Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon have been popular ever since games featuring the two mascots first appeared on the original PlayStation console. Vivendi Universal has had the rights to both characters for a while, so it was only a matter of time before someone at the company came up with the idea to pair them together in a crossover of some sort. That crossover has finally reached fruition as two separate games--Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto's Rampage and Spyro Orange: The Cortex Conspiracy (both for the Game Boy Advance). They're both side-scrolling action games, and the story is basically the same in each (Ripto and Cortex have joined forces to try to get rid of Spyro and Crash once and for all). Besides the abilities that the characters in each game have, the biggest difference between the two is that one (Spyro) is geared toward novice players, while the other (Crash) is geared toward seasoned players. Taken on its own, Crash Purple a very good game with a nice amount of variety.
Crash Bandicoot Purple: Ripto's Rampage doesn't stray too far from the formula established by previous Crash games. There are five worlds, each consisting of two main levels. The main levels are set up like a typical side-scroller. Crash can jump, double-jump, and perform a spin attack that knocks away enemies. At the end of each world, you'll go up against one of Ripto's henchmen in a boss fight. Rather than strictly focus on platforming, Ripto's Rampage shakes things up a bit. There are portals located throughout each of the main levels, usually seven or eight per level, that lead to minigames, and the only way to earn gems is by completing these minigames. Most exits require purple gems, which you get just for finishing a minigame, but the doorway to the final world requires silver gems, which are only given out if you manage to break all of the crates within a minigame. Since some minigames use forced scrolling or have time limits, you can look forward to many repeated attempts just to earn those coveted silver gems.
The minigames in Ripto's Rampage are really, really good, and there's a wide assortment of them. One of the more whimsical minigames is an inner-tube game that's a blatant copy of Toobin', an arcade game that was put out by Midway in the 1980s. Crash sits in an inner tube going down a river. The controls let you steer the tube and kick in a burst of speed when you need it. All along the river there are sandbars, mines, torpedoes, and whirlpools that you have to avoid, while at the same time you must try to smash any crates that you see floating in the water. Other minigames include a Breakout-style pinball game, a tank game that lets you wander around mazelike levels hunting other tanks, a pig-riding game that's set up like the mine-cart levels from Donkey Kong Country, and a horizontally scrolling shooter where you need to use rockets and bombs to blast away at enemies and boxes. For those of you who enjoyed the previous Crash GBA games, there's also a minigame that imitates how the levels in those games were set up. You're put into a side-scrolling level that's packed with enemies and various crates--regular crates, bouncy crates, TNT crates, and more--and you need to reach the end in a limited amount of time. Like in the Crash games of old, the trick is figuring out what order to smash the crates in so that you can make it to the end and earn both gems. In all, there are at least a dozen unique minigames.
Crash Bandicoot Purple and Spyro Orange have a similar look and similar music and generally tell the same story. The dialogue scenes at the end of each world are shown from the vantage point of the lead character, but the supporting casts have been shuffled so that Spyro's friends appear in Crash's game and Crash's friends appear in Spyro's game. Their comments are limited to hints about the current level, however, and don't have much bearing at all on the overall story. In both games, the rendered character sprites are smoothly animated, and the backgrounds display a great deal of cleverness--you'll find bonus trading cards hidden behind shrubs, bouncy crates that lead to hidden treasures in Crash's game, and secret ledges in Spyro's game that can be reached only by taking a leap of faith and using Spyro's flying ability. The backgrounds in Spyro Orange don't have as much going on in them as the environments in Crash Purple do, probably because the developers wanted to limit how busy the backdrops were so that novice players wouldn't get confused. Whatever the reason, there are fewer enemies, fewer obstacles, and fewer creatures like mice and butterflies puttering around in Spyro's game, which makes Spyro Orange seem like it was hastily thrown together in comparison to Crash Purple--even though both games share the same graphical look.
The only incentive for playing through both games, as opposed to picking just one of them, is to acquire the 167 different trading cards that the two games share. The cards depict the characters, objects, and worlds that are present in both games, but their practical purpose is that they unlock bonus minigames when you fill up the necessary pages in the card album. Cards are pretty easy to get--they're hidden throughout each level, sold in shops, and given as prizes for completing minigames--but there are certain cards that are exclusive to each game. In order to "catch 'em all," you need to use a link cable to trade cards from one game to the other. Ultimately, the trading card gimmick isn't a good enough incentive to justify picking up both games.
While the character crossover used here is an interesting idea, the two games are pretty uneven. Part of that is due to Spyro being easier for novices and Crash being better for experienced players, but the end result is that Crash is simply a more worthwhile game. With its strong minigames and well-made platforming mechanics, Crash Bandicoot Purple is a good, solid choice for fans of the genre.