Once again we find ourselves back in the Warp Room, obtaining the crystals in order to help Dr. Cortex save the world(?)... while also obtaining the gems so that Dr. N Brio can top him.
But enough about that. All you need to know is that in this episode, we meet Tiny Tiger, my first furry crush. The hero we both need and deserve, protecting us from our own naivete in trusting an evil scientist.
In all seriousness, it's important to remember that in the first half of the game, we're technically the bad guys. Even if he's just an unwitting pawn, gathering the crystals for Cortex is a genuine danger to the people of Earth.
So when Ripper Roo, the Komodo Brothers, and Tiny Tiger fight us to keep them out of his hands, they're doing so in order to protect the world. In other words, they're heroes. We'll forget about all of that as the series goes on (and even Brio goes back to being a villain), but it's a fun little factoid that's worth keeping in mind.
As far as the game itself is concerned, the levels in this episode perfectly summarize what I was referring to in the last episode, where all of the game's difficult is reserved for the optional gem challenges. How else would you describe having to run through a death route, then backwards through the regular level because both halves contain boxes that need to be broken for the box gem?
It also highlights the contrast between Crash and Spyro in terms of their design philosophies. There's simply no way that a Spyro player will rack up anywhere near as many deaths as a Crash player. Not only is Crash more fragile than Spyro, but his platforming demands a higher degree of precision than his purple dragon peer. A Spyro game focuses more on the broad picture, and timing is rarely a factor. And yet, timing is everything for Crash.
So if someone told me they couldn't stand these old Crash games, I couldn't say I blamed them. They can be absolutely frustrating.