“Crash, Crash, Crash. Why must you always muck in my mud?”
-Doctor Neo Cortex, Crash Bandicoot: Warped
“The following is a guest post by The Final Fourteenth Mage.”
This may not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me but I am a huge sucker for hype and am often more excited for video game trailers for unreleased games than I am when I actually hold said game in my hand. So when Shawn Layden walked onto the stage at the PlayStation Experience in 2015 wearing a Crash Bandicoot t-shirt I was stoked. The internet blew up in an intoxicating mix of excitement and despair. What started as incredible hype slowly depleted as nothing was announced throughout the show. The shirt had to mean something though, right?
Unexpectedly our next taste of Crash Bandicoot came in the form of a mini game included in Uncharted 4: A Theif’s End. Crash is incorporated into the game superbly in a way that many people would find themselves able to relate to. The two main characters shared a meal together as they engaged in sporadic conversation that flowed in waves and felt natural. They then started to play a Crash Bandicoot level together; commenting on it as they progressed towards the end.
When the inevitable announcement arrived it was met with excitement from many. People who hadn’t played games in years were pre-ordering the game for a taste of the nostalgic experience they had as a child. It was during this period that I decided to pre-order the game to be safe. I’m glad that I did as it ended up selling out Australia-wide in only a few days. Overseas it sold exceptionally well too as it topped many of the charts and even outsold Horizon Zero Dawn.
Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy consists of three full games – Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. Upon loading up the game you are greeted by a menu screen that lets you choose which game you want to start with. You have the freedom to play them in any order you wish but personally I prefer to play my games canonically so I started with the original.
All three games are platform games and for the most part the levels are standard platform fare. There are two themed levels that shake the formula up in an interesting way. The first are levels that have you running towards the camera unable to see upcoming hazards as a large boulder or dinosaur speeds towards you at a menacing pace. The second has the player mount one of three animals; a hog, polar bear or tiger depending on the level. Once mounted you move through the level at speed, unable to stop and must make sure you don’t hit any enemy or obstacle in your path.
The remastered versions of the game look absolutely stunning. The graphics have a more realistic feel to them whilst still maintaining the vivid and varied environments throughout the three games’ unique levels. It’s hard not to notice little details throughout the game such as the way the water glistens, the lighting and importantly Crash’s character model. Graphical enhancement is not where the changes end though as there are numerous mechanical changes too. The most beneficial change is the save system which consists of both an auto-save feature and the option to manually save between levels. This is a fantastic step forward from the archaic system of the original game.
Mechanically the games are a little different from the originals and this is felt the strongest when you play Crash Bandicoot. The controls feel tighter and every movement requires more precision than before. If you are unable to land a jump perfectly you’ll fall to your death. This does take some practice as Crash lands jumps faster than you think and I often found myself jumping shorter than I intended due to this. The other mechanical change that impacted my gameplay experience was the hit box change. I first felt this in the Crash Bandicoot level ‘Native Fortress’ as the turtle enemies hit me before touching Crash. Thankfully this issue doesn’t seem to crop up too often as I only encountered it again in the final boss fight against Cortex himself.
The story in Crash Bandicoot is rather straightforward. Doctor Neo Cortex had experimented on numerous animals to create an army. One of these was Crash who became a failed experiment as he escaped. Crash then makes his way through the levels determined to thwart Cortex’s plans in order to win the affection of a fellow bandicoot that was always captured for experiments – Tawna.
In Crash Bandicoot: Cortex Strikes Back Crash is initially manipulated into collecting the twenty-five crystals by Cortex, believing that in doing so he would be saving the world. It was originally unbeknownst to him that Cortex was to harness the crystals’ power to control every being on the planet resulting in the creation of the ultimate army. As the game continues on, both Crash and Coco begin to see through Cortex’s lies and are once again able to defeat him.
In the final instalment Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Crash learns that Cortex has his own masked sidekick – the evil Uka Uka. Together with the help of Doctor Nefarious Tropy they devise a plan to use the Time-Twisting Machine to collect the crystals once again for their own evil purposes. Crash’s own masked sidekick Aku Aku warns both Crash and Coco of the upcoming threat and transports them to the Time-Twisting Machine which allows them to beat the evil trio to the crystals, shattering Cortex’s dreams once more.
The 8-bit Review
Admittedly it wasn’t until I watched an original video guide for a level in Crash Bandicoot that I realised just how much the graphics were enhanced for the remake. Each game looks stunning as you run through the vibrant and diverse levels. It’s clearly evident that they spent a lot of time on the textures and lighting throughout each level. The character models also were upgraded and given a much more realistic appearance. For instance you are able to see that Crash has fur. One of the perks of dying one too many times is that the game over screen had a fantastic looking Uka Uka. I found Uka Uka on the game over screen to be the best looking character in the game. Although he is definitely nightmare material!
The majority of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy plays relatively well. If you’re familiar to the series you may notice at the start that the controls seem tighter with less room for error. I found after a few levels I had adapted to the stricter controls and they were no longer an issue for me personally. This is a personal pet peeve but I found that the game itself had a fair amount of loading time. This is most evident when you go to boot the game up and have to wait through the opening credits unable to skip. I know that games generally use these as a way to hide loading screens but in this situation once you are at the main menu you have to load which game you want to play anyway.
Family Friendliness: 8/10
I grew up playing all three Crash Bandicoot games. As a five-year-old I managed to get through them via trial and error, slowly learning the mechanical elements of the game. It warmed my heart that my thirteen-week-old daughter was very interested in the screen as I made my way through the games as it felt like I had come full circle and if she were older I would gladly introduce her to the series. Some of the levels may be challenging due to the precision required but they can be completed with guidance and are still easier than the games of yesteryear that we played growing up. Difficulty aside Crash Bandicoot is definitely a game that children would be able to play with its simple mechanics and story that isn’t important to the completion of the game.
As a whole the Crash Bandicoot games are very accessible. The controls are simple as you either jump over obstacles or spin them away. There’s a few enemies later on that are only able to be killed when they’ve finished attacking or aren’t on fire but again these are obvious and not a stress to the player. The levels are rather linear with only the occasional alternate path and the goal is always straight forward.
The only challenge in the collection is found in the few levels where you are required to output utmost precision in all of your movements and jumps. An example of this is ‘The High Road’, a level that is notorious for stopping people dead in their tracks. I beat all three games in five days and I spent three of those days on ‘The High Road’ as I refused to use the rope trick to cheese my way through the level. Optionally you can further challenge yourself in the game with both time trials and collecting all of the boxes without dying for a special gem. These aren’t requirements for the completion of a level. If you so desired you could just run from the start to the finish ignoring boxes and other than not gaining extra lives you wouldn’t be punished in any way.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a fantastic example of a remaster done correctly. The game is absolutely stunning and adds new features that add longevity to the game such as the previously mentioned time trials. The new save systems are also much welcome additions especially in regards to the first game that was burdened by its previous archaic save system. The collection was priced very reasonably for three full games.
The replayability factor in this remaster stems from the fact that the game encourages you to 100% it. Every single time you beat a level you are shown what you are missing. In the first game you are brutally beaten by the boxes you left behind and in the two sequels you can clearly see what gems you are yet to obtain. On top of this as soon as you enter a level for the second time you are greeted with the option to partake in a time trial which I personally find rather addictive as I am always eager to better my previous time.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
I really enjoyed my time with the game. For the price that I paid for it I definitely got bang for my buck. It took me five days to complete the games and the first three of them were on the original. I enjoy challenging myself and the sense of overcoming difficult levels which Crash ever so generously offered. I tend to avoid difficult games as I often think I won’t be able to beat them but as I was able to beat Crash Bandicoot with relative ease I am open to trying other games I haven’t previously played that have a similar reputation. Thank you, Crash Bandicoot!
Aggregated Score: 8.0
The Final Fourteenth Mage has the weight of her backlog on her shoulders as she scours the internet searching for her next favourite game. You may know her as Priscilla Cullen and can read more of her musings at Cilla vs. Games.
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Categories: Game Review