Sunday, June 21, 2020

Time Twister - Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped - Part 2

Our trip down nostalgia lane continues as we continue to take down Cortex's henchmen, snatching the crystals out from under him in this quest across time and space.

Next up we enter the domains of two devious mad scientists. First up, Dr. Nefarious Trophy: Keeper of time and creator of the Time Twister we've been using to traverse the course of history. And once we've cleaned his clocks, we'll start to prepare for the machinations of Dr. N Gin.

It's an epic of the ages, and there's no telling when we'll be next.

Since I've done enough of them by now, this might be good place to start talking about the Time Trails. Although they were available to us in the first two games, we didn't bother partaking. That's because they were added to those games retroactively as part of the N Sane Trilogy.

You can also tell that a lot of those levels, especially in the original Crash game, were not built with speed in mind. A lot of the traps and pitfalls rely on timing and precise movement, which clash with the need to save time and move quickly. The frustration factor, in light of the fact that they weren't required for 100%, meant that it just wasn't worth my while.

That's changed here in Warped. This was the game where Time Trials were first added to the series, and the relics are necessary to reaching full completion, making them fair game for this series. We'll eventually do them all, but for right now there's a reason we're focusing on gimmick levels. As you might assume, our objective for one of these events is to reach the end of level in the fastest time possible.

However, there's a little wrinkle that spices them up. Many crates in each level are changed to special time crates, numbered 1, 2, and 3. When one of them is smashed, the clock is frozen for the number of seconds indicated on the box, and any additional boxes broken will add to the duration of the freeze cumulatively. What this means just breezing through a level as quickly as possible isn't enough to ensure a great final record. Speed is important, but so is routing to ensure that we break as many crates as we can without wasting too much time doing so.

And that tension is a large part of what makes them so interesting. Whenever we see time crates on the run, we have to do the math and calculate if the time we lose trying to break them is worth amount we'll save from the timer getting stopped, as much as test of pathing as it is in execution.

Additionally, Naughty Dog realized that these unique constraints meant that players would die more frequently in Time Trials than they world when platforming normally. For that reason, dying does not cost us lives. This could have easily been a source of great frustration for us, so it was a smart move. You might also notice that protective masks spawn more frequently as well, also because we're expected to take more hits in our pursuit of the fastest time.

You might also notice that I haven't been dying as often in this game compared to the previous Crash games in general. The game does a much better job of fairly telegraphing what obstacles we need to overcome and how we'll need to do so.

All of this combined turns what could have easily been an exercise in frustrating into a challenging, yet super entertaining exercise in trying to execute as quickly and skillfully as one possibly can. And if all we're aiming for is 100%, then we can settle for a Sapphire relic, without bothering with the Gold or Platinum rewards.

Just don't ask me to attempt the Time Trails for the first game. Those levels are far too long as far too lethal for me.

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