Retrospective: Crash Bandicoot

Retrospective: Crash Bandicoot

Before Nathan Drake, before Joel & Ellie and before Jak & Daxter there was another mascot from developers Naughty Dog that we all held close to our hearts. His name is Crash Bandicoot. Released on the original PlayStation back in 1996 Crash is a platforming game that sold the PS1 to a lot of people, myself included, and even saw Crash become an unofficial mascot for the PlayStation and Sony’s gaming venture at large. I can still remember playing this in my local electronics store and being blown away by how it played and how it looked. At the time both this and Tomb Raider would have, almost, made me kill to have a PS1, the graphics simply blew my mind and I couldn’t imagine them getting any better. How wrong I was. Question is though, how does it play 20 years later?

 Booting up the game treats me to familiar and comforting music that is a joy to listen to. In fact the music in general is just enjoyable, admittedly part of the reason I love it so much is nostalgia. It would be at this point I’d mention the story before moving on to the actual game, however, Naughty Dog don’t bother so neither will I. If you want to see the start to the story then boot up the game, don’t start it, wait on the title screen until the opening cut scene starts. Without waiting you are just chucked straight in to the action.

 As I’ve already mentioned Crash is a platform game, it has a fixed camera that will automatically follow you as you either run towards the screen, away from it or side to side. No analogue sticks or camera control required here. Moving Crash is assigned entirely to the D-pad, which was a standard at the time. Super Mario 64 and it’s brilliant use of the innovative N64 analogue stick was still a good four months away, in the UK at least. Going back to the D-pad after being spoilt by analogue sticks for all these years really is a challenge, one that takes some time to completely acclimatise to. Once it clicks again the game is still really fun to play.

 Being a platformer the objective will come as no great surprise; manoeuvre the heroic marsupial from beginning to end of each level all the while killing enemies, dodging traps and jumping over pitfalls, smashing boxes and collecting fruit along the way. The beauty lies in the simplicity; besides movement the only buttons you need to worry about are spinning and jumping. There are a variety of enemies on each level that, depending on their type, can be spun into oblivion or stomped to death. Some, like the flesh eating plants can only be killed by spinning while others can be jumped on to stop them killing you. There are also many boxes to use your jump or spin attacks on, but more on those later.

Crash Bandicoot

Crash has some serious ‘tude

Enemies aren’t the only way to meet your demise, there are plenty more. In the words of From Software, prepare to die. You’ll fall down holes, be crushed by boulders, smash into walls and spikes, get beaten by many enemies, catch fire, blow up, drown, be electrocuted and get shot. Along with plenty more I’m sure I have missed. There is a challenging game along with the simplicity, a good thing I’m sure we can all agree. The other use for the spin attack is boxes. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Crash loves it’s boxes and there are plenty of different ones to smash open. Sure there are the standard run of the mill variety that give goodies, there’s also ones that allow you to make multiple jumps on top of them, arrow boxes that propel you upwards, and TNT boxes that explode after 3 seconds from being jumped on first. During play there are even white outlines of boxes that will turn into actual smash-able boxes once another box is found, the ! box. You can probably tell that smashing boxes is a big part of the game. Breaking them will give out plenty of goodies. Some will act as checkpoints; others will give you wumpa fruits (Crash’s version of Mario’s coins), extra lives or masks. Speaking of the masks up to 3 can be collected at once, the first two act as a hit buffer, allowing Crash to take damage without being killed. Getting the third adds a limited amount of invincibility. Grab 100 wumpa fruits and an extra life is yours. Just be careful not to spin any of these items away as they are gone forever.

 In order to get 100% completion every box will need to be broken. Some levels will allow all boxes to be broken on the first run through; others will require a revisit once enough gems have been earned from later levels. Gems are earned in the same way by smashing all the boxes, they activate paths in prior levels allowing access to boxes that were otherwise unavailable. It can be frustrating at the end of a level when the game declares how good you are only to add the taunt of how many boxes you missed. Each unaccounted box is shown to smash over Crash’s head as a punishment. So learn those levels, earn those gems and hit every ! box that you see. All this might not seem too bad until the realisation sinks in that any death voids the levels box count. Each level has to be ace’d without dying. A great challenge for any gamer and one that, at the time of writing, has thus far eluded me, although I’m still trying.

Plenty of things are here for the completionist. Thank God for the save system. Sorry not God, what’s the other one? Oh yes, the bloody Devil. I may be exaggerating slightly, but the save system does suck. Getting to a certain level allows you the opportunity to save, first off though there is leg work to be done. 3 matching tokens are needed to be found in the level, hidden in the boxes, getting all 3 allows access to the bonus level and the ability to save the game. The bonus level is a side scrolling challenge that requires you get from one side to the other, smashing boxes and gaining lives along the way. Clearly you will want to smash every single box and doing so gets harder and harder after each bonus level. The trouble is, fall off and you don’t get to save.

 Difficult as this game can be there is plenty for everyone to enjoy, later levels are incredibly difficult and will eat up extra lives, thankfully though it’s very easy to go back to the beginning few levels and earn plenty of spares. Some of the earliest levels are also some of the most enjoyable, a personal favourite of mine being “Hog Wild”. At the start Crash turn to camera giving us a very mischievous look before he jumps on top of a hog and rides him to the end of the level, avoiding tribe’s women, spikes and pitfalls. Making it more exiting is the fact that the hog can only be moved left to right and can jump, there is no way to stop him. It will always be my all time favourite level, slightly ahead of the level set on a dilapidated old bridge, “Road to Nowhere”.

There’s also the super password giving 100% completion and allowing access to every single level, not something I’d endorse and not something I’d ever use now or in the past, no sir. At a guess though it’s Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, X, Square, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Square, X, Triangle, Circle, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Circle, Square, Triangle, X, X, X, X. That could be wrong though, just a guess after all. *Ahem*

 Crash has been having a hard time of it recently and has never even come close to replicating his form of the original trilogy. The quality and popularity of the series since the first three has really, wait for it, crashed. I thoroughly enjoyed going back and replaying this classic and am looking forward to the upcoming re-release of the original trilogy. Here’s hoping they are treated with the love and respect that’s deserved allowing a new generation of gamers to discover the wonders of the Bandicoot.
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1 Comment

  1. Profile photo of Vincent 'PleasantKenobi' Chandler
    Vincent ‘PleasantKenobi’ Chandler January 15, 2017

    One of the best things about the earlier Crash Bandicoot games were the deaths. Every enemy or hazard seemed to have a unique and playful death animation for Crash. I used to go back to levels I had completed, and run into enemies I had previously dodged, just to see Crash impaled, turned to dust or frog or crushed. I loved it.

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