Making sequels is probably pretty hard. I've never had to do it myself, but I can imagine. Especially when said game is pretty far into the franchise, and from a different developer. Probably one of the worst ways to handle this would be to essentially remake the last 'main' game in the franchise again. You've probably put together the pieces by now: That's exactly what Traveller's Tales did when they made Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex.
I have a long history with Crash Bandicoot. When I was only 5 years old, my dad came home with a Sony Playstation. One of the games he had gotten for it was the original Crash Bandicoot. Our whole family loved that game, and we even got the sequels. I have fond memories of my mom with the strategy guide for Crash 3 reading from it to my father, who was playing the game. The kids sat and watched. Can you imagine that? The kids sat and watched our dad play through the game! We all got our turns, of course, me probably more than anyone. My favorite was Crash Bandicoot 2. My friend Kyle and I played that one the most, and Kyle was really good at finding all the secrets without any help. I was amazed when he showed me the secret warp room in Crash 2, and how to get there. Crash 2 remains my favorite.
Anyway, back to Wrath of Cortex. This game took a dump on all of that. I didn't realize it at the time, though, (I was still a kid after all), I enjoyed it, even. I remember playing it quite a bit, once I got my own copy. Though I never completed it 100% like I had the previous games in the series. My younger step brother had the PS2 version, which had abysmal load times sometimes reaching into a few minutes to load a stage. I got the Gamecube version, which didn't have this problem, but has some framerate issues. I don't usually like to be negative and go all "angry nerd" about video games, but I feel like this one needs to be talked about.
You're probably asking why its so bad if its just the same game again. Well, its not just that it doesn't add anything to the series, but it does it worse. Crash Bandicoot Warped (the third one in the series) added some gimmicky levels where you drive vehicles to break up the action from the standard (Crash 2 styled) platforming levels. This was okay, but even one of the creators, Andy Gavin, realizes how gimmicky it was. Clearly, the series had turned in a bit of a negative direction. So what did the new developers do in WoC? They added more gimmicky vehicle stages, in addition to re-using ones from the previous game. Literally almost half of this game is driving a vehicle of some kind, whether its a plane, or a ball, or a submarine, or whatever.
But enough ranting, let's focus on the rest of the game.
The story is pretty meh, but gets the job done I suppose. Uka Uka (a mask in charge) and Dr. Neo Cortex (Crash's creator and main antagonist) as well as Dr Corex's goons discuss their next plan to take down Crash and conquer the world (of course). Uka Uka and Cortex decide on releasing a bunch of ancient masks called "the elementals", who were responsible for natural disasters and the ice age. Cortex reveals to Crash that he has a new secret weapon: a super strong Bandicoot named Crunch. Crunch, along with one of the elemental masks serve as the game's bosses. So in Crash fashion you have to collect crystals (this time to imprison the elemental masks) and stop Cortex and Uka Uka.
The music, is passable. Some of the tracks are just re-used from Crash 3, especially the main/warp room theme (which they use a lot in this game). The new tracks range from okay, to actually pretty catchy. The graphics, are bad. I'm probably being a little harsh here since this was an early PS2 game, but Crash games were known for their graphical prowess on the PS1, so to see the game look thus unappealing is just disappointing. Plus Naughty Dog's next series after they dropped Crash, Jak & Daxter, it's first installment (another early PS2 game) looks so good! There's hardly an excuse.
The gameplay feels sluggish. I don't know if its the animation, or the actual response time, but something is off when you compare it to other games in the series (including the one platformer that came afterwards, Crash Twinsanity). The problem with making a game that's so similar to another one is that if you don't get the control just right, its going to feel off to anyone who's played the other one. Certain things just don't seem right when you play this game. The way enemies react, the way Crash handles, the way the vehicles handle, it all feels off. The game's level design is lacking, with secrets being pretty sparse, easy to find, or just not rewarding. The game sees the return of gems and relics, both things designed for replayability. Gems are collected by smashing all the boxes in a level, and relics by entering a time travel mode and getting to the end in a certain amount of time -- to get a sapphire, gold, or platinum relic. Both of these were fine in Crash 3, but in WoC they're just tedious to acquire. I'm not sure what it is, but they just don't feel rewarding to collect. This also sees the return of the unlockable abilities for Crash from 3, with only one addition -- the ability to tip toe over nitro crates (that usually hurt/kill you as soon as you touch them), but this ability is rarely used. The others from Crash 3 function okay, but it is pretty lame to have to unlock them again. Oh yeah, they also made Coco playable in some platforming stages. She controls just like Crash, but slower and clunkier. Disappointing.
There is no reason to play this game, unless you're an old fan of the series who hasn't played it yet, but is curious. Just don't spend to much to get it.