Although it's not perfect, Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy's whimsical platforming gameplay provides fans with a hearty dose of nostalgia.
I’m not going to lie, this is probably the gaming review I’ve been most looking forward to do all year, possibly all the time I’ve been writing for The Edge. Ever since the HD collection of Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped was announced last year, I’ve been meticulously writing up ever titbit of information that came out about the games. So, was it all worth it?
The answer is a difficult maybe. Without wanting to sit on the fence, it is difficult to really appraise a remaster. This is not a slight on Naughty Dog or Vicarious Visions – the original creator of Crash and the custodians in charge of bringing him back to his former glories respectively – as they have both created great video games. However, you find yourself wondering: ‘Couldn’t they have done more to jazz this up a bit?’
There are some welcome additions. Most notably, Coco Bandicoot is now available as a playable character for the majority of the game. She was previously restricted to shoe-horned cutscene cameos and occasional vehicle levels like jetsking through the Caribbean or riding a tiger down the Great Wall of China. Usual Crash fare. Coco plays very similar to Crash, with a slightly better jump in favour for a weaker melee attack, but this is a good compromise to balance it.
Secondly, the graphics look absolutely stunning. Gone are the blocky square plants and cumbersome background textures. In place, picture-postcard redesigns of classic levels like ‘Native Fortress’, ‘N-Sanity Beach’, ‘Hog Wild’, ‘Hang ’em High’, ‘Snow Way Out’, ‘Castle Machinery’. It all looks very sharp and sleek, obviously using the Playstation 4’s graphic rendering capabilities to the absolute maximum. The remastered sound retains the nostalgically whimsical platforming atmosphere, but the more powerful sound system means that the powerful fanfares and sound effects really come to the fore.
Controls wise, Crash Bandicoot is still rather frustrating in some aspects. By tightening the jumping and movement mechanics, Vicarious Visions have made a number of levels much more difficult. It’s no longer good enough to vaguely time your jumps, they all have to be perfect. Be prepared to die a lot in some of the later platform-based levels; ‘Slippery Climb’ still gives me nightmares for this exact reason. Whilst it isn’t an unwelcome difficultly spike, having compared the differences between both versions – Yes, I did get a Playstation One out to test this – even the more experienced Crash player will find N Sane Trilogy to be frustrating. The game is pacified by a generous sprinkling of free lives throughout almost every level, but don’t be surprised to find yourself dropping a life or ten on the same platform above a fire-pit or a spike on the later levels.
Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy isn’t without faults. I could write a whole essay on the absurdity of some of the Time Trial sections, but special recognition is due to ‘Hog Ride’ and ‘Area 51?’. If anyone can Platinum Relic these levels for me, I’ll pay you. Seriously. The driving controls are clumsy and lurch from side to side to the point that it becomes nauseating to play for too long. The boss battles are still rather repetitive, but this is an issue rooted in the age of the original game – processing power wasn’t as advanced back then. Although Crash Bandicoot holds a genuine niche in terms of its replay value with its additional paths and bonus sequences, bosses don’t feel anywhere near as challenging as they should; Cortex’s final battle in Crash Bandicoot 2 is probably the most disappointing climax to any platforming game I’ve ever played.
As a final few niggles, the game feels like it is crying out for some sort of multiplayer feature. Although you can play along with friends – swapping at every death and whatnot – I can’t help but feel if the game had included Crash: Tag Team Racing or even Crash Bash with both online and offline multiplayer, it would have been better received by fans and critics alike.
Although N Sane Trilogy is certainly a worthy revival for everyone’s favourite crate-bashing marsupial, it has the all-too-familiar feeling of a game that just needs a few tweaks to go from “very good” to “utterly outstanding”.
Crash Banditcoot: N. Sane Trilogy is now available for PS4. Check out some Coco Bandicoot gameplay below.