He’s finally back people! Crash Bandicoot (the original star of the PlayStation) has risen from the dead to grant us a blast into the past! But the massive question is this: “Is Crash’s return triumphant, or simply an idea that was best left buried?”
It’s fair to say that Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was going to have a lot to live up to. I mean, it is trying to revitalise one of the greatest platforming franchises of all times to both new and old fans. The new fans needed to be wowed, whilst the old fans needed to reminded of why they loved the mutated Bandicoot in the first place. With that expectation alone you’re kind of shooting yourself in the head before production has even begun. Nevertheless, it was up to Vicarious Visions to make this idea a reality (and preferably not fuck-it-up in the process).
Now, Vicarious Visions aren’t strangers to Crash Bandicoot, having already produced the Gameboy Advance range (featuring Crash Bandicoot XS, Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Trance, and Crash Fusion [which is connected to Spyro Fusion]), and I have to say their past work made me somewhat satisfied that they were taking on this massive project. Sure, I’m massively disappointed that the honour wasn’t given to Naughty Dog (given they were Crash’s creator [and are the best game-developers out there]), but nevertheless, the franchise seemed to be in safe hands (or so I thought).
Vicarious Visions had already proven that they could take the fun and exciting aspect of Naughty Dog’s design and structure and apply it to their own needs (producing some confident looking games that really felt to have gotten the tone of Crash Bandicoot down to a near teat [making you feel like you were playing portable extensions of the original trilogy]). So, it didn’t seem like much of a task to simply do this again (only bring back the original trilogy instead) but from the start this game felt off to me, whether it be the style they went for, the somewhat dodgy looking upgrades to the level designs, or because even Vicarious Visions weren’t sure what Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy actually was.
What I mean by this is they never made it abundantly clear as to whether or not we were receiving a re-master or a reboot. They spoke about how the game was clearly a re-imagining of the original trilogy, reconstructing the level designs and gameplay elements that Naughty Dog had implemented for a new generation, but at the same time they added in brand-new elements which made it completely different from the originals. This right there made me anxious, and playing the game has only made me more fucking confused.
Right now I can’t tell you whether I’m digging this new instalment or whether or not I absolutely fucking hate it. Allow me to explain…
Fundamentally, this latest instalment acts as a re-imagining of the original trilogy, trying its best to replicate why it was loved so much by the gaming community. It takes the original concept, level designs, and gameplay, and revamps it for 2017, giving Crash Bandicoot that needed kick into the 21st Century (I know he’d already transitioned with us but not all of him came along, and in the process gradually started to decay and die a slow painful death [until his recent resurrection, which seems to have done the trick]).
Everything you could possibly ask for from this clear re-master is here. You get the experience of the original trilogy with the glamorous reworking of modern graphics. But, for me personally, the levels aren’t all terrifically constructed, with some levels suffering clear lighting issues and textual problems (which I found took me out of the moment of celebrating Crash’s triumphant return and made me wonder whether or not his welcome-home party was given the treatment is so rightfully deserved).
Luckily from initial release trailers to now I have been proven wrong about a lot of my concerns with the level designs, as for the most part they look stunning, absolutely capturing the spirit of the original levels and elevating their glory into starlight (particularly with some of the colourisation that includes the change in daylight [I’m looking at you Medieval levels]).
Honestly, some of these levels are clearly more bold and mesmerising than the originals (and that’s what we want to see, we want Crash Bandicoot to be improved and look even more stunning than ever before [otherwise what’s the fucking point of this re-master?]) Heck, sometimes I got so lost in playing the game that I thought I was playing the original (showcasing how symmetrical the levels looked next to the originals [with the only clear difference being the latter’s jump to HD]).
When it came to Vicarious Visions adding things, this is where I’m stuck in the middle because on the one hand you’ve got some needed improvements (ultimately make this rendition superior to the originals) but on the other hand you have elements added that only seem to hinder the overall product rather than elevate it.
I think Crash Bandicoot certainly gets some of the best treatment as all the shit that I fucking hated from Crash’s original instalment (and if you read my review then you’ll know I hated it with a passion [specifically since these faults caused me to never complete the game]) were completely removed. I was almost start crying because of how happy I was playing this version of the game knowing that all the frustration and hatred was taken away by pure bliss as I calmly snuggled up against Crash and gently shagged his brains out (oh, I’ve missed him so much).
Remember when you couldn’t collect the gem unless you collected all the boxes without dying? Not a problem anymore. Remember when you couldn’t see how many items you needed to collect before the end of a level? Not a problem anymore. Remember when you could only save your progress by collecting the three Tawna tokens, before having to complete a bastard-hard bonus stage without dying? Not a problem anymore. And remember when you couldn’t play as Coco…? Oh, yeah! You can now play as Coco Bandicoot in the first two Crash Bandicoot instalments (cleverly incorporated through the means of using the time-travel portals from Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped).
Crash Bandicoot felt as though it was playing like its sequels, thus having a fairer structure when it came to progressing the game. Gone are the fucking annoying challenges (that nearly made me pull my hair out!) and hello to more modern attachments, such as auto-save. Yes, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy works off an auto-save system, to which your progress is saved on a regular basis (more notably when you leave a level [with game-overs still being an inevitable threat if you lose all your lives, but of course your progress will remain secure]).
As for the Tawna tokens, you still collect them, only this time to access a repeatable bonus area (similar to the sequels). The boxes in these areas now add towards the box-total, meaning the areas are still compulsory if you want to collect the gems, but you have a fairer chance of succeeding now you have unlimited attempts (without costing you any lives). And when it comes to the bullshit of finding Tawna hiding out in the trees all over the islands (making you wonder why the fuck you were even risking your fur to rescue the bitch) this too has been salvaged by showing us Dr. Neo Cortex recapturing her at the end of each bonus area.
It’s the little things like this that makes playing Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy so enjoyable, making it the definitive version of the Crash games. But, the problems soon begin to creep in, making me want to take that last statement, shove it up my arse so hard that I vomit it out, before re-eating the statement to start the vicious cycle all over again in reverse.
Now, to be fair, I will give Vicarious Visions this moment of clemency because there was no good way of going about making this game without making enemies. They could’ve either made each Crash game different within their gameplay (thus accommodating the different structures) or kept the gameplay consistent thus to not confuse its audience. They went with the latter and by God! does this make playing the first two games completely fucking unbearable at times.
One main way you can fuck-up developing a video game is having a gameplay and level design that are complete polar opposites, meaning they don’t compliment one another and end-up creating a broken and unfair game for the player to endure. This is kind of what happens here by using the gameplay of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped for its predecessors. It’s not a good fucking idea. Vicarious Visions went to all the trouble of staying faithful to Naughty Dog’s vision, right down to the way the levels looked and felt so that they replicated the originals. But, by adding gameplay that doesn’t function within those level structures results in Crash being unable to complete his own fucking adventure.
Very early on I noticed that Crash felt off, like something didn’t feel right, something that wasn’t there in the originals. And after much trial and error (and a bit of research [oh, how I despise that fucking word]) I came to the conclusion that Crash now operated like a sack of shit, tumbling straight to the ground instead of leaping over each obstacle. The amount of times I got game-overs trying to endure “Native Fortress” was fucking unreal. Sure, I was laughing alongside my older sister (who was delightfully watching me play at the time, whilst wrapping her head in nostalgia) as I tried my hand at Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back instead (although internally I was just fucking baffled and slightly fuming over the broken controls).
This shit got even fucking worse when I eventually got round to the infamous “The High Road”. That level can go fuck itself as far as I’m concerned because it was bastard-hard to begin with without applying Vicarious Visions’ fucking logic to it (to which I ended up walking along the pissing ropes in order to reach the end).
It’s by this point I began to question the studios common sense as it seemed like on the surface they knew what they were doing, i.e. bringing an iconic franchise back to life with care and respect, whilst fixing the bugs that needed to be fixed, when suddenly you’re confronted with decisions that completely break the game, problems that didn’t even need fixing in the first place. What the fuck is going on here?! Can we have some consistency people?!
There were so many moments in both Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back where I went to jump over a perfectly harmless hole only to fall to my death as I clipped the edge of the platform I was aiming for. You can’t have fucking heavy jump mechanics and precision fucking platforming in the same fucking game! Are you sniffing glue over there Vicarious Visions, or just plain fucking retarded with your thought-process?!
I even found that the animal levels were slightly fucked in the way the controls felt incredibly stiff, to the point it felt like I was forcing my analog stick violently in the direction I wanted Crash to go in order to ensure the little orange prick didn’t go and die on me. But, in some places it felt smoother, especially when it came to collecting boxes (but then the fucking ridiculous leap would come into play and then shoot me in the bollocks – how far does that fucking hog, polar bear, tiger, and dinosaur want to jump?!)
Speaking of vehicle sections, I found that the motorbike and plane mechanics in Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped had been aptly adjusted, making for a much smoother and more enjoyable experience. When it came to the planes (for example) I found the firing rate was more accurate and could reach further than the original, meaning I could shoot down both the blimps and the bombers before even reaching them (saving me a shit-ton of time). But, then the problems would resurface. For the motorcycle levels we lacked a fucking drift like in the originals, meaning those tight turns become a bitch to get around. And then I got to “Rings of Power” and no more needs to be said except, “I fucking hate that level more now than I did back then!”
And then you even got the Wumpa Bazooka getting updated, with tighter aiming and a longer range, making it much easier (and more fun) to take out enemies and obstacles. I found I used this weapon far more than I did in the original because it simply worked more efficiently now. But then we have those fucking loading screens (and you better get used to Aku Aku’s smug fucking face because you’ll be seeing it a lot!). After every level, before every level, fuck, you even need one to access the fucking menu (let alone the individual game you click on).
As for the music, oh dear… This is where the inconsistency between being a re-master and a reboot mostly lies because you can hear the original themes screeching out, trying desperately to be heard, but then the remix kicks in and drowns the original theme underneath a pool of blood which is dripping from Josh Mancell‘s slit throat. There were some rare occasions that I didn’t actually mind the revamp as it felt faithful whilst trying to be more hip for the modern era. And there were just times were I felt that Vicarious Vision just mascaraed a classic (what did they fucking do to the “Polar Bear” theme?)
And the less said about the voice-acting the better.
It seems like for every solid good point within Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy there’s a really dull fucking negative that jumps out at me and wants to strangle me, thus making my experience playing this pissing game for the last week quite painful (which I’m sure is the exact opposite I was supposed to be feeling [unless Vicarious Visions are just a bunch of fucking trolls out to get me]). I actually got really excited when playing Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back upon realising I’d gotten further than I ever did playing the original (mostly because of the helpful hints that appear before every level, indicating what obstacles to look out for, how to access secret areas, and the method to which you collect certain items).
But then I was ambushed by annoying-as-fuck obstacles created by Vicarious Visions (ultimately destroying all their good work by undoing it with fucking idiotic creative decisions that didn’t need to be made in the first place). A lot of the things that were added clearly benefited this rendition of the original trilogy, granting you an all new way to experience your favourite platforming mascot. Unfortunately, there are many things that are changed which make these games a lot harder than their supposed to be, combined with the reoccurring problems featured within the original games that Vicarious Visions failed to improve on, making this entire game completely inconsistent in both quality and execution.
So it’s fair to say that I am really disappointed by all of this. I know I didn’t go in with high hopes because the publicity sealed the deal in telling me what I was getting (a product that doesn’t completely represent the Crash Bandicoot I grew up with) but when the game actually started to win me over, only to then shit in my face through a massive Dyson fan, meant that I was less impressed when I actually became disappointed. I would be lying if I said I completely hated my experience playing this game, because there were many moments of pure enjoyment, but the moments never lasted as either the new/or old problems kept on resurfacing to make my experience become unbearable (to the point I was only continuing to play for the sake of pride [and to make this review as fair and annalistic as possible]).
All I will say is be prepared for many problems (which I hope are fixed upon future patches). It’s not the Crash Bandicoot I wanted, but it certainly could’ve been a hell of a lot worse. Maybe my nostalgia and clear devotion to the mutated Bandicoot is swaying my decision here, or it could be because I’m shit at the games, who knows, but I can’t deny the disappointment plastered all over this review. So be warned going into this game (especially if you’re a massive Crash fan like myself) because you might not be totally satisfied. But, if you did walk away enjoying this game then “all the best to you”. But for me, it’s far from what I believe Crash deserved for his mighty return to the PlayStation.