Naughty Dog brought us several of our beloved games on the PlayStation platform. Uncharted, The Last of Us and Jak & Daxter are all fantastic games in their own right, but Crash Bandicoot just about defined a console generation. Sony’s unofficial mascot was a cocky little marsupial who we adored on the PS1. Just over 20 years later and Crash Bandicoot is about to return in a remake. The question is, can he spin his way back into our hearts?
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a remake of the first three games that appeared on the PS1. The folks over at Vicarious Visions were handed the task to bring Crash and his furry little friends back to life for a new generation of gamers, and fans alike. It’s with a massive smile on my face that I can tell you that they’ve done a splendid job. As soon as you start the game up the music kicks in and it’s a moment of pure nostalgia. Everything is as good as you might remember it being.
The controls are tight and precise and plays just as well, if not better, than the original titles.
The first three Crash Bandicoot games looked the part, considering the era, but it had a very unique playstyle and Vicarious Visions nailed it. The controls are tight and precise and plays just as well, if not better, than the original titles. At the menu you have access to each of the three games, but I highly recommend that you play through each game in sequence. Why? Well, even if it’s nowhere near as exciting as modern games there is a small story involved that ties in with each game. Things kick off with Crash undergoing scientific tests thanks to the evil Dr Neo Cortex, which ultimately mutates him. Somehow he breaks free from his shackles, but has to leave the love of his life, Tawna, behind. In typical 90s fashion you have to save your lady from the evil doers with an Aku Aku mask by your side.
This here is your basic introduction to the Crash Bandicoot series, but also possibly the toughest of the three. What starts off on a sandy beach moves to a jungle, nuclear sewers and later some of toughest platforming you’ll find on the PS4, The High Road. When you’re not running towards the screen on the back of a hog you’re running away from an enormous oncoming boulder. It’s really tough in the first game. There’s a great balance in that you receive many extra lives early on (I had over 40 lives at one stage), but there are levels that’ll be sure to gobble them up. Unlike the other two titles you’ll be navigating a map as you make it to your next objective and along the way you’ll take part in basic boss fights. The boss fights are not that tough and it does unfortunately show its age a little, but there is so much more to play for.
Getting a good understanding when to spin or jump a box or enemy comes with time. Does the enemy have spikes on its side? It’s probably best to jump on it. You really only have those two basic moves in the first game along with Aku Aku’s invincibility (when you collect three masks) to tackle any given task, but something that has followed through well are the secrets to discover. In each stage you can earn a gem. To obtain this gem requires you to smash each box on the level. Get to the end without all the boxes and poor ol’ Crash gets smashed on his head with the number of boxes he missed as a form of shame. Unlike the original game, Crash will now feel the hits too. Should 30 or more boxes smash into his head he’ll end up man-down on the floor with a dizzy spell. So best you help Crash avoid that by finding EVERYTHING.
Find three Tawna tokens and you can enter the bonus area. The bonus area is an example of the improvements Vicarious Visions have made. Unlike the original, where you only get once chance at the bonus level, you’ll have access to it again should you fail, without having to worry about losing a life. It makes a huge difference in trying to 100% any stage. You’re also on the lookout for Dr Neo Cortex and Dr Nitros Brio (Cortex’s henchman) tokens, which takes you to tougher bonus stages. Should you collect all the gems on the various levels there’s something special waiting for you.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Out of the three games this is the most underwhelming of the lot as it feels and plays very similarly to the original game. It’s not a bad thing, but it feels like a bit of a ‘been there and done that’ scenario. As with the first title it launched before Sony introduced the Dualshock controller, hence some levels play better using the D-Pad. Finding a good balance between analogue and D-Pad seems to work. When you’re running towards or away from the level analogue controls work just fine, but move into a traditional 2D level and it goes a little wonky. Get used to swapping between the two control inputs on-the-fly and you’ll be just fine. Though there are many similarities there is enough to make the sequel interesting.
For the first time you’ll be able to steer a craft in the game (one that’s made of machine parts and not flesh and bone), as well as commandeer a jetpack. Snow and ice stages that were absent in the original game are now here, and will have Crash slipping and sliding all over the show. Yes, I know, Icy and snow stages are the worst, but it’s a big deal in this particular game, so get used to it. The biggest improvement comes in the move set. The spin and jump returns, but you can now press and hold R1 for Crash to crouch. Furthermore if you press the jump button, while R1 is held in, Crash will jump higher to get to out-of-reach areas. The overall structure has changed too.
Gems return once more, but this time Crash will be out to collect a crystal in each level. These aren’t hard to find at all, but if you plan to see the ending of the game you’ll require finishing each stage with a crystal in your inventory. Jumping to and from the various levels is also much easier in this game as you have access to a warp room. Defeat a boss and you can move to the next warp room. Boss fights are okay in the sequel, but I should just mention that the last boss fight is highly disappointing and far too easy. This brings me to the third game in the series…
Crash Bandicoot: Warped
The third game was the shining light in the original series and it’s no different here. Gone are the jungles and in its place you’ll travel through various themes that include The Great Wall of China, a futuristic city, underwater levels and much, much more. Vehicles now include a plane, jet ski and hot rod bike. Everything is bigger, better and a prime example of what the Crash Bandicoot series ultimately ended up becoming. You’ll also use the D-Pad less in this particular game as at this stage Sony had made analogue controls a common thing on the PS1. That’s not where the improvements end.
I never experienced glitches in my 17-hour playthrough and everything just ran silky smooth.
Boss battles are much more creative and should you beat the boss you are rewarded with a new move that’s added to your moveset. This includes the ability to crouch (as was default in the second game) as well as double jump, sprinting and spinning more furiously than the Tasmanian devil himself. The coolest new item, should you unlock it, is a Whumpa Fruit Bazooka. Aim it at foes and shoot them from a distance, but be wary as shooting too many Whumpa Fruits will drop your chances of getting that much deserved extra life when collecting 100 fruits. Both gems and crystals return, but additionally you’re also on the lookout for relics, which are very tough to get hold of. So tough that I’m yet to secure one.
There are some N.Sane improvements
The developers have done a great job at maintaining the standard of the original package, but they’ve also made some important improvements elsewhere. When in the stage select area for any of the games a press of L2 will bring up the save/load menu. It allows you to save each game individually where and when you want. Included in all three games now is the ability to play as Coco, Crash’s sister, from beginning to end. She comes with the exact same moveset, so if you’d like to play as his bookworm sister now is your chance. Something new that’s been added to the game are ‘death paths’. These platforms (otherwise a wireframe item) only appear if you get to a particular area and you’ve smashed all the boxes without dying. Something I found a little weird was not seeing the graphical progression in each game, as you would on the PS1. Seeing each game get the same treatment given to visuals and it is merely the gameplay that improves in each version takes some getting used to, but that said, it looks fantastic.
Crash, Coco, Aku Aku, Dr Neo Cortex and their various friends and foes look great in high definition. In a world made up of an “extensive” colour palette of grey and brown it’s really great to see a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours on the PS4. I couldn’t spot a big improvement in 4K, though the HDR was doing a great job of emphasising the bright and beautiful colours. I never experienced glitches in my 17-hour playthrough and everything just ran silky smooth. If you’re new to the series I expect it could last you through to about 25 hours, excluding all the hidden stuff.
Considering that the developers had very little assets to work with it’s astonishing what they’ve pulled off. For better or worse, Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy is a traditional platformer that is as stuck in the 90s as it’s ever been. Fans will love it, but if you’re a newcomer and you give it a chance it’ll Rutabaga its way into your life.