When the time came for video games to transition from 2D to 3D a lot of new approaches were made in how games were designed. The most popular platform games of the 8 & 16 bit generation (Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, Contra, Ninja Gaiden etc.) were predominantly linear, and usually had a large emphasis on mechanics like precision jumping, combat, shooting, action etc. However when the shift came to 3D, platform games became a lot more open, slower paced and revolved more around adventure, exploring, puzzle solving and collecting (Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, DK64). In contrast, Crash Bandicoot was the best example of a 3D game that remained faithful to what made 2D platformers fun and exciting.
The Crash story begins with a mad scientist named Doctor Neo Cortex, who is attempting to build an army of henchmen by mutating tropical animals using his latest invention. Doctor Cortex had high hopes for Crash, fortunately however the bandicoot manages to escape from his evil clutches. Across the span of three games Crash and the Doctor go back and forth, with Crash attempting to save other animals from the doctor, the doctor attempting to swindle power crystals out of Crash, and in conclusion the two end up darting around time and space attempting to thwart each other.
Crash is a platform game where stages are designed as a network of pathways rather than open worlds. This makes the action far more streamlined and focuses your attention on the goal at the end of the stage. The camera is positioned behind your character (or in some cases directly in front) and you get to run along the winding pathway leaping over pits, spinning into enemies, smashing crates filled with fruit, avoiding traps and TNT, beating bosses and discovering secret areas.
Although it was originally Sonic The Hedgehog that inspired Crash Bandicoot (and you can still see a lot of the Sonic influences such as finding hidden gems and the mad doctor nemesis) the 2D game that I feel compares closest to Crash is actually Donkey Kong Country. Between the tropical island settings (with occasional snowy or industrial stages), the over world map, the occasional ‘on rail’ stages, the frequent smashing of barrels / crates, collecting fruit, the challenging game play, the tricky platforming and the banging soundtrack, there are tons of parallels between Crash Bandicoot and DKC.
Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is an entirely new rebuild of the original 3 games, and this time around they all run in exactly the same engine. Since Crash’s movement and controls were refined over the series, many long time fans will probably notice that Crash feels a bit different this time around as all 3 re-masters control identically.
When originally released back in 1996, I thought Crash Bandicoot was a pretty nice looking game. The landscapes were very tropical, the colours were vibrant with a lot of contrast, and although there was not a huge number of polygons on screen due to hardware limitations, there was just enough detail and content on screen to really make this game stand out from the crowd.
Twenty years later and this rebuild looks absolutely stunning. The colour isn’t quite as wild and vibrant as before, so the overall look is a tad more subtle in that respect. However, the sheer amount of detail that has gone into the background scenery and the foliage is extremely impressive. It’s instantly recognisable as classic Crash Bandicoot, however contemporary gaming technology has really helped give the overall look of the game a huge boost.
One of the more subtle (but brilliant) aspects of the graphics is actually how beautiful Crash himself is animated. The little dude always knew how to bust a few moves back on the PS1 with his cartoony facial expressions and little celebratory dances, but the remaster takes things to a new level. Little details like Crash’s facial expressions as he reacts to events around him really help bring him to life and add a new dose of charm to the trilogy.
Crash’s movement can either be controlled with the D-pad or analogue stick. Since the first game in the series predates the dual shock control pad, this is the first time that all three games natively support analogue control sticks. Jumping, spin attacks and body slams are all controlled with the face buttons. Hitting triangle will also temporally bring up your head up display.
Crash controls very well… for the most part anyway. The only snag that I had to get used to as far as movement was concerned related to the jumping distance. Depth perception can be a little tricky in these games as Crash does feel a bit heavy and I often found myself jumping too early across pits and hazards and subsequently fell short. It’s a tough habit to break, but you need to try and time your jumps as late as possible (even if it doesn’t feel natural) in order to make tight jumps and safe landings.
The overall difficulty of the trilogy is very sporadic as it varies drastically from level to level (and game to game to some degree). There were certain types of stages that I personally found relatively easy such as the boulder chase sequences and a few of the bosses. In contrast there were some stages such as ‘hog riding sequences’ or ‘crumbling bridge stages’ that took me an awfully long time to struggle through.
Overall these games and not incredibly hard to beat, but they do get a bit tricky in places as the platforming is very precise and requires quite a bit of experience & skill. However, if you want to up the challenge then trying to get the best endings or beat the time trials makes things a hell of a lot harder. It all depends on how far you want to push yourself and at what point you’ll be satisfied.
I personally love the way in which these games handle replay value. This trilogy was designed in such a way that there are plenty of secrets to uncover. As you uncover them new paths open up in the stages that you have already beaten, which give you new reasons to revisit them. Personally I found this very satisfying as I could continue playing long after beating the final boss and I never felt as if the game was too grindy or padded out.
Unfortunately one thing that 20 years of innovation hasn’t been able to improve is the loading. Between stages (and even menus) there is quite a bit of waiting involved as the game has to load. It’s never so lengthy that it becomes a major drawback and it is worth the wait when you see how detailed these new levels look, but it is a shame that it can’t be handled any quicker.
Even if platform games are a genre that you only dabble in casually, Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy is a fantastic addition to any gamers collection. It is a fantastic game that is fun, gorgeous, challenging and family friendly. A solid addition to the PS4 library.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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