Released on: September 9th 1996 (Original), June 30th 2017 (Playstation 4, N-Sane Trilogy), June 29th 2018 (XBOX One, Nintendo Switch, PC , N-Sane Trilogy)
Available Platforms: Playstation (Original), Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (N-Sane Trilogy)
Price: $54.99 CDN ($39.99 US) (N-Sane Trilogy)
As a kid, I grew up with Nintendo consoles exclusively. Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Gamecube, those are the systems that define my childhood. So when friends of mine would come over and bring their Playstation, I was insatiably curious. I grew up with platformers, and one, in particular, looked phenomenal: Crash Bandicoot. It was only recently when I saw the N-Sane Trilogy, a modern-day remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games, on sale on the Playstation Store that I got to play it from start to finish. A lot of news outlets called the game challenging. One infamous review even calling it “the Dark Souls of platformers” (which I take umbrage with, but that is a topic for another post). Being familiar with platformers, I wanted to see if Crash Bandicoot was as challenging as they say. Was Crash Bandicoot the classic that my childhood missed?
In a spooky-looking castle up on a cliff, Dr. Neo Cortex and his assistant Dr. Nitrus Brio perform experiments on animals that violate animal cruelty laws. With his Evolvo-Ray, he mutates a bunch of animals, giving them super strength and intelligence. He attempts this on a bandicoot named Crash, but Crash breaks free and escapes Dr. Cortex’s grasp. To lure Crash back to Cortex, he imprisons Crash’s girlfriend Tawna, another bandicoot experimented on by Cortex. Upon getting news of this, Crash looks at the camera, gives a smile, a thumbs up to the player, and sets off to save his girlfriend. The plot reminds me of a mix between Sonic, the Hedgehog (where an evil scientist kidnaps animals to experiment on them), and Super Mario (save the damsel from the evil entity). Since this is a platformer, short and sweet works best, and Crash’s story certainly fits the bill.
Having never played the original Crash Bandicoot from start to finish, I held no sentimental attachment to the original’s graphics. With that out of the way, the N-Sane remake of Crash Bandicoot looks gorgeous. Crash himself looks fantastic. He’s expressive, goofy, but has real-looking fur. The environments are nothing short of marvelous. The jungle levels, for example, are highly detailed with its lilypads, logs, and creek setting the jungle vibe.
Crash Bandicoot’s music is what people would expect from a game about a bandicoot making its way through the dangerous levels. I mean that in the best way, as the soundtrack is appropriately chill when levels are more traditional, as in, taking the time to plan jumps. The music also kicks up beautifully in fast-moving, vehicle stages. Some of these tracks still pop-up randomly in my head because they are just so catchy.
Crash Bandicoot’s gameplay is tried and true to the platformer genre. The initial goal of each level is simple: get to the end. When the player does get to the end, the game will congratulate the player, but let them know how many crates they neglected to destroy… by dropping said crates on Crash’s head. As mentioned previously, some levels challenge the player to run away from a rabid polar bear, ride a hyperactive hog while avoiding enemies and obstacles, and go surfing in the jungle. I enjoy the consistency of Crash’s level goals. No matter what kind of level Crash Bandicoot presents to the player, the goal is always the same: get to the end.
Crash Bandicoot also offers challenges for those looking for a little bit of extra incentive to explore each level. The player can task themselves with finding all of the crates, which will award the with gems, and some crates have symbols that unlock bonus rounds that give the player extra lives. After beating a level, the player can revisit it, and challenge the Time Trial to get the Golden Ahnks (or Platinum Ahnks for the speedrunners out there). These extra challenges are nice, since they are optional for those just looking to beat the game, but are formidable enough for those looking for more Crash to enjoy.
One of my favorite aspects of Crash Bandicoot has to be the death animations. These are some of the funniest deaths I have ever seen in video games. Being a big fan of Looney Tunes, seeing Crash get squished, then waddling around is hilarious. Fell down a bottomless pit? Crash’s shoes come back up, then drop down again, for some reason. These add a wonderful touch to what is usually a pretty frustrating event.
As a treat, the N-Sane trilogy brought back a level that the developers initially removed due to its difficulty known as “Stormy Ascent.” I thought this was a neat bonus, especially since the level itself is a lot of fun. It is on the harder side, but thankfully, it is entirely optional.
Of course, no game is without fault, and Crash Bandicoot has a few blemishes.
I do like how Crash handles for the most part, but it is worth noting that Crash feels a little heavier than expected. At times, it feels like Crash should jump a little higher than he should. After getting used to the controls, I figured out that I need to jump later than I would generally feel comfortable. It isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but those that are familiar to say, Super Mario, for example, will have to acclimate to the way Crash controls.
In the N-Sane trilogy, there is an odd quirk with how Crash lands his jumps. In the original Crash Bandicoot, the game recognized him as more of a block, making his landing consistent. With the N-Sane trilogy, thanks to Crash’s new model, the game sees his landing as ovular. On the surface, this doesn’t sound like an issue. With some of Crash Bandicoot’s more precise jumps, however, those demand more precision because of the change of the model. I feel like this is vital to mention, as it affects jump planning, and can lead to frustration when Crash misses a platform that the player seemingly cleared.
While I like the simplicity of the levels, the bosses, on the other hand, are underwhelming. While some of them have neat ideas, like leading them into TNT crates to damage them, most others come down to merely waiting until the boss attacks, then hit their weak point. It makes the bosses feel like they need to be there because it’s the “video game thing” to do.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot is a little bit of a challenge, but nothing too tricky. Even Stormy Ascent, while formidable, isn’t too bad. That is, except for one level, that is the bane of my existence: the High Road. This level is the hardest one in the game, even more so than Stormy Ascent, and it is mandatory. Jumps need to be super precise, enemies are required to make it over specific gaps, and even if the player uses the enemy as a bouncing pad, they are still not guaranteed to make that jump. I got so frustrated with this level that I cheesed it to get past it. It is a level that doesn’t feel like the official developers made it. This might be a personal gripe of mine, but this level comes out of nowhere and creates a giant difficulty spike.
Despite feeling a little quirky and having a level that hates everybody, Crash Bandicoot is a fun time. It truly deserves its place as a classic, and I regret missing out on it as a kid. I would highly recommend the N-Sane trilogy for the gorgeous presentation.