The year was 1997 and whilst visiting my neighbours one warm evening, I got the chance to use my first video game console, the Sony PlayStation. Inserting a disc aptly labelled ‘demo’ I was presented with a choice of 5 or so games to play, the one I settled on to be my first console gaming experience was titled Crash Bandicoot. Unknown to me at the time, Crash would go on to become, along with Spyro the Dragon, somewhat of a PlayStation icon.
Crash Bandicoot, released in 1996 was the brainchild of Naughty Dog founders Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin. Code-named “Sonic’s Ass Game”, Crash became something of a mascot for Sony during the second half of the 90’s. Opting for a in game camera that was on rails allowed Naughty Dog to get as many polygons into the scene and squeeze as much performance out of the then new PlayStation system. This combined with solid level design and for the first time on PlayStation, 3D platforming is what made Crash Bandicoot such a resounding success and what let it go on to be one of the best selling PlayStation games of all time, selling over 6.8 million copies across the globe.
Crash Bandicoot placed you in the polygonal blue shoes of Crash as you guide him through three islands while running away from boulders, climbing giant walls and navigating dangerous forest paths to find and rescue his girlfriend from the evil Dr. Neo Cortex. Crash Bandicoot in the simplest sense was one of the first 3D adventure platformers and is perhaps one of the best in recent history.
At it’s heart Crash is a simple game, each level is laid out as a linear corridor, often with a branching path. In addition there are boxes scattered throughout that Crash can break to collect the apple-like Wumpa fruit. With every 100 Wumpa fruit you receive 1 extra life, these become handy later in the game to help you get past some of the more difficult and challenging levels. Some of the most challenging levels, at least for me, are the “Bridge to Nowhere” series of levels which involve a rickety bridge where each step could be your last.
The sound design for its time in 1996 is astonishing, of particular note is the main theme song and derivatives used throughout the game. It is so good in fact that every time I receive a phone call I am instantly reminded of waking up lying on N. Sanity Beach, preparing to jump on turtles, spin plants and smash boxes!
Crash Bandicoot laid the groundwork for many many more 3D platformers that have followed throughout the years (I’m looking at you Knack) and along with Spyro the Dragon, helped Sony secure a foothold in the console market.
Crash will remain as the first 3D game I ever played, even today the game provides a good challenge and I still find myself replaying it over and over again. While Crash Bandicoot is fantastic, what came next was really something.