Anniversaries have been coming up in the gaming industry recently; last year we saw the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation 1 release in North America and Europe, while this year will also mark the 20th anniversary of a beloved game character. Back in 1996, Naughty Dog released its first game on the PS1, Crash Bandicoot. This would become a franchise millions of gamers would love and now hope that one day the humanoid bandicoot will make a return to a Sony platform. So what better time than ever to look back at the game that started the series.
Crash Bandicoot is a linear platformer where the player breaks boxes and defeats enemies while they go from level to level. In the game, you are given the role of Crash, a humanoid bandicoot that has been experimented on by the evil Dr Neo Cortex. When Cortex’s attempts of controlling Crash fails, Cortex chases Crash out of his lab and then moves his attention to another bandicoot called Tawna. It is now up to Crash to fight through Cortex’s henchmen and free Tawna from the mad scientist.
The main goal of the game is to finish every level and beat every boss, but what is a platformer without side goals? In every level that is a plethora of boxes for the player to break, with a gem awarded at the end of the level once all the boxes are broke. Along with gems, there are tokens to collect on every level. Once three of the same type are collected, the player is teleported to a bonus area, where they can get extra lives and a chance to save the game.
Going back and playing Crash, I was surprised at how hard the game is. The enemies are not the problem, but rather the platforming because of the clunky controls. Crash’s movement speed is very slow, leaving little to no time to change the direction of his jumps. I have lost count the amount of time I have died because of this. And then there are the camera angles. Whenever the camera is right behind or in front of Crash, the difficulty shoots up. It is so hard to judge the distance for jumps during these segments. There were times where it looked like I was going to make a jump, only to miss and fall to my death. By contrast, the boss fights are quite easy to beat. Most of them involved the same strategy, jumping around randomly, waiting for an opening. At first, it was annoying to have such easy boss fights, but after so many levels, I was relieved to take a break from the grind.
And then there are the gems. Breaking all the boxes in a level is not a hard task. Trying to do it without dying though is quite difficult. I cannot understand why Naughty Dog put this feature into their game, as this was artificially raising up the difficulty of an already difficult game. While it was gratifying to get that first gem, I felt it wasn’t worth the grind to collect the rest. The only payoff is an alternative ending with a quick description of what the characters were up to after the game, which didn’t feel like a good enough payoff. The only time I went to collect a gem in a level was when I really need to save the game. Why Naughty Dog only let you save the game after every time you collected a gem or finished a bonus level is beyond me.
After all this, it was still fun to go back and play the original Crash game, though this could be nostalgia talking. The soundtrack was well made, with none of the songs never feeling out of place. The variety of levels was great to see, from the vast jungles to Cortex’s factories. Each level had its unique feel to it and it never once did I feel the game was repeating itself.
Even though age has not gone well for this game, it was still a great start for the Crash Bandicoot.