21 years after our favourite quirky marsupial crashed his way onto our screens (see what I did there?) the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy has been remastered. Once you get your head around the fact that it has been 21 years since the first game released then you should read on to find out the verdict.
Thankfully the gameplay is the classic 3D platforming we all remember. The winning formula of dodging spikes, jumping on moving platforms, smashing boxes and collecting wumpa fruit hasn’t been messed with and I think that’s a good thing. The same mix of patience, bravery and risk-taking is found in abundance and there’s a real sense of nostalgia from the game.
That said, the difficulty is much, much harder than I remember. Playing these games as a child I don’t ever remember them being so tricky and frustrating. Maybe I’ve gotten worse at video games as I’m getting older – or maybe this is the reason I was such an angry child. Either way I don’t want you to get the impression that the game is impossible because it’s not.
If you persevere you’ll never get truly stuck because the way the game teaches you is through repetition. Ok, so you might get right to end the of a level, lose your last life and be forced to start again with no checkpoints. I guarantee you’ll get to the same spot again in no time because the game does such a good job at making every life feel worth it – even if you don’t beat the level.
The boss levels are fairly basic in first two games and nothing to write home about. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this aspect of the game but the gameplay just doesn’t really hold up when compared to modern games. The bosses in the third game are much more fun though. They tended to require a bit more skill to beat and their personalities were fleshed out through short cutscenes which made me care about winning. I got serious childhood flashbacks when fighting Dingodile and his flamethrower in Warped. It was such a treat to feel that thrill again.
Of the three games available in the remaster, the original Crash Bandicoot is the weakest entry by far. The controls still feel a bit janky in places, there’s not a whole lot of level differentiation and there are far too many enemies that pose pretty much no challenge. Fortunately, the next two games clearly learn from the weakest areas of the first and the formula is hugely improved in Cortex Strikes Back and Warped. These are both the perfect examples of how good 3D platformers can be.
The different level styles that the second and third game introduce really keep the game feeling fresh – even though you know they’re coming. Riding cute little ani
mals at high speed and seeing Crash navigate the seas in underwater levels really do shake things up. Most of these levels are great but a couple were less enjoyable than they should have been. The racing levels and Coco’s jet ski levels in Warped are easily the worst type of level – this might be personal preference but I found the gameplay in these levels too plain with nothing interesting or different about them. Perhaps my six-year-old self was just more easily amused than modern day me. The other levels more than made up for this though. The childhood joy I felt at being able to ride Polar again (the little polar bear) cannot be overstated – especially given that he looked even cuter with the visual touch up the game benefits from.
To describe the improved visuals as a touch up doesn’t really do it justice. The game looks great and the graphical remaster has been done thoroughly. It’s possible that the whole thing was built again from the bottom up. Crash looks better, the environments look better and the enemies looks better. Most of the visuals wouldn’t be out of place in games released for the first time in 2017 which is a testament to how well the remaster has been done. In places, the close-up animations do appear a little rough around the edges but you really have to be looking for them. I also experienced a little bit of frame rate drop occasionally but it didn’t detract from the overall experience.
As much as I loved playing these games again (as I’m sure you can tell from what I’ve said so far), I can’t help but compare them to modern games in the same genre and sadly they can’t be held up together. Don’t get me wrong, the gameplay is still fun (and I think it would be if someone played it in another 20 years) but it feels like a child of its time – albeit a child of its time that has had a glorious makeover.