The ‘90s, a simpler time in video games where the leaders of the home console market SEGA and Nintendo both had their key mascot platformers pushing sales of their console. Sony was an up-and-comer at the time and wanted to have their own idol platformer. They found one in Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot. Over twenty years later Vicarious Visions has brought the original three main titles back to life in the release of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. But does the game still hold up, or is it something best left in the past?
Upon commencement of the game you are treated to the nostalgic feeling of putting in Crash Bandicoot Warped on the old PlayStation One, with the narration of the parties and developers involved in this game. The appearance of an odd polygonal Crash being newly refurbished into its glorious HD version is a showcase of just how far games have come in twenty years. The game select menu is equally impressive with stunning remastering of an iconic stage from each of the main Crash Bandicoot games, enticing you to pick each one of them.
Simply Crash Bandicoot, the first game in the series, immediately gives a feeling for the cartoonish and silly world Crash lives in with the fully animated and voiced opening cutscene. Vicarious Visions has put in a lot of effort and polish to make sure everything was just how it used to be while also greatly enhancing the world itself. What used to be green and brown textures for a background is suddenly a fully realised jungle with equally enhanced creatures to fill it.
Crash one always felt more visually uninteresting with the repetition of the island motif, but returning now it is a lot more enjoyable to look at. The added detail also helps in distinguishing enemy patterns, making it easier than it was in the original to defeat them. Likewise, the shadow Crash casts on the ground adds clarity to the exact location he will land. I often found myself focusing on that for some of the more difficult jumps.
The first game has always been the most challenging one, and it’s no different here. Thankfully the developers have added some gameplay improvements to make it more friendly on newcomers. No longer do you have to worry about getting to the next password as it’s now possible to save between each level as seen in the latter two games. Likewise, I found the game was a lot more generous with checkpoints and lives, especially on repeat deaths.
You will die a lot in this game. No health bar exists. Often many enemies will overwhelm you or the platforming has been designed so only the exact right jump and timing can be done to land it. This can be quite frustrating but I respect the developer’s decision to keep the game mostly as it originally was, even with the other games in the collection improving on this problem. Additionally, time trials have been added to each level to offer some new and challenging content for some returning Crash players.
The second installment, Crash Bandicoot Cortex Strikes back, holds up the best among all the games included. The variance in gameplay feels just right, and I never found myself being bored with a level before moving on to something new. There is always something different to be excited about where one level may be a 3D Platforming level with 2D sections in it, the next you’re racing on a polar bear dodging obstacles or perhaps suddenly running towards the camera from a pursuing bolder.
Crash’s new move sets allow him to slide and belly flop on top of enemies. This opens up new possibilities for gameplay and allows the experience to feel a lot smoother overall, especially compared to the first game. Since the move set is improved it is even more fun to skid and jump around each level, trying to smash every crate you come across. The introduction of death routes, in which you need to have survived all the way up too in order to open their path, and the newly added time trials offer up an extra challenge for those seeking it.
Finally, Crash Bandicoot Warped rounds out the collection with the most polished platforming gameplay of all three. Having built upon each one before it, the gameplay feels the most energetic, and each platforming section feels more thought out to offer up the most enjoyable experience. Additionally an upgrade is added for defeating each boss, giving Crash a more versatile set of abilities.
Some of these abilities, such as the double jump, do make Crash more fun to play. But in doing so these often remove some of the challenge found, especially when trying to smash every crate in a level. The gameplay also changes up constantly with the newly added jet ski, aerial dogfight, and racing levels. The jet ski probably holds up the best, but the dogfight gameplay is far too simplistic now and the controls during the motorbike racing levels are more frustrating than they are enjoyable.
Between all three Crash games included in the collection the accompanying music is fantastic. The jolly, upbeat, and often tribal music included in each game add a real sense of enjoyment to playing every new level. The bosses featured in each game, although very simplistic and often not very difficult, offer a refreshing change of pace. It was great to see how they looked in this HD remaster. The story between these games really isn’t much but just like its competitors in Sonic and Mario, it is more about the gameplay which manages to remain enjoyable.
What was disappointing though was the constant loading between each level for all games, with nothing but a Aku Aku mask floating around the screen for around ten seconds. For levels with secrets hints would be displayed during these scenes, but it starts to become tedious very quickly. All three games share a Game-Over screen where the Uku Uku mask appears to taunt you, even in Crash one and two which did not feature him. I would have preferred a more customised feel between each game.
Other than the timed trials added to Crash one and two, Coco, Crash’s sister, has been included as a new playable character in all three games. Previously she was only playable on certain levels in Crash Warped, so it’s nice she has been added and has some interesting custom animations. However she doesn’t really offer anything other than a cosmetic change. Confusingly Crash still needs to be used in boss levels and certain vehicle ones too, so she isn’t quite playable in every level.
As a complete collection, there is plenty of content to consume. To simply win each game will take around four hours. In order to collect every gem and relic, in addition to discovering all secret levels and routes you’re looking at plenty of content and challenges even for those who played the originals. Thankfully even now the crate smashing loop is still addictive, proving that Crash still has something to offer the current games market.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy manages to offer up a visually stunning remaster of an old-school platformer that still is fun to play even over twenty years later. It is clear that Vicarious Visions have put a lot of care and passion into this game to make sure both old and new fans can enjoy it. Although the visual and audio have improved the gameplay remains intact, creating an excellent showcase of both the good and bad content featured in Naughty Dog’s original trilogy.
Finally Crash is back, and I look forward to what this might mean for a certain purple dragon. In the meantime, prepare to enjoy spinning, bouncing and smashing your way through every crate to some great jovial tunes in this visually fantastic world!
Written By Russell Collom
Reviewed on PS4 Pro
Available on PS4