Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced for the Game Boy Advance is a follow-up to Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. For those familiar with the previous game, the sequel is pretty much more of the same thing, although it does boast some slight improvements here and there. Crash's nemesis, the evil Dr. N. Tropy, has kidnapped the other bandicoots and hypnotized them into working toward his evil schemes. Your job, playing as Crash Bandicoot, is to rescue the others and stop N. Tropy's plans. Like in similar games such as Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog, this means running and jumping your way through side-scrolling levels full of platforms, crates, monsters, and various other hazards.
For the most part, Crash Bandicoot 2 isn't different from any other side-scrolling action game. You can run and slide your way through each level, collect wumpa fruits in order to earn extra lives, and jump onto crates and enemies in order to knock them out of the way. Crash has a double-jump move that lets you boost him up to higher areas. He also has a spin attack that is similar to Mario's cape or Sonic's spin-dash ability in that it allows you to destroy crates or monsters without bouncing on top of them. You'll travel from left to right in the majority of stages, although there are some areas that require you to backtrack or explore higher or lower to reach the exit. Additionally, many of the game's 24 different levels have hidden platforms that lead to bonus stages, which give you further opportunities to explore and generally deepen the game's extensive replay value.
Where Crash Bandicoot 2 distances itself from other games in the action genre is in its variety. As you delve deeper into the game, each of Crash's standard abilities can be upgraded into a turbo version of itself, such that you can leap higher, run faster, slide further, and generally reach areas that were otherwise inaccessible to you. Besides the crystals you need to collect at the end of each stage, there are relics that you can acquire only by attempting timed runs through previously completed levels. Since Crash's upgraded abilities make this an easier feat, there is significant motivation to replay earlier areas. Inside many of the stages, there are helicopter and magic-carpet contraptions that you can control, allowing you to fly up and down the passageways and shoot lasers at angry magicians. Additionally, roughly a quarter of the game's stages are obstacle courses in which you have to water-ski, pilot a spaceship, or roll in an "Atlas sphere" to reach the exit. These stages offer a welcome change in perspective after you've completed two or three of the side-scrolling levels, especially since they're often brimming with extra lives.
While all these skills, upgrades, and changes in perspective do wonders to extend the life of the game, you still need to keep in mind that it's basically just a copycat of similar games made by the likes of Nintendo, Sega, and Konami. For various reasons, Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced doesn't feel as cohesive as your typical Sonic or Mario game, even though it is still fun to play. Another thing to consider is the game's difficulty. Nitro boxes and lava floors are uncommon in earlier stages but abundant in later stages. You may find the placement of these items in later levels to be unfair, since it will take many attempts to memorize their locations, which are often one right after another. It's easy to earn extra lives, however, so that does offset the challenge somewhat.
Otherwise, Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced is a solid effort all around. The graphics aren't as artistic as those of other games, but the backgrounds have multiple layers of scrolling, and the character animation is exceedingly smooth, possibly more so than in any other GBA game to date. The music and sound effects are on par with those of the other action games available for the system, which is to say that they fit the onscreen events without drawing positive or negative attention. If you and a friend both own the game, you can use a link cable to play time-attack and Atlas-sphere matches against him or her. Finally, owners of Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure can use a second GBA system and a link cable to upload their old save data into the new game, which will unlock additional bonus stages and multiplayer characters.
For people who enjoyed the first game, or for those seeking an action game that doesn't feature Mario or Sonic, Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced is a good choice. It may be a difficult game to complete in the long run, but the variety in each level makes it one of those games you can just pick up and play at random moments throughout your day.