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Review by The Every Gamer (May 2017)
Crash Bandicoot is back…kind of. He did make an appearance in Skylanders: Imaginators recently, or as I like to call it: Hell! He’s also getting a remastered collection of all three of his classic games, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, for the PS4, I really want to get this on day one…but if you know me, that’s not me…unless it’s for a retro compilation. On the bright side, at least he’s being acknowledged…for better or worse.
Anyway, Crash Bandicoot, a fantastic creation for the PlayStation back in its heyday and supposedly the unofficial mascot for the system, though there were others, likes Lara Croft and Spyro, maybe even Cloud, since Final Fantasy VII was a massive hit on the PlayStation. But this is about Crash.
In terms of the character himself, he’s wacky, quite broken, dumb yet brave, and heroic, so he was perfect for the 90’s, like an even more cartoony westernised version of Sonic, and this is not the only time I’ll reference Sonic in this review.
So what’s my history with the game? Well I didn’t grow up owning Crash games, but I did have a demo for it and I played a bit of Crash 2 at my Dad’s house as a child, so I knew a lot about Crash Bandicoot. It’s only now that I own a couple of the Crash games, but as a series I think it’s a good series that got better over time…well the PlayStation games at least.
So for now, Crash Bandicoot (Kurasshu Bandikuu in Japan), developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony Computer Entertainment and distributed by Universal Interactive Studios, was released in 1996 worldwide, yep, even in Japan. In fact, the game series was quite successful in that country, which was near unheard of for western games, I mean there probably were other successful western games, but eh, this is Crash’s time to shine.
So the game starts with the menu, but if you leave it for a while, you get the game’s story. Dr. Neo Cortex, along with the assistance of Dr. Nitrus Brio, creates the Evolvo-Ray, taking animals and turning them into anthropomorphic creations with super-strength. They find a bandicoot and experiment on him, hoping for him to be a leader of an animal army designed to take over the world. Crash is then sent to the Cortex Vortex to make sure he doesn’t get out of line. Unfortunately for the villains, the machine rejects him and Crash runs away, escaping Cortex’s castle.
Now Crash is free and is able to live a life of being jittery…but thanks to the power of vajayjay, Crash decides to rescue Tawna, a female bandicoot Crash fell for and is up for experimentation too. Tawna was not in later titles, so what happened to her after this game? Was she too sexy for this series? Well that would be the case now, but who cares?
The game itself is a 3D platformer that takes notes from previous platformers, especially in the 2D variety like Mario and Sonic. You play as Crash as you run, jump or spin on enemies and the likes as well as destroy boxes. Again, to attack enemies, you can spin them away or jump on them, though sometimes you need to do one or the other for specific enemies and I’ll get to that in a moment. When I started the game, I knew what to do and I hopped onto the journey…like a rabbit…I don’t know.
But it’s not just platforming, you’ll also do a few different things like running away from boulders and riding on a Wild Hog and at the end, the curtain closes which makes my brain come up with juvenile thoughts that ruin my childhood.
So Mario has coins, Sonic has rings, Bubsy has…wool? And Crash has Wumpa Fruit, collecting 100 of them will give you an extra life. And how do you collect them? By breaking tons of boxes throughout the game, but in some boxes, they can contain a 1-Up, Tawna Icons and N. Brio Icons. Crash also uses the one-hit death mechanic…which I’ll also explain in a moment, so to help you with that, you can collect a Witch Doctor mask named Aku Aku, allowing you to take a hit or even two if you collect another one. Collect three and you become invincible with an awesome African beat. But avoid those TNT boxes…well you still need to jump on them, so make sure you’re not in the explosive radius.
For the most part, the game is quite simple, but if you want to take things further, you can collect gems. To do this, you need to break every single box in a level…and this is where the difficulty kicks in.
So in terms of platforming, the game requires full precision, with Crash’s controls feeling heavy, especially jumping, and the traction going out of whack at times, so there will be points in the later part of the game where you need to be precise on your jumps. And spinning can be dangerous too as if you’re spinning at certain platforms, you somehow gain traction and you spin forward when that wasn’t even the intention; this happened to me a lot, which resulted in many, many deaths.
And if it isn’t the controls, it’s the tricky platforming and enemy placement. It’s quite mandatory to time jumps, time attacks and make sure the camera doesn’t mess with your depth perception, watching Crash’s shadow is VERY important to see if you’re about to land precisely on a platform, and this is nerve-wrecking when you have to jump on smaller platforms (Temple Ruin anyone?). Enemies can be irritating at the worst moments, whilst most aren’t horrible, the later ones are, like the bloke with the shield. I try to attack him and his shield will knock you back much further than it should, leading to landing on something spiky or falling to my death because why not…yeah, yeah, I know you’re supposed to make him raise the shield so you can attack him on his side, but it didn’t always work for me.
Then there’s gem collecting, possibly the biggest headache in the game as you need to collect all the boxes in the game. One issue…after breaking the checkpoint box, you need to make sure that you don’t die at all whilst trying to collect all the boxes, because if you do, all boxes previously collected will not only respawn, but even if you do collect all the boxes again and manage to survive, it doesn’t count and you continue on to the map. How about them dangerous TNT boxes? Well they count too! But you need to avoid the explosions too so be warned. Trying to 100% this game will test your patience and the ability to smash your nuts with a hammer in rage. I cannot for the life of me 100% this game, I could beat the game casually, but this is something else, you need skills, patience and a lot of time on your hands.
Saving the game is the worst. So in order to save, you can collect all the boxes in a level and save that way, or collect three Tawna icons in a level, where you’ll access the bonus stage where more boxes are there, and if you get to the exit, you’ll be able to save and continue on with the rest of the level. And by the way, the boxes in the bonus level also count to your box total at the end of a level. This is a horrible way to save because if you die in the bonus stage (and you can), you won’t be able to save again unless you restart the level and if you don’t save properly as the game wants you to, when you lose all your lives and have to continue, you’ll have to restart a couple, or even a few levels back, it’s maddening to me.
In terms of bosses, you have Papu Papu, a very stereotypical native big bellied man who will swing his scepter around and that’s about it. Ripper Roo is a mentally broken kangaroo who dies by TNT boxes, Koala Kong is a burly Koala who will throw rocks at you and will sometimes throw a rock that you can spin back at him, and much more. These bosses are OK, but they’re not interesting and they don’t do anything to make the fights memorable. They have some challenge when you don’t know what you’re doing, but they’re simple when you have the know-how.
The graphics…are actually great and for a PS1 game from 1996. Shockingly, it’s held up pretty well, thanks to memorable jungle aesthetics with level design that makes it feel dangerous, but later in the game, there are more machinery-like levels; it’s a bit like Sonic where you need to protect your island from the industrial hellhole it could become. The music is also great. The songs are long, but they do a good job in having the right tone for the right moments.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot is one of those games where you play it out of sheer curiosity. It’s a very challenging game even when you’re playing it casually, just trying to get to the end can be a journey and a half glass of milk. But I can’t hate on the game too much, it is the first game in the series and future titles make improvements that make the games the best that they are. But nevertheless, Crash was a success and became a worldwide sensation, he had an appeal that was just right for the time and whilst his stardom isn’t the same as it was before, he’s still the gaming icon of the PlayStation. Hopefully the remaster of this and the other two games will do the character and the series justice, maybe we might see newer titles if they’re successful (they have to be good as well, that’s important).
You can get Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation and PlayStation Network.