Say Crash Bandicoot to any gamer of a certain age, and you’ll be met with a misty-eyed look of nostalgia – their minds cast back to munching on Wumpa fruit, hunting down crates and spin attacking every enemy in sight; so the announcement at last year’s PlayStation Experience that a complete remaster the original Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped was music to fans’ ears, with the chance to once again experience the antics of gaming’s favourite marsupial as he makes his returns to his spiritual home.
Personally, I have some wonderful memories of playing Crash Bandicoot with my ex-girlfriend when it was first released on the PS1 twenty years ago, taking it in turns to complete each level. I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I never played the sequels, mainly due to my gaming tastes evolving as genres such as stealth action and survival horror became increasingly popular, and platformers being seen as babyish in comparison; luckily the Crash series is so fondly remembered in the gaming community that I know of the sequels’ plots, and it’s great to experience them for the first time and realise just how wrong I’d been to ignore them.
It’s evident from the publisher and developer loading screens (which are sadly unskippable after watching them for the umpteenth time) that a lot of love has gone into this remaster, as a 32-bit Crash is transformed into a beautifully realised HD version of his former self. All three of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’s titles are immediately available from the main menu and can be tackled in any order. Of course, my love for the original and my gaming OCD pretty much forced me to play through them in the order they were intended to be played.
For those who don’t know, N. Sane Trilogy is a complete rebuild of the game rather than a 1080p uplift which is apparent as soon as the opening cutscene starts. All the original levels, sound effects, enemies and bosses are present and correct, and all look absolutely fantastic – from N Sanity Beach to Bug Lite, every level looks absolutely beautiful. Gameplay is untouched, with the goal of reaching the end of each level whilst collecting every crate scattered throughout them remains the core focus of the trilogy.
This iteration of the Crash games feels more unforgiving that they ever were, though this may be down to the fact that twenty years later I have more responsibilities in life and can’t just devote myself to hour upon hour of non-stop gaming. In fact, I’ve lost count of the amount of times that the malevolent Uka Uka mask appeared on my screen to inform me that it was game over. That being said, Crash meeting his demise is nearly always due to human error rather than the game itself – a mistimed jump here, a step too far there – patience with all three games is certainly a virtue; becoming too overconfident and spells doom for our plucky fur-faced hero.
Thank goodness that developer Vicarious Visions kept each level’s checkpoints, as without them I doubt I’d have made it past Native Fortress. I soon got back into the platform game groove, as I retaught myself the patterns that the wide variety of enemies and traps would follow; waiting that extra half second before making my next move. I also learned that sometimes crates are not always in the most obvious of places, as I became obsessed with tracking them all down (which is why this review was written a week after the game’s release!)
Despite the games’ difficulty, I can’t say enough good things about Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy; they really are a great dose of nostalgia which harks back to a time before infinite respawns changed the way we play video games. I feel that to go into any greater detail of the games and their plots would only tell fans what they already know and would ruin them for newcomers.
The only thing that I feel is missing from the trilogy is an option to de-render the graphics to the original 32-bit styling. Hey ho, I suppose we can’t have everything after all Activision has delivered an absolute gem that allows long-time fans to fall in love with Crash’s adventures all over again. For any newbs, I feel that some Guns ‘n’ Roses lyrics are appropriate… Welcome to the jungle baby – you’re gonna die (over, and over, and over again).