We continue our romp across Crash’s Vicarious adventures and our next adventure is N-Traced for the Game Boy Advance. It was released in 2003 and many people enjoyed the game when it released. Following Crash Nitro Kart & Crash The Huge Adventure, it seemed that Vicarious Visions had an solid grasp on how to make Crash games.
But does Vicarious Vision’s second Crash platformer improve over Huge Adventure? And does the game make the right steps forward for Crash’s portable adventures?
Development History & Fun Trivia
Following the release of Huge Adventure, Universal Interactive continued there contract with Vicarious Visions for more GBA Crash titles and they included this and Crash Purple/Spyro Orange.
A fun fact is that this game was released in a double-pack (two games on one cart) with the GBA version of Nitro Kart! It was nice seeing both games bundled together in one package.
While not much information is out regarding development history, Crash Mania houses a lot of fun little trivia about the game.
The games musical score is largely remixed variants from Crash 3, compared to Huge Adventure which pulled much of its musical score from Crash 2. Visuals use the same technology powering Huge Adventure which is nice, as they captured the 3D elements from the original PS1 games.
One fun fact includes this image found in the games level coding for the stage Wild Nile Ride.
You can only access this if you play around with the games graphical coding, so that is really cool to find honestly. And the last bit of fun information about the game is the origin of the games level names.
Every mainline Crash platformer had a fun name linked to it, and N-Traced is no exception to this.
- Now It’s Istanbul is a verse from the song Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants.
- Lagooney Tunes is a reference to the Looney Tunes.
- Prints of Persia is a reference to Prince of Persia.
- King Too Uncommon is a pun on the name of the Egypt king Tutankamon.
- 101 Arabian Kites is a reference to the book 1001 Arabian Nights.
- Flockfull of Seagulls might be a reference to the music band A Flock of Seagulls.
- Mister Lava Lava is a parody of a verse from the song Mr. Bombastic, which goes “Mister lover lover”.
- Fire Walker might be a reference to the 1986 movie Firewalker.
- Rock the Casaba is a reference to the song Rock the Casbah.
Story of a Bandicoot
Tropy peers into the future and sees himself standing among the Bandicoots and concludes that since the Bandicoots keep thwarting them, their only solution is to bring them to their side. With this, he recruits N. Trance, master of hypnotism. Meanwhile, back on N. Sanity Island, Crash Bandicoot sleeps away while his friends, Crunch and Coco, are abducted by a strange vortex. Aku Aku alerts Crash of the situation and tells him to bring him a Power Crystal so that he can see into what’s going on.
But when he does, Crash begins to be sucked in by the vortex. While Aku Aku tries to rescue Crash, he uses the Power Crystal’s power to discover that N. Tropy is behind this. With the last of his power, he rescues Crash. N. Tropy ends up abducting a strange character named Fake Crash, but he doesn’t seem to notice and has N. Trance successfully hypnotize the Bandicoots into doing his every whim.
So with Coco & Crunch under this new foes control, Crash & Aku Aku travel across the 25 levels to collect the power crystals & gems, take out the mind-controlled Bandicoot’s to get them out of N. Traced’s control and try to stop Uka Uka’s new Evil Scheme.
Something to note is that this is Fake Crash’s first appearance as a boss character in a platforming Crash game. He appeared in other Crash games as cameos (Crash 3) or spin-offs (Crash Team Racing and Nitro Kart) but seeing him have a role in the games story is great.
For the first game without Dr. Neo Cortex, the new villain caries the games plot well and the dialog is still written quite well. The presentation is better for these scenes, as they have animation and moving sprites at some points. Its a step up from Huge Adventure for sure and shows Vicarious Visions understanding GBA hardware.
Second Rounds of Spinning
Very similar to Huge Adventure, Crash N-Traced takes elements from past Crash games and converts them into GBA hardware. In this case, Crash 3: Warped & Crash The Wrath of Cortex are the games being mixed and re-used here. The core gameplay is the same from Huge Adventure but with two key differences; Crash retains some of his power-ups from that adventure (Double Jump & Super Belly Flop) and the way you select levels is different.
The former ensures level design has more depth and complexity early own while the later pushes the series away from the Warp Room set up. Crash explores different islands/platforms with a set number of levels, not unlike the original Crash Bandicoot. You still collect gems & power crystals, even the time trails return.
But the original features of the game include more complex boss fights, a new collectable to find & new gameplay ‘gimmick’ levels. The new collectables are special gems that were shattered. Finding all the shattered parts (hidden across all the levels) can unlock a special boss fight with Nefarious Tropy. Overall, Crash’s main levels are great and the biggest issue I had with Huge Adventure got fixed; the bonus rooms aren’t super difficult anymore. They were annoying in the last game but here, they are balanced and fun, not annoyingly difficult.
New gameplay systems include Crash riding on a wake board toward the camera, being a blend of the jet-board levels from Crash 2 & Coco’s Jet-Ski levels from Crash 3. You can spin in the air after flying off ramps to increase your air time and you have to avoid a shark that chases you across each of these kinds of levels. They are quite fun and control very well.
The second new level type is the ball levels. Therese levels are pulling inspiration from Wrath of Cortex. Crash (or Crunch) rolls around in a maze-like level using the Atlasphere where you have avoid Nitro Crates and smash all the normal crates to get the Grey Gem & collecting the Power Crystal at the end of a level. The controls here are surprisingly solid, with the A button speeding you up but holding B slowing you down. This allows you to carefully aim where you are going, making avoiding the Nitro Crates a non-issue.
These levels biggest issue is that they drag on for a long time and are just not fun by the time you get half way through. They are inoffensive overall, but far from the games highlights.
Lastly, you have space levels where you play as Coco flying away from the camera. You hit speed boosters to keep flying forward and similar to the Crash Wakeboard levels, are a lot of fun.
Boss fights are even better, with the fight against Crunch being side-scrolling shooter for example and the rest of the games bosses are just as fun. They take good advantage of the setting they reside in, not unlike Crash 3: Warped. The overall gameplay here is very solid and some small changes from Huge Adventure goes a long way toward making this an even better Crash game.
Considering Huge Adventure already was a nice looking GBA game, it makes sense that this game would be a looker on the Game Boy Advance. The models are sprite-conversions of the PS1 characters like last time but more 3D usage is common this time out. The gimmick levels are a good example of this, with a lot of visual tricks & 3D visuals making these parts of the game stand out.
The presentation for the cut-scenes noted earlier should be stated again, as the higher amount of animations and lip movements make them come alive a bit more.
Musically, more Crash 3 music was remixed and it sounds great. It matches the tone & feel Crash always has and some remixes Warp Room theme sounds really great, blending the original feel but with a more techno edge.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot: N-Tranced is a great 2D platformer that takes what worked in Huge Adventure but builds on it. More complex level design, fun gimmick levels that makes great use of the GBA hardware, great boss fights and overall solid presentation make this a great portable Crash adventure.
This games shows how Vicarious Visions understands the Crash franchise well and would continue to do great work with the Crash IP in the future.
Next up on our list is Crash Bandicoot Purple & Spyro Orange; an official cross-over adventure between the iconic Crash & Spyro franchises.