It is the law that you must refer to the titular hero of Crash Bandicoot as a marsupial every time you talk about him. I don’t know how or why this terrible law was put into place by Bill Clinton, but he did it and we all have to live with it.
I’m glad I got it out of the way early.
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Released: June 30, 2017
If you had a PlayStation back in the day, chance were high of you encountering Crash Bandicoot in some form or other. It was difficult not to at least have a demo disc with those famous first levels on it, Sony being keen to show just how good those graphics looked – and believe it or not, Crash Bandicoot was a stunner for its time.
Though it formed a big part of the push toward a new era of game design, Naughty Dog’s original mascot platformer was chained to relics that kept it firmly rooted in the past. Its chief problem was a need for precise platforming navigation in an environment that simply was not built for such precision.
With third-person cameras still in their infancy, Crash Bandicoot suffered from depth-perception inadequacies and awkward framing that often confounded a player’s attempts to finagle abrupt ledges.
Nevertheless, it’s hard not to retain a certain fondness for one of the last memorable platforming mascots, and despite the N. Sane Trilogy‘s replication (and slight amplification) of the original frustrations, there’s a nostalgic worth in coming back.
Containing Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2, and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, Vicarious Vision’s upgraded trip to PlayStation Past is a visually impressive reworking, taking every character and environmental detail to a gorgeous new height that bursts with color and lively animation.
Crash himself, no longer a manic-eyed jumble of jagged pixels, is fully expressive and looks fantastic with his fully rendered fur. Those notorious Temple of Doom levels are terrific with an HD coat of paint, while bosses are brimming with the kind of personality they just couldn’t communicate when bound to such crude polygonal representation.
Additionally, some rerecorded audio gives us consistency across all three games. The antagonistic Dr. Neo Cortex is now voiced across all three games by Lex Lang, who does a solid turn as the cranially impressive villain.
For the most part, gameplay is untouched. From a purist standpoint, this ensures the old Crash you loved feels like it should, though an unfortunate decision to alter the way jumping works based on Warped means the original Crash Bandicoot can actually be tricker to control than he used to be – this is quite an issue considering he already handled awkwardly as an early 3D platform protagonist.
Despite this additional hindrance, Crash Bandicoot is still a considerable amount of fun. Dated, occasionally infuriating fun, but fun nonetheless.
The only other notable addition is the ability to play as Coco in the original two games after dealing with the first boss. She can’t be used in certain stages, such as Hog Wild, but she’s there if you’re sick of jeans and want to see somebody in denim dungarees.
Personally, most of the enjoyment is based in nostalgia and I can’t help but wonder just how much I’d enjoy the game if I were playing it for the first time. It’s not that Crash has aged so poorly as to be unplayable these days – it’s still a highly adequate platformer in a world bereft of them – but I’m not sure my patience would have remained had I not known characters like Ripper Roo were yet to be encountered and I just had to hit those familiar beats.
N. Sane Trilogy, I’ll admit, is a difficult game for me to personally quantify, so aware I am that rose-tinted glasses are responsible for much of my retained fondness, while nevertheless wishing to compliment Vicarious Visions on a largely faithful remaster that genuinely impresses in the visual department.
It’s one of those games where you have to carefully weight the quality of the game itself against the quality of the remastering, and determine which elements deserve the most critical attention. Again, however, I need to reiterate that none of the Crash Bandicoot games are bad, and in fact the trilogy gets mechanically more enjoyable as each game continues, but that may account for the difficulty in my assessment – if the original title was simply terrible, it’d be far easier to write it off.
Ultimately, I can only say I had fun going back to Crash Bandicoot, even if I found myself wanting to toss my controller at certain points and that notorious sky bridge level is still one of the absolute worst pieces of interactive crap you could ever suffer.