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 on every major console (PS4 in 2017; Switch, Xbox One and PC in 2018) – a whole new generation has a chance to fall in love with gaming’s orange marsupial. The question is, will they want too?
Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy comes bundled with the first three Crash outings, including;
⦁ Crash Bandicoot (1996)
⦁ Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997)
⦁ Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (1998)
The biggest compliment one can pay Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot trilogy is that the games hold up remarkably well. For better or worse, N-Sane Trilogy pays homage to that trilogy and painstakingly recreates the excitement of playing them for a modern audience. 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 complemented by an improved look that only makes experiencing the world of Crash all the more endearing. 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 serves little difference in gameplay terms but offers some variety for those who want to try something a bit new. Likewise, time trials have been implemented in the first and second games – adding in online leaderboards and extending the replayability of the game.
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 cakewalk while others will have you smashing your controller into sheer frustration.
Perhaps this is why the developers opted to change the gem requirements in this game, no longer forcing you to make it through levels in one run, it’s now possible to track how many boxes you’ve hit and missed without enduring the pain of restarting a level.
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 movement. It’s safe to say this wasn’t greatly implemented in the original game yet somehow ice segments are the more frustrating here. While certainly not unplayable, it does
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 a 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 game’s 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 pinpoint platforming that, at times, feels awkwardly cruel. In a world where Mario Galaxy and Sonic reward exploration of the mechanics of the game, 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. The experience should be enough o help bring the franchise back into focus.
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.