For years, fans of Activision’s Crash Bandicoot have been calling out for the series to be given a fresh chance. In an age of successful franchise reboots (See DOOM, XCOM, Wolfenstein, Abe’s Oddysee) it seemed bizarre that Sony’s one-time defacto mascot was being left out of the fun. With Crash Bandicoot N-Same Trilogy touching down – a whole new generation has the chance to fall in love with gaming’s orange marsupial. The question is, will they want too?
Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy is an almost like-for-like remaster of the series original three titles. This includes;
- Crash Bandicoot (1996)
- Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997)
- Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (1998)
I say remake in the sense that pretty much all the aspects from the original games has made it over to this version. Unlike New N’ Tasty – which took ideas and overall designs but shifted around a lot of the finer details, these are effectively HD remasters of the games people loved back in the day.
The biggest compliment one can pay to Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot trilogy is that it holds up remarkably well. For a game debuting during PlayStation 1’s lifespan – the games shows remarkable adaptability. The core platforming remains strong and responsive; with Crash usually going where you need him too. Enemies follow set patterns, and it’s up to the gamer to figure out these patterns and overcome obstacles.
This is complimented by a very well implemented coat of paint. I won’t lie, when I saw the trailer for this remake, my main concern was that the game would lose its cartoon aesthetic. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, it works like a charm. Colours are vibrant and well represented, with contrasts defining enemies from the background. From the luscious jungles of Crash Bandicoot 1 to the futurescapes in Crash 3, there’s a lot of variety on offer for gamers.
There are also a host of new additions to keep veterans happy. Now you can choose to switch out Crash for his equally bumbling sister Coco. It’s a pallet swap basically, but it offers some variety for those who want to try something a bit new. Likewise time trials have been implemented in the first game – adding in online leaderboards and extending the games replayability.
The original may not have the shine of its sequels, but its a tough experience. Perhaps a little too difficult at points – with some of the levels bordering on cruel. The difficulty curve remains as unpredictable today as it was back in 1996 – and this may serve as a point of frustration. Some levels are an absolute cake walk, while others will have you smashing your controller into a thousand pieces. While it keeps the game feeling interesting, it does also serve to shatter any natural progression. The hog riding levels have also aged like bread, don’t expect much outside of frustration there.
The second Crash Bandicoot title feels like a more even experience. It’s got a lot more variety on offer and does a great job of making things more palatable. The fact you can choose from a buffet of levels makes the difficulty curve less of battering ram – although achieving 100% in the game is still a herculean task. One thing I did notice that seems to have somehow gotten worse in translation – the ice physics. Somehow these
The third game (in my opinion) holds up the best and probably is the best of the trilogy. It’s the one with the most balance, doing away with the annoying 2D focussed levels and homing in on the most refined experience. It’s also the one with some of the best level design – when the series had finally figured out the concept of difficulty curve. The addition of new abilities makes approaching later levels all the more challenging – and adds to the variety on show.
If there are major issues with this collection of games, they come in how the game has been ported. It’s clear that in the chase to port the experience as purely as possible, the game has inherited legacy issues. It’s hard to work out some of the games enemies without dying a handful of times. Some of the levels themselves are also poorly designed – showcasing the games at their absolute worst. Anything involving an automated vehicle for example might have been seen as experimental in 1998, but in 2017 – they’re just frustrating.
Likewise, there’s a reliance on pin point platforming that, at times, feels awkwardly cruel. In a world where Mario Galaxy and Sonic reward exploration of the games mechanics, Crash Bandicoot demands perfection. It’s something that may put off fans of modern platformers – who may find Crash’s demands too much.
But it’s hard to be too critical of the trilogy. The intention is to showcase Crash Bandicoot at his best – when the series was delivering on all fronts. While some aspects don’t hold up – the framework here is strong. It’s a testament to how ahead of the game Naughty Dog were that this game isn’t a shambling mess in 2017.
It’s well worth a look if you’re interested in a challenge. While the core platforming won’t challenge the likes of Mario or Sonic anytime soon, it remains endearing in its own way. Hopefully whatever comes next can build on this framework and expand the ideas.
Welcome back Crash.