Nostalgia Review: Crash Bandicoot

The new Xbox and Playstation generation is well underway, with Titanfall, Outlast, and Assassin’s Creed IV (along with other games) getting praise and attention by gamers and critics alike. Gamers today are enjoying the glory that these new next gen games bring to our living rooms.  As amazing as these games are, sometimes it is beneficial to get a good dose of nostalgia and head back to the past. For the first Nostagia Game Review, we are heading to the early years of the first Playstation generation. We’ll jump into one of the first mascots for the Playstation ever existed and explore the first game featuring the mascot that is still in the hearts of older gamers today: Crash Bandicoot.

Who...me?

Who…me?

Two years after Playstation debuted as a console, Naughty Dog decided that it’s time for the 3D platforming to make its debut on the scene, and that’s where Crash Bandicoot was born.  The story of the game puts you as a quirky marsupial named Crash, who was mutated in result of a failed experiment made by Dr. Neo Cortex and Nitrus Brio in attempt to create a army of mutated animals to take over the world. After the Crash made it’s escape, Dr. Cortex wanted nothing more than the demise of that darn bandicoot (aside from world domination of course, just like any old evil scientist). You must navigate Crash through three Australian-based islands in order to get back to Cortex’s lab to save the world and save Crash’s girlfriend.

During the years where Mario and Sonic are dominating the platforming scene, Sony decided to have a platforming mascot of their own to try and go toe-to-toe with the platforming contenders by having the first 3D platform mascot. Like Mario and Sonic, Crash Bandicoot had its own basic platforming mechanics: run, jump, break cubical objects, accessing bonus levels, and jumping on enemies. These three mascots are the same in those aspects, but they each have something that sets them apart. Mario had some power ups that can enhance him in many ways to aid him on his quests to rescue Peach. Sonic had the speed to blaze through levels to get defeat Dr. Robotinik (or Eggman excuuuussee me). What did Crash have that differentiates him from the other two? Having the ability to break boxes and push away enemies by…spinning? As odd as the mechanic sounds, the designers managed to make the mechanic mesh well in the game. I’ll get more into that later.

Aside from the spinning mechanic, the developers decided to add a few more things to make the platforming game a bit more unique. Throughout the game, you’ll find boxes that you’ll break in order to obtain Wumpa fruits (aka the rings and coins of this game) and lives. In some boxes, you’ll find a floating mask companion named Aku Aku who will aid you in your quest as he protects you from enemy harm (as one-touch-can-kill rule also applies in this game). If you manage to collect three of the masks without getting hit, you are given brief invulnerability that’ll give you the ability to decimate anything in your path. Another thing that the developers decided to do for this major platforming mascot is to reward players for completing levels without dying and breaking every box to earn a gem. What would you get by getting all of the gems in the game? A secret ending that is accessible by a certain level. Of course, if you are ever so curious, you’ll have to find out for yourself!

As far as controls are concerned, you use the directional pad to control Crash’s movement. An odd choice of movement controls considering that Playstation had…you know…joysticks to use. Pressing X makes Crash jump and Square or Circle buttons makes Crash execute his spinning attack. That’s all there is for the controls. Why did they not add more to Crash’s movement is beyond me.

If there is anything good that came out of the lack of controls, it would be that the lack of action forced the level designers to be creative. They played with the idea of easing the player into the game with shorter and simpler levels before increasing the difficulty and length of the levels. Even in the later levels, the designers turned up the knob on their creativity and kept the environments in mind along with the spinning and jumping mechanics. Their creativity allowed the players to give adequate challenge in each level in the game based on these factors and it shows! Even in certain sections of the level that could be only accessed by certain colored gems, the developers carefully curved the difficulty of those special sections according to the what colored gem you used to access the section of the level. If I couldn’t say it enough, they have given a lot of thought into each and every level. And it shows. They even had the decency to implement some tutorials in the game without using text at all! Then again, text based tutorials are not as common as they are today.

If you compare the graphics of Crash Bandicoot to Titanfall or GTA V, you couldn’t help but to think that this game may not have the best graphics. But considering that this game is made in the era where 3D games are brand new, it is rather impressive. Old graphics, yes, but in the early 3D game era, the work done to make the environment flourish was amazing. For graphics being in 1996, they managed to make the water look impressive. They went into great detail for every entity added to the game, from the plants that serve as decoration into the piranha plants that can make you into their next meal. From the jungle levels to the cave levels to Dr. Neo Cortex levels, each environment is brilliantly colored to match the differentiating environments.

This is the graphics from 1996. Verryyy niiiccee!

This is the graphics from 1996. Verryyy niiiccee!

Geez Jake, it looks like you really enjoy the game so much! Is there anything that you don’t like about it? Well actually there is something that they could have done more to enhance the game play. Despite the fact that this is the first 3D platformer to feature a mascot and that the levels are well designed for the difficulty, the game play became a bit stale after a while due to the fact that the jumping and spinning became a bit boring. If Crash Bandicoot had one more move or two in its arsenal, the level designers could have had a field day making the levels even more memorable.

With all of the criticism aside, it felt great going back into this game years after I first played it at my aunt’s house. I never owned a copy of the game on my own until recently when I bought the PS3 at Black Friday and remembered that I could buy PSOne games at the PSN store. This was one of the first games I purchased, and it was worth the $6 that I spent on that game, and the experience I got from it was almost as magical as when I first played the game years ago. The level design and the graphics truly made this game impressive despite the lack of controls. I’d give this game 8.5 out of 10. If you have a PS3 and if you have yet to get Crash Bandicoot, do yourself a solid and pick up this game. While you are at it, why don’t you get Crash Bandicoot 2 and 3? They are both available if you are so curious.

Thank you guys for stopping by. Until then, don’t be strangers!

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