I started playing the Crash Bandicoot games for Game Boy Advance because I was getting a little sick of Super Mario. I feel like Super Mario World is the pinnacle of Mario’s 2D platforming games, and all others fall short, or make their mark in a non-traditional way, like Super Mario Maker. Much to my dismay, the first Crash for GBA is a lot like Donkey Kong Country, but the sequel refines the formula and manages to differentiate the two games. There are some seriously frustrating levels. Consider yourself warned. But you can finish the game as a novice. After that, 100% completion is always there as an added challenge to simply reaching the ending.
Vicarious Visions, the developer, is a familiar name. Judging by their Wikipedia page, they are clearly one of the most prolific developers for the Game Boy Advance in the history of the platform. As mentioned before, N-Tranced builds on what the first game did, giving you all of the better power-ups from the first title at the start of this game. Knowing now that breaking all the boxes rewards you with a gem (and further progress near the end of the game), I set out to break every box I could find. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it comes down to a single box that you missed.
N-Tranced actually has in most of the levels a single green box with an exclamation mark, usually near the end. This box blows up all the “Nitro” boxes. The problem is, you’ll be most of the way to the end of a level, and your box count is half of what it should be, because you haven’t hit the box that blows up the Nitro boxes. It’s a huge letdown when you hit this box but you’re still missing one or two boxes. It’s poor game design, and makes it frustrating to return to a level.
As far as non-box-destroying game play goes, it’s still a lot like Donkey Kong Country. You have a spin attack that lasts only a second or two, and you have to hit the enemy in that time frame. There are new enemies, including Arabians who ride magic carpets, and Arabians who drop balls of fire down from open windows. There is a new level type, where Crash (or another bandicoot) rides in a ball across an isometric level. There are ramps, boxes, and perilous pits. It’s actually a fun change of pace. There is still a “run toward the screen” type level, but now you’re on a surfboard running from a shark, not in an icy cave running from a yeti. There is also a level for Coco Bandicoot where she’s flying through space, running from a burning sun that is chasing her. Aside from that, there are three to five hit boss fights.
At the end, the game still reminds you that you haven’t finished, because you didn’t 100% every level. There are also time trials, which presumably could be done to the point of trying to shave milliseconds off of a time. Both the first and second game have this completionist aspect to them. N-Tranced has an overworld much like the one in New Super Mario Bros. with branching paths and clear locations for a boss fight. It really is an improvement over the first game. I had more fun, and I played to the end in a day, which is about right for a game of this type. N-Tranced is a good platformer for the GBA, and proof that there are games to like when you venture beyond Nintendo published games.