Having spent most of my childhood collecting the gems, crystals and wumpa fruit of the original Crash trilogy, jumping into Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the perfect antidote to the nostalgia blues. Having all the first three Crash titles to go between at your own choosing is what Crash fans have wanted for many years. But while everything remains exactly the same, albeit with a shiny HD coating, the remastering highlights some of the frailties of mid 90’s gaming.
That’s not to say that Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a bad game. It isn’t. Developer Vicarious Visions has done an impeccable job in dragging the polygonal and shaded originals into the 21st century, complete with bright colours, an all new auto-save and analogue controls. However, don’t be fooled. All three bring with them a staggering level of difficulty that would turn even the hardiest of platformers into a sweaty-palmed and screaming wreck.
Of all the updates and changes made, the original still feels very much ‘of its time’. For all the intrigue in seeing the 1996 title in full HD, Crash’s limited move set and some seriously tough platforming and level pacing make it more of a grind than it should have been. Jumps have to be pixel perfect and at times feel just out of reach. This isn’t helped with a 3D plain being added onto some of the 2D focused levels, meaning that nudging the stick ever so slightly can throw Crash of alignment with platforms. On more than one occasion, the good old D-pad saved my life on some of the tougher, classic levels.
Luckily, some of the agony of the original is quelled with the game saving after each level rather than forcing players to find save points within bonus levels. If you’re new to the series, and jumping in for the first time, take the original Crash with a huge handful of salt; things get much better.
Of the three, the second, Cortex Strikes Back, has aged the best. Original developer Naughty Dog clearly learned a number of lessons after the original with the game still maintaining a tough level of platforming difficulty, but with a glimmer of hope to keep you coming back. When you miss a platform in Crash 2, you feel as though you know where you went wrong and that one more go should see you through. Twinned with the return of Death Routes - secret paths that open up if you reach them without dying - and more evenly balanced levels, Cortex Strikes Back offers the best all round experience offering the best platforming diversity, while maintaining much of the original game’s intentions.
If the remastered first game highlighted the unpredictability of early 3D platformers, the third game, Warped, highlights how the genre moved from its roots into something slightly different. Warped was always my favourite of the three growing up, but its reliance on gimmicky ‘vehicle-based’ levels and faux MetroidVania skill collecting - which makes the game easier rather than making places accessible - all feel outdated when held next to some of the more classic platforming levels. Compared to the previous two, Warped is also the easiest of the trio. With an abundance of wumpa fruits and extra lives seemingly littered across every stage, you’ll find yourself with well over 30 lives for much of the game.
In a word, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is bittersweet. It’s massively enjoyable to be able to visit one of the classic titles of the original PlayStation era, up-rezzed and with all the bells and whistles of the current-gen console - it’s as much of a love story to the character as it is a full remaster.
The term ‘built from the ground up’ is thrown about around the industry carelessly from time to time, but it is truly applicable in this case. While everything has been fully recreated, from Crash’s Pixar-inspired design to the more vibrant and colourful environments, it’s not just a shinier version of the original. Vicarious Visions have gone above and beyond, adding in Coco as a playable character for all levels complete with her own death animations and skillset as well as adding in time trials to the original game. It’s everything you’d want from a remaster and more. The only downside is that there is no way to switch between old graphics and new: a little more history would have been great.
Everything in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is still as you remember: Crash’s idiotic faces, the unforgettable soundtrack and even the placement of crates has remained the same. It’s the perfect call back for every Crash fan. Yes, some of the series’ flaws still creep through into the 2017 version, but it wouldn’t be a remaster without some of the infuriating memories of the original. Crash Bandicoot is finally back and better than ever. Like all those years ago, despite the urge to put your controller through the screen, somehow the infectious look and sound keep you coming back for more.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is bittersweet. Having the unmissable marsupial back is a great throwback the 3D platformers of the late 90s, but for all of the nostalgia, the trilogy highlights some of the genre's weakest elements. A must play for original fans, and one new players should take with a pinch of salt.