Back in 1996, there were two kings in the gaming market. We had Mario for Nintendo and Sonic for Sega. So for a newly formed console, the PlayStation, Sony needed an icon like those other competitors to help sell the franchise and put it on the map.
A little orange bandicoot with shorts and sneakers was created, taking the console world by storm – Crash Bandicoot. And ‘Crash’ brought a game with him too. It was different, there were checkpoints, there was 3D, and there was some unique gameplay. It also introduced us to a small studio called Naughty Dog… what happened to them, I wonder?
Now though, for the first time us Xbox owners can check out three games – Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped – from the Bandicoot memoirs with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, packed with new features, bonus levels, and an HD upgrade. But has it all been worth the wait?
It’s always nice to see a package of games arrives in one big bundle, and it’s great to go back to something you have fond memories of, hoping that the magic is still there. In my case, it has been a while since I have played any Crash game, and if I’m honest, couldn’t really remember any of the gameplay apart from the stunning basics which kept the game fresh and alive. And my word, I certainly don’t remember Crash being so unforgiving, especially in the first game of the trilogy. But for those who have been living under a gaming rock or are just not as old as me, let me talk you through things.
Each of the individual titles in the N. Sane Trilogy comes with a story that involves Doctor Neo Cortex and his assistant Doctor Nitrus Brio using a device called the Evolvo-Ray to mutate the various animals living on the island into beasts with superhuman strength. They experiment on Crash, a peaceful bandicoot who Cortex intends to be the leader of his growing military of animal soldiers. But he rebels and becomes the hero we all want him to become. Thankfully.
This is all played out like a normal platformer, complete with the essential jump and spin buttons, with other moves rocking up in the sequels, and from there you are left to collect lives, apples and special magical totems, that can give a short burst of invincibility. The game basically puts you through proceedings via three different fixed camera viewpoints; follow camera, front cam and 2D sideways offerings. All these styles were revolutionary at the time, but certainly still manage to hold up today.
Checkpoints are available on each level, and that is a huge relief because you will die an awful lot. You also a have a limited number of lives, but can get more in boxes or by collecting a hundred apples. Gameplay wise you are left to make your way through a multitude of levels, before hitting out a boss fight, then being left to rinse and repeat. The boss battles are very old school, but not particularly tricky because they basically centre around learning attack patterns and then going in for the strike. It all works very well still, but be warned because Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is hugely unforgiving and you will be left crying into your controller quite a bit. I can’t believe I used to play games like this all the time, and Crash isn’t even close to being one of the hardest.
Out of the three games on offer, the initial offering is definitely the weakest in terms of playability. It is obvious that this is the baseline the developers could hit at the time, before using the sequels to experiment a bit more. See, in Crash 2 and Warped, there has been the chance to really be clever and innovative with both form and style. There are races to be had – throwing you underwater in one level and driving a jet ski in another – and it is due to this that I have found myself loving the later games, with them taking the focus away from the first.
The HD remake found in the Trilogy is quite simply one of the best visual remasters around. Everything from the characters, the beautiful water, and the shiny apples have had a tweak and it’s significant enough to make you seriously wonder that these are decades old games. In fact, I wish all remasters had this level of detail. The sound is great too, still coming with that stupidly addictive soundtrack that becomes a significant earworm hours after playing it.
Overall though and it has been great to go back with Crash and the N. Sane Trilogy, allowing me to remember just how fun these games were to play. Joyful, colourful and full of invention, there is some kind of success in all three titles included. And whilst the first one is annoying, Cortex Strikes back and Warped are great fun to play. You should be aware that they can be supremely difficult at times and you will have to get used to repeating levels again and again, but there is a heap of stuff to do and it’s a great little package with some quality content.
If you have never played a Crash Bandicoot game then now is the perfect time to get into it. And if you’ve done it before, you’ll find a lovely HD trip down memory lane.