Crash Bandicoot was the beautiful beginning of a beloved series. A beloved series that turned ugly later on.
|Publisher||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Purchase (PS1)||Purchase from eBay.|
Sooooooo. Crash Bandicoot. We meet again. We once thought that you would become the video game mascot for the Sony game consoles. But since your decline in the PlayStation 2 days, this seemed to be no longer the case. But now, you have shown your face again with the PlayStation 4 remastered edition, Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy. Does this mean a series revival is at hand? We can only wait and see.
And no, I am not a fan of his makeover in the Skylanders series, just like with Spyro the Dragon.
Man, do I have a story for you guys. Once upon a time, there was a little boy who didn’t have a game console after his NES got sold. Then one day, his parents bought a PlayStation. And among the group of games is a title known as Crash Bandicoot.
Crash Bandicoot was a wonderful experience for the little boy at first. But he was heartbroken to find that the game disc was faulty and would only go as far as the end of the second level. The third level refused to load. So his parents swapped for another disc. Once again, the same problem. So after god knows how long, we finally got a disc that works that lets us play the rest of the damn game.
And we were met with some of the most brutal 3D platforming on the game system. The little boy cried salty tears.
Mario the Hedgehog Meets N. Sanity
Alright, alright. Maybe that’s too melodramatic, but the faulty discs thing was at least true. Imagine when you’re that young and you realized how fragile a game disc can be. Sort of like a game world just died, along with everyone and everything in it. Silly, right? But once we got a working copy of the game, we found that Crash Bandicoot was quite the punishing game.
So, our story was that Crash was a mutated bandicoot created by Dr. Neo Cortex, whose design was inspired by Brain from the Animaniacs spinoff, Pinky and the Brain. No seriously, look it up. After the current experiment failed, Crash escaped from the lab. This leaves only Tawna, a female bandicoot who Crash wanted to romance and whose design was inspired by Pamela Anderson.
You thought I was fucking around? NO. Tawna is basically an anthropomorphic bandicoot version of Pamela Anderson. She even got the blonde hair and big boobs! And the character never made a major appearance again after this game, because she was too sexy. Even back then, parents were afraid of their kids turning into furries. This blew my mind when I first read about it. It’s just… ha ha, it’s too funny… but they did change Tawna’s design for the N. Sane Trilogy.
Which, to be honest, I think would still turn people furry. Now that she’s HD and all.
So as you can hear from the intro movie, the voice acting was nothing spectacular and that was pretty much the only fully rendered cutscene in the entire game. But these were the early days of the PlayStation and this was Naughty Dog’s first venture into the system. So, I can’t fault it for taking its first foot forward.
Crash Bandicoot was one of the earliest 3D platformers on the PlayStation. As a creature who can run on two legs, Crash can jump and use his signature spin attack to break crates and defeat enemies. So basically, if you’re familiar with how a Mario or a Sonic game plays, you’ll pick up on this right away.
Crates/boxes comes in many different varieties. Most of the time, they contain wumpa fruits (which are basically this game’s version of coins/rings). Any box with Crash’s face on it contains an extra life. The dark brown boxes made from planks can be jumped and reward up to 10 wumpa fruits. Boxes with an arrow pointing up act as trampolines. And TNT boxes can be detonated when jumped on, but will explode immediately if you use the spin attack on them (which, of course, you DON’T want to do).
Some boxes contain the mask of Aku Aku, the guardian spirit who protects Crash from harm. He acts more or less like Crash’s health meter, allowing Crash to be hit up to three times before losing a life. Whenever Aku Aku is a bright orange color, collecting one more mask will give Crash some temporary invincibility and increased speed. Just keep in mind that Crash is still vulnerable to obstacles that immediately kill him, such as falling into pits.
This is all well and fine. But if you think Crash Bandicoot is an easy game, BA HA HA HA! No. Just no.
This game makes it painfully clear that it doesn’t fuck around. If you don’t play its rules exactly to a tee, you will die. A LOT. While Crash Bandicoot is ripe with great level design, it also suffers from slightly clunky controls.
It’s unnoticeable at first but Crash doesn’t always come to a full stop when you stop moving him. Similar to how the original Super Mario Bros. worked, your controlled character’s momentum slowly decreases. This can easily make you fall off platforms when you don’t time your stops carefully. The same goes for jumping here. Steering your jumps, especially with the PlayStation controller’s d-pad, can be quite difficult. This is during a period in gaming where PlayStation controllers DID NOT have joysticks. Just the d-pad. And you WISHED this game lets you use joysticks, because it can kill your thumbs quickly.
There are also quite a few levels that require strict precision and timing to clear. Combined with how Crash controls, these are the main sources of the first game’s difficulty. There are also moments when the camera works against you, sometimes making you feel like you’re taking an eye exam for depth perception. So this game deserves a subtitle.
Crash Bandicoot: Prepare to Die Edition
Well, it’s true.
For example, the two levels where you have to run away from a moving boulder. I guarantee you that the fourth level in the game will be your first major roadblock, because of the ball-breaking difficulty these boulder levels possess. If you so much move in any direction other than downward for ONE MILLISECOND (which is quite difficult NOT to do with a d-pad), the boulder crushes you! It’s so stupidly precise and strict, especially if you want to go for 100% completion for this game. The problem is that the boulder moves FASTER than you.
So your only chance of finishing these boulder levels without dying is to keep going down and only make very subtle taps to the side only when necessary. This means that you need to memorize where the box locations will be. Only then you can clear these levels out of your conscience.
Oh, and those two hog levels? Don’t trust your eyes. If you thought you’re not going to hit moving obstacles in them, chances are it’s going to be the complete opposite. Good luck with that.
How’d you like your bandicoot boobies?
Throughout some levels, you may find character tokens hidden inside crates. Collecting three of the same token will take you to a bonus stage. This is a great opportunity to collect extra wumpa fruits and extra lives. The most common of these is the Tawna tokens, which are the easiest to complete and will reward you by saving your game.
Yes. You only get TWO different opportunities to save your game. Completing one of these Tawna bonus stages or collecting a gem. Which one you gonna choose, huh?
The N. Brio bonus stages are uncommon and somewhat difficult, but they offer a lot of extra lives. There is no special reward for completing them, so it’s fine if you fuck up in these.
Sadistic level design, thy name is Crash.
However, the N. Cortex bonus stages are the rarest and most important of the bonus stages, especially for completionists. You HAVE to complete these stages so that you can acquire a key that unlocks a secret level. Thankfully, there are only two of these bonus stages in the entire game and you won’t have too much trouble completing them. Unfortunately, getting the tokens is another story, as they’re in two of the most difficult stages in the game.
The bosses are nothing special, but figuring out how to fight them can be an annoying process. It’s a matter of when, where and how to strike them. For example, you can only damage Papu Papu by jumping on his head. Or for Ripper Roo, you have to set off TNT boxes and hope that the explosions hit him.
Even the final boss, Dr. Neo Cortex, isn’t too hard once you figured how you can hurt him. These fights may be trial and error in nature, but you’ll catch on pretty quick.
The REAL Difficult Stuff
So you might be thinking to yourself why you sometimes see this screen after completing a level and how you missed so many boxes. Well, it’s for collecting gems, of course! And if you want to finish the game at 100%, you need to get all 26 gems.
But how do you get gems? Well, easy.
- Break all boxes in the level.
- You can’t die in the level, not even once. If you die, you have to exit the level and start from the beginning.
Did I say easy? I meant easier said than done. Because good god, you’re going to hate this challenge. If you thought just completing the individual levels was hard, then gem-collecting is the point where you take the disc out of the system and throw it out through your window.
You might be wondering why you sometimes see random blots of color in a level. And when you get close to them, they vanish. Well, that’s because you’re missing the colored gems that will transport you to secret areas in the level. And where do you get colored gems?
You can potentially collect them from levels on the final island, from completing some of the most difficult stages in the game. That is, except the green gem, which you get from the Lost City level on the second island. So if you’ve been wondering why you missed so many crates in so many levels, THAT IS WHY. You NEED those colored gems to get the majority of the colorless gems.
So once you put yourself through a punishing series of trials, you will get all 26 gems and 2 keys. And what does this get you? A non-canon, anti-climatic alternate ending.
Urge to kill rising…
If you want to save yourself the trouble, I’ll explain the alternate ending. Crash uses all his colorless gems to reach Tawna and the two escape from Dr. Cortex’s island, via giant bird. A final confrontation never happens, but every boss character has an epilogue.
Papu sold the ruins of Castle Cortex to a resort developer. He then used the proceeds to open a big and tall shop on the island.
Ah, how the mighty have fallen. I meant Cortex, not the big chieftain himself.
After intense therapy and eight years of higher education, Dr. Roo went on to write the well received book Through the Eye of the Vortex: a Study of Rapid Evolution and its Consequences.
The funny thing is that Dr. Roo reappeared in the game’s sequel, still as nutty as ever. I guess the therapy was ineffective.
Koala Kong moved to Hollywood and landed a motion picture deal of universal proportions.
Get it? Because Universal Interactive Studios distributed this game. Since Hollywood was mentioned, I wondered if he crossed paths with the cast of Cats Don’t Dance. Any ’90s kid remember that movie? Horrendously underrated.
Currently he is working with a speech therapist to improve his diction.
I didn’t know he could talk.
Pinstripe moved to Chicago, where he now owns and operates a city wide sanitation company. He is saving money for his upcoming gubernatorial campaign.
Gubernatorial, huh? That’s a funny word.
Dr. Nitrus Brio
After the disappearance of his mentor, Dr. Nitrus Brio rediscovered his first love: tending bar.
I wonder if he makes his own cocktails while Dr. Cortex is doing who-kn0ws-what. I could see anyone under Cortex’s employment getting drunk on the job.
Dr. Neo Cortex
The world has heard nothing more of Cortex since Crash foiled his plans… But evil geniuses are harder to squash than cockroaches.
Perhaps so, but he gets more weak-willed and cowardly as the games progress. In fact, this is probably the most sinister portrayal we’ve ever seen from Cortex.
Well, I can at least say that the alternate ending was an amusing read. And I have bragging rights for completing this game 100%.
But you thought it’s over, right? Well, not exactly. I could end this here, buuuuuut…
Secret Level: Stormy Ascent
There’s a secret level. However, this one is special. It is actually an incomplete and glitchy level that wasn’t selectable in the final version of the game, but the code still remained. So the only way you can play it is hacking it with a GameShark and inputting these codes:
Stormy Ascent. Imagine if you take one of the most difficult levels in the game, Slippery Climb, and make it even more difficult. Whew. And let me tell you. I beat the first Crash Bandicoot many times before. But this level kicked my ass over fifteen times before I could complete it even once. It requires some of the strictest and most precise jumps in a Crash Bandicoot level, especially for the retracting platforms and stairs. Imagine if this level got completed for the final version of the game and you would try to get its gem. I guarantee that it would be the toughest level in the game (if not the entire series), for that alone.
But if you’re feeling confident, give this one a run. It’s tough. It’s glitchy. But it’s still beatable.
So that was the original Crash Bandicoot. How does it hold up? Actually… it holds up surprisingly well for an early 3D platformer. The controls are pretty good for the era, flawed as they were. With some polish (and good joystick functionality), this can be bypassed.
While the graphics have clearly aged and you can practically count the polygons on the models, they still hold up better than many old PlayStation games I played. You could even make the argument that the polygonal looks of the characters actually make them seem stylized. Maybe not intentional, but something to consider.
The music is reasonably catchy too. It starts off as pleasant and a little bouncy, but it gets more sinister and darker as you progress through the levels. Especially the more difficult ones.
Seriously, look at this level called Generator Room.
This level used to creep me out as a kid. I thought those were mind control screens.
Now listen to the theme associated with it.
The later games in the series do get more lighthearted and goofy as they progress, so the first Crash Bandicoot is a bit of an unusual specimen. It has some dark undertones, oddly enough. In spite of the cartoonish setting, some of the enemies look freaky with their polygonal appearances. And some of the environments look like you’ve wandered into post-apocalyptic settings, like poisonous industrial plants and poorly lit temples full of deathtraps, cobras and spiders.
It would definitely be interesting to see what Vicarious Visions can do with these strangely dark themes. But for the sake of preserving of what made this game cool to begin with, I’m hoping these themes remained.
Also, it feels odd to say this (considering how much I praised this game and loved it at a young age), but this game is missing one characteristic: charm. It’s truly odd, indeed, but the original Crash Bandicoot feels like a generic 3D platformer. Now that I’m much older since the game first came out, I can better express my thoughts. The story and characters were nothing special. It’s only until the later games that I truly feel the series is establishing an identity for itself, starting with the direct sequel. If you reskinned this game with different characters, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that it was once a Crash Bandicoot game.
It’s an odd criticism, but it ultimately doesn’t detract from the game. While the original Crash Bandicoot is the most difficult of the PS1 trilogy (and probably the least enjoyable), it’s still a worthwhile game for those who love challenging platformers. If that appeals to you, try this game out. Or you could pick up the N. Sane Trilogy for remastered versions of the whole trilogy.
Crash BandicootPrice Varies
- The simple 3D platforming gameplay worked really well for its time, and still did good today.
- The level design was great, teaching you about the game's hazards without the need to look up a guide for them.
- Though it clearly looks like an older PS1 game, its cartoonish look actually compliments the low-polygonal models pretty well.
- The soundtrack is decent.
- Depending on where you come from, the completionist route is a great challenge for those who like tough games.
- The controls feel a bit slippery at times, making precise jumps more tricky to perform.
- The camera sometimes works against your depth perception.
- The game originally lacked joystick capabilities.