On the road again...

Ah, Crash Bandicoot. Our somewhat misshapen marsupial friend. Playstation’s answer to Mario, and probably the closest thing to a mascot that has ever graced their consoles aside from maybe Spyro.

I got to dig into the N Sane Trilogy this week, the much hyped remake of the first 3 games released on PSX.

Remembering my first Crash game, I dug straight into “Cortex Strikes Back”. My first impressions were that the game was remarkably well preserved in terms of gameplay - Crash spins, slides, and bounces, just as he always did. Except this time, the game has had an incredible facelift, which is where I think most of the man-hours have gone.

Seriously, the game looks incredible! It might take you a little while to figure this out as you blast through the first several levels that you likely played hundreds of times as a kid, not stopping to really take in just how lush and beautiful the levels are. (I didn’t have a memory card for the first few months of owning the PS1, that’s right kids, you had to shell out some cash for that 1MB of memory needed to save games in those days!)

Back to my first point, though. The gameplay has been preserved in a meticulous fashion, so that these remakes are, crate for crate, exact replicas of the original game, with wildly updated graphics. This also happens to be where Crash shines - 3D platforming of the best kind.

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The levels are essentially corridors in which various obstacles can be placed. This might be considered a flaw in some games (looking at you, FFXIII) It must be said, however, that the devs back then were incredibly creative within those limitations. Every level feels pretty fresh, even though several might share a theme. You can also play these levels in any order you like, 5 at a time, before taking on a boss.

The levels tend to gradually get more difficult, but occasionally you will come across a platform with a skull on it that will take you to a more challenging “death path” that you can simply avoid, unless you want the gem for smashing all the crates or perhaps a coloured gem that will open a new path elsewhere in the game. A nice challenge for completionists.

What’s more, after you complete levels, you can go back and speedrun them to earn a time relic.

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On the subject of boss fights - perhaps because I have played and completed each of the games several times, I found them almost overwhelmingly easy. Most of the bosses I beat on my first attempt, this might be different for a first-timer.

These games aren’t perfect. This is mostly due to the fact that Crash Bandicoot represents some of the early 3D platforming games that were all the rage in the heyday of the PSX - there are some incredibly frustrating segments. One can play through the games and experience the evolution of Crash, as well as the frustrations of days gone by. See that crate over there, off the edge of the path? you have to jump on it and use the bounce to get back onto the path with an awkward camera angle. The level turns back towards you? Guess what, something is going to chase you towards the screen where you can’t really see what’s coming. Underwater level? Those have never been easy, or that fun for that matter.

Playing these games, I got the strange sense that all the characters were playing their parts and were in some way just happy to be back in action. Uka Uka’s evil grin on the “Game Over” screen, as he relishes in your failures, I like to think he’s simply happy to be reprising his role. The triceratops that chases you in “Dino Mite” looks like it wants to play. Aku Aku likes to hang out with you while you wait for the game to load. These small details made playing the remakes a warm and friendly experience.

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Did he always have a neckbeard?

Perhaps, this was just my imagination. I got the sense that the majority of enemies littering the levels weren’t particularly hostile, they seemed that way to the strange antropomorphic marsupials on a full-scale cartoonish romp through time and space.

This all begs the question, was my enjoyment of these games nostalgia fueled? And the answer is, you bet! I remember the original Trilogy fondly, and am really glad to have played the remakes. These games deserved the HD treatment, IMHO.

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To summarize and collate my experience, I will try narrow things down:

Pros:

  • The games have been beautifully polished and preserved, now more playable than ever
  • Quintessential 3D platforming that offers hours upon hours of gameplay
  • Genuinely entertaining gameplay and tight controls, hardly ever feels unfair

Cons:

  • Gameplay may seem rather dated and unsatisfying to those playing for the first time
  • Some levels are rage-inducingly difficult, and the overall experience may seem short-lived to those who don’t intend to replay the levels for all the gems and relics
  • Occasionally the fixed camera finds itself in awkward positions, making it difficult to accurately avoid obstacles and enemies

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So, I had a great time with the N. Sane Trilogy, and this has left me hopeful for 2 things: a remake of Crash Team Racing, the Mario Kart-alike which I absolutely adored back in the day, and a remake of the original Spyro trilogy (would be cool if they made Spyro and the gang playable in a CTR remake too!) but that is an entirely different article.

Should you buy this game? I think the answer is a resounding YES! There really aren’t many drawbacks, I am quite surprised at how well the gameplay holds up. That, and it does feel pretty good to play something that isn’t trying to be overly realistic for a change (just in comparison to the several games I have played on the PS4) Lighthearted, yet as challenging as you like.

Has anyone played them for the first time? I’d love to hear what you think! Which level did you struggle with the most?