Crash Bandicoot is one of the Playstation brand’s oldest icons, but he’s also one that I sort of missed as a kid. I had an original Playstation, but I really only used it to play Spyro the Dragon, Pong: The Next Level and Goofy’s Fun House. Up until the the release of the Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy, my only experience with the orange marsupial was the party game, Crash Bash.

How does Vicarious Vision’s remake of Naughty Dog’s first Crash Bandicoot game feel to someone who has never played the original? Furthermore, how does the game feel to somebody that doesn’t have any nostalgia for Crash Bandicoot? The short and simple answer… pretty darn good.

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For years now, I’ve heard people say that Crash Bandicoot plays like a 2d platformer in 3d, and this is a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with. It doesn’t feature any open-ended levels like the ones that can be found in games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie or even Naughty Dog’s own Jak & Daxter, rather, every level in the game is a tightly designed obstacle course.

Linearity often gets used as a sort of negative buzzword in gaming, but I’ve always touted the idea that a linear game is only bad if the linear path is boring. Crash Bandicoot is the polar opposite of boring, as there is never a dull moment past the first few opening levels.

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Before I go deeper into gameplay, I need to talk about the control, the most essential part of any platformer. As far as the moveset is concerned, Crash (or his sister, Coco) can jump and perform a spin attack that can kill enemies and destroy crates containing Wumpa Fruit, extra lives and checkpoints. Crash normally dies in one hit, but a power-up called the Aku Aku mask allows him to take a few more. 

Overall, I’d say Crash feels really good to control. While he can feel a little heavy at times, I was really comfortable with the length and height of his jump, and loved the predictability with which he moved and responded to different enemies and obstacles. In addition, if the jump button is held while jumping on a crate or enemy, Crash will receive quite a bit of extra jump height. 

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Crash Bandicoot features a fixed camera for the entire game, and the only time this becomes a problem is when you need to backtrack through an area. There are a handful of levels that make you platform against the camera, which can lead to some uncomfortable situations. These moments are few and far between, and they usually give you a clear shot of the next platform, but it’s just something that I never really liked doing.

In order to beat the game, Crash Bandicoot pits players against a variety of challenges, and I love that they never became gimmick-y. Almost every level asks you to be competent at basic platforming, with enemies and environmental hazards thrown in for good measure. All of this leads to levels that are packed with things to avoid and navigate, leading to a really adrenaline pumping experience.

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But when Crash Bandicoot isn’t facing the camera, it’s a ton of fun. The game nails that perfect arcade-y feeling that I love so much, which also leads into what has been the N-Sane Trilogy’s biggest point of contingency since it’s release, the difficulty.

The game is hard, really hard at times, but the challenges presented are far from impossible. The game never really asks you to be perfect, just capable. Personally, I loved Crash Bandicoot’s high difficulty level, but I’m also the type of person that loves seeing and feeling myself get better the more I play.

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Levels like Native Fortress and Road to Nowhere burned through my life counter on my first few attempts. But I refused to let them get the best of me. I timed my jumps, observed platform cycles and mastered Crash’s movement skills in order to reach the goal.

Almost every time I died in Crash Bandicoot, I felt like it was my fault. Why did I go for that jump when I knew I didn’t have enough momentum, why did I get impatient and try to plow my way through those platforms? The majority of my deaths were accompanied by these self-reflective questions, meaning I almost never got frustrated.

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The one time I got legitimately upset with the game was on The High Road, the game’s second bridge level. It’s the only level that asks you to be extremely precise with your jumps, and I admittedly cheesed the level by just walking along the ropes to get to the end.

Rickety bridge aside, Crash Bandicoot gave me genuine thrills that I haven’t felt from a game in a long time. I can’t remember the last time a game gave me sweaty palms, but Crash Bandicoot managed to accomplish this more than a handful of times. There were times that I could actually feel my heart pumping as I made my way through particularly harrowing sections of the game, and both myself and Crash breathed a sigh of relief every time we completed a level.

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Crash Bandicoot also features a few bosses, and they’re all pretty standard affair for platformers. You simply observe attack patterns and watch for your opening to counterattack, while also sometimes dealing with a boss character’s unique gimmick. These bosses are nothing to write home about, but they’re also totally harmless.

During my time with Crash Bandicoot, I only did what was asked of me to complete the game, simply reaching the end of each level. But for completionists, Crash Bandicoot offers plenty of other things to do. Completing time trials, breaking all the boxes in a level, collecting different gems and relics, taking on these challenges could easily double the time that you spend with this game.

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Besides his gameplay, I can finally see why people love Crash so much. From his marketing, I always thought that Crash was a cool, edgy dude not too unlike his blue elder. But to me, he honestly felt more like a Looney Tunes character. He’s wild, crazy and borderline… insane (I’ll see myself out), but he’s also got a weird charm to him. Bonus points to the remaster’s gorgeous visuals and animations for really bringing the bandicoot to life.

I’m happy that I finally got to experience Crash Bandicoot, and I’m especially happy to say that I had a blast playing the game. Much of my gaming in 2017 has been occupied by huge games like Persona 5 and Horizon: Zero Dawn, both of which  are amazing games. But it was refreshing to play something so pure, simple and concise, and the tough but fair challenge was like icing on the cake.

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