Crash Bandicoot evokes strong memories in me, as it was my first foray into the world of Sony PlayStation. As a 12-year-old back in 1996 in the North West of England, I had asked for a PlayStation for Christmas as had my elder brother. We decided one day whilst our parents were out, that we would have a root around for our Christmas presents and we struck gold (well more orange then gold); we had a PlayStation with Crash Bandicoot. Being from a large working-class family we knew we had to share, but this is one of those times that caused more fights than normal as we both wanted to play on the PS at the same time, especially on Crash Bandicoot. No matter what games we got over the years we still went back to play the Crash Bandicoot games time and time again.
Flash forward to 2017 and the news that Crash Bandicoot was being remastered into the N. Sane Trilogy; full remasters of Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot Warped games made me feel overjoyed and nostalgic. Along with Super Mario Bros. and Sonic The Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot was one of the games of my childhood, and here was a game that we could share with a new, younger generation and in some cases, even our own children.
Crash Bandicoot was released in 1996. It was created by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin for Developer Naughty Dog and it was produced and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Crash is a Bandicoot created by the hands of Doctor Neo Cortex and henchman Doctor Nitrus Brio. The story follows Crash as he aims to prevent the Doctor Cortex’s plan for world domination whilst also trying to rescue his girlfriend Tawna.
The game is set on a group of three fictional Australian islands owned by Doctor Neo Cortex. Levels are set in tribesman’s villages, fortresses, beaches, temple ruins, bridges above mountains, a large power plant and even a volcanic mine across the three islands. Typically of games from this era, you follow a set path and only got to advance to the next level when you had completed the level before it. As you progress, the levels get harder so there are no difficulty settings. You also have a limited number of lives to complete the level, although these could be topped up by collecting 100 Wumpa Fruits or collecting an extra life from some special crates. You can also get some protection by collecting an Aku Aku mask which will allow you to be hit by an enemy or obstacle. Crash can hold two masks at a time, if you collect a third you will have a time-limited period of invincibility.
To truly complete the game, you have to collect all the gems and keys. The gems can be collected by destroying all the crates on each level on a single run-through, to get a perfect level. You will find different types of crates throughout the levels, most of which will contain items such as wumpa fruit or Aku Aku masks but some also contain extra lives. You can break the boxes by jumping on them or spinning into them, TNT boxes will, however, explode and kill you if you spin into them. However, if you jump onto them they will have a countdown timer giving you a chance to escape before they explode. To destroy all of the crates you need to go through the bonus part of the levels; to gain access in this game you must collect three Tawna tokens that are available in crates throughout the levels.
The enemies seem quite dated now as they don’t react to your presence and travel on a pre-determined path, but the visuals make up for the simplicity of the game, making full use of effects such as lighting and motion blur to give the games a fresh modern feeling and look. The remaster even gets rid of the angular look that was standard in that era of gaming technology. You also now have the option of playing as Coco when you get past the first boss. She has the same controls as Crash but she can’t compete in some missions like the Hog levels.
A great aspect of the game that I’m glad hasn’t been changed, is the things Crash does when you don’t move him. He performs tricks with a yo-yo, break dances or spins some fruit on his finger like the Harlem globe trotters used to do with a basketball; all quintessential 90’s things. It just wouldn’t be the same if Crash got out a fidget spinner, phone, or performed a more updated dance like the floss!
The controls are very simple on the game. Left analog stick to move (although you can use the D-Pad for those trickier jumps), Square for the spin attack, X for jump and triangle for Inventory, which in this game displays the information about the number of collected fruits, crates found in the level and how many lives you have left. I still struggled with the controls on the first game like I did back in 1996, especially on the levels going left to right. With the ability to move forward and back when you jump, it meant some big falls for me but this adds to the difficulty and I found I didn’t get as frustrated as when I played the game originally.
Crash bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back was released in 1997, Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin were involved in this game as well with it again being developed by Naughty Dog and produced and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The story follows Crash who is kidnapped by Dr Cortex, who tricks Crash into believing he wants to save the world, but to do so he requires Crash to gather crystals on different areas of the fictional N. Sanity Island to allow Dr Cortex to contain the power of a planetary alignment that will ensure the planet won’t be destroyed. Crash is warned against helping Dr Cortex by his sister Coco and Dr Nitrus Brio, Dr Cortex’s former assistant.
During the game you have a choice to make, collect the crystals for Dr Cortex or collect gems for Dr Brio, to enable him to stop Dr Cortex’s plans. The first difference you see between this game and the first Crash is that you have an initial choice of 5 levels in a warp room, you can play these 5 games in any order you want. Once completed you will then face a boss who you need to beat to get past this level.
The next change is the addition of Crouch (if standing still), Slide (if running) or a belly flop (if you’re in the air) by pressing O, Boost when using the surfboard by pressing Square, run faster (Only available if you have the Speed Shoes which are the reward for beating the final boss) or Fly backward when using the Jet Pack by pressing L2 and Fly Forward when using the Jet Pack by pressing R2.
The levels remain similar to the original Crash in the style of Left to Right platform, levels going front to back and the great levels where you get chased by things like a boulder. They do mix things up slightly by adding in jetpacks and surfboards, but the levels do start to feel a bit repetitive especially if, like me, you die a few times. A change to the structure is the open Bonus area where you no longer need to collect certain tokens to unlock the area.
Crates remain a big part of this game whilst also introducing a new dangerous crate called Nitro, this is a green crate that will kill you instantly if you spin or jump onto it, the best way to destroy them is blow up a TNT box near it or aim an enemy towards the crate when spin attacking them.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was released in 1998, Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin were involved in this game as well with it again being developed by Naughty Dog and produced and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The story follows directly on from the end of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. The ruins of the Cortex Vortex crash lands on Earth and releases an evil entity known as Uka Uka, Aku Aku’s evil younger twin brother. Uka Uka joins forces with Dr Cortex and a time obsessed villain who goes by the name of Dr Nefarious Tropy to collect powerful crystals that have been spread out over different time periods, to enslave Earth.
It is up to Crash and Coco to collect these crystals first to stop the evil plan in its tracks. Originally this was the first game to introduce Coco as a playable character. The level selection this time around is the Time-Twisting machine which is split up into five chambers, only one chamber is available initially; each chamber has five buttons that opens a portal to different levels. To complete each level you need to find the crystal. The crystal can be found at times at the end of the level or can be earned during the level by completing a certain challenge.
The bonus areas on the levels are similar to Crash 2, whereas they are open without the need to collect anything, again no lives are lost in the bonus area and can be attempted as many times as required until the area is cleared. After completing all five levels in a chamber, a portal will open to a boss. Only after defeating the boss will the next chamber unlock. There are 25 crystals to collect during the game, so 25 levels and 5 bosses. Only when all crystals are collected and the bosses destroyed will you complete the game.
The controls change again for this game to incorporate new elements. Left Analog or D-Pad is still used for moving Crash or Coco about, Square is still a spin attack but now also has the ability to turn into a tornado (when you obtain the Death Tornado skill) and Glide (tap the button when in the air), Triangle is still to show the inventory, X is jump but you can now hold it longer to perform a long jump. It enables you to swim faster underwater too. When you unlock the Double Jump skill you can tap X twice to perform this. You can now also use X while piloting. O introduces Fire Bazooka and Air Brake (while piloting) to its uses. L2 is used to aim the bazooka, R2 adds accelerate whilst on the motorcycle or Jet Ski and fire machine guns whilst in the plane.
Again, crates play a big part of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, with them being destroyed as per the other two games. All the Nitro boxes can be destroyed in one go by hitting a green coloured crate with an exclamation mark. Destroying all the crates is necessary to get all the gems on each level. Crystals, gems and coloured gems can all be collected throughout the game.
The levels in Warped are more imaginative then the previous games; trips to the Middle Ages, containing wizards and knights, prehistoric levels, containing pterodactyls and a triceratops that chases you through a level, Arabian levels containing swordsman and genies, Egyptian levels featuring the great pyramids and mummies, futuristic levels with robots and lasers and so on.
Personally, my favourite levels on the Crash games were the levels where you get chased by an item like a boulder, Indiana Jones style and the levels where you can ride something like a wild hog or a tiger through the level. They were more reactive and about thinking on your feet which is what grabs my interest more.
I’m glad these games got a remaster and although they don’t take as long to play through as I remember they are great fun to pick up and play when you want something quick and simple. With the release across different playing platforms, it means more players can pick up the game and explore the franchise. The quality of the remaster is high on the PS4, Xbox One and PC, but the game does look slightly poorer on the Nintendo Switch. However, that is combatted by the ability to play on the move which the other platforms don’t have.