden Sun: The Lost Age is a solid game. It’s a big drop down from the first game thanks mainly to having a weaker main cast and less of a focused plot compared to the first. (The Ancient One’s final test still makes no sense even after you think about it) I think making an RPG non-linear isn’t a bad idea in theory, but it should still be a little easier to know where you’ve got to go. One of the big benefits of being a long game though is that your good memories quickly overwrite the rocky start that the game has gotten. Even if the first 10 hours are pretty rough, if you get a great 30 hours after that then it’s easy to let bygones be bygones. It still does hurt the score compared to the first one, but at the end of the day I’ll still give this game a thumbs up. I’d recommend checking it out, but you should definitely get the first game before this one so you can take advantage of the data transfer.

Overall 7/10