The Bandicoot is back and in Fur-K! The first three Crash Bandicoot games were the only ones in the series I played and was more than thrilled when it was announced we would be getting them brought into the present day as a remaster with updated visuals, re-recorded dialogue and the inclusion of new features.
When you boot up the game your treated to the usual logos for the publishers and developers but with the trilogy there is a voice-over during this sequence which has the games main antagonist Neo Cortex introduce this blast from the past to you, much to my enjoyment. The only downside is the fact you cannot skip this, so each time you start up the game you are forced to sit through it, but I mean if there’s the choice of sitting through a boring loading screen or a cool nod to the charm of the series, I would choose this every time.
The original game I remember for being difficult, something which has certainly not been lost with time or its remaster. The controls have been updated and tweaked slightly, you can now use the analog sticks for movement which can hinder your experience when paired with the hit-boxes that seem to want you to slide off platforms. Without diving into the games files I wouldn’t know whether the difficulty lies in this control update or that it’s simply unforgiving anyway. Frequently through my playthrough I would find my enjoyment turning sour fast, getting agitated more and more with each death. Don’t get me wrong, the other games tested my patience too but not to the scale of the first.
In all Crash titles you play as the protagonist Crash Bandicoot, a creature given semi-intelligence through an experiment gone wrong. Dr. Neo Cortex’s machine didn’t quite work as expected and instead he created his arch enemy in Crash. Like most villains, Cortex wants world domination and it is your duty to thwart his plans by jumping, spinning, sometimes falling and collecting a variety of items through each level.
There are two ways for you to obtain more lives, either grab the Crash face icons you find along the way or collect Wumpa Fruit, 100 of which will grant you an extra life and restart the counter. If you lose all your lives then its game over, but the saving grace of the remaster is that it only means you restart that level from the beginning instead of being sent way back to the beginning of the game or island / warp room.
Game number one is still as joyous and infuriating as ever which kind of makes no sense and perfect sense. The characters bring the fun, the levels bring the frustration, the power-ups and items are there to give you a little help along the way. Unfortunately, the game suffers from bad pacing, the difficulty and length of levels would fluctuate throughout with some feeling more like filler than core content.
Cortex Strikes Back takes a slightly different approach to the first title in the sense that it feels more about the platforming this time around as opposed to combating enemies. It’s still tough, but not to the level of one. Spikes in difficulty are still present but because of the way the game is presented, being the warp room format, the player chooses what order to take on the stages allowing you to set the pace. Five stages and a boss fight per warp room I feel is a great formula for a platformer, enough levels to make it feel you are playing a substantial amount of content but not to the extent you want to say enough is enough. Still the same cast of charming characters with a couple of additions on the enemy’s side. Overall a more solid experience, definitely the must play of the series.
Warped has a big oversight in the form of the power-ups you can obtain, particularly towards the later stages when you have your rocket launcher and double-jump which make completing levels just too easy. Like CSB, same structure of having five levels and a boss per area, however there’s more variation to the levels in terms of what they contain. Racing levels, aerial levels and swimming levels bring variety but that’s accompanied by a huge challenge mainly due to the controls and gameplay. Stiff steering when racing and float-like gameplay when swimming becomes such a chore, which sucks because the rest of the game is great but these gimmicky levels take up a big portion of the experience.
Everything looks so much better than before which you would expect with a remaster but literally what you have here is a great looking game by today’s standards. Say goodbye to the rough edges and jagged lines of old and yell hello to the smooth textures, wider and brighter colour palette and the upgraded water, fire and toxic sludge effects. Crash scrubs up pretty damn well.
Benefiting from remastered audio, what you hear sends you straight back to the 90’s to relive some fan favourite gaming moments. What’s surprising to me about the score is just how much it sticks to the original content but touches it up with a final polish that is very noticeable to the ears if you were to compare the old and new score’s. Everything from the background music to the sound effects have been looked at with an attentive ear for detail, footsteps differ with each material, dependent on how you die the sound to accompany said death adds the fuzzy layer of charm and humour to an otherwise sad situation.
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 7.5/10
Vicarious Visions stayed true to what made the Crash Bandicoot games so good, this remastering from the ground-up didn’t turn out to be hollow words. It looks great, sounds even better and is still tough as hell. The first game suffers from some pacing issues that were rectified in the latter two and the final game toyed too much with gimmicky levels that lacked fine-tuned controls. But it certainly is a good chance for a whole new generation to be introduced to the Bandicoot and for longtime fans to return.
OVERALL: 7.6/10 – GOOD
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.