Crash Bandi­coot N. Sane Tril­ogy

Crash Bandi­coot N. Sane Tril­ogy brings Naughty Dog’s jorts-wear­ing mar­su­pial to PC for the first time.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

Long ago, in a pe­riod his­to­ri­ans call ‘the ’90s’, the mas­cot reigned supreme. These an­thro­po­mor­phised an­i­mals had bad at­ti­tudes and big sneak­ers, and would of­ten spon­ta­neously break­dance. One of the most no­to­ri­ous of these crea­tures was Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandi­coot, a denim-clad mar­su­pial who spun onto the orig­i­nal PlayS­ta­tion in 1996, be­com­ing the stupid, grin­ning face of the con­sole. And now, for the first time, he’s on PC.

The N. Sane Tril­ogy is a re­mas­tered col­lec­tion of the first three Crash Bandi­coot games. There have been some tweaks to the physics that hard­core Crash fans and speedrun­ners have taken is­sue with, but for most peo­ple it should feel the same as it did in 1996 – and that’s part of the prob­lem. This is a game from the old­est and creaki­est of schools, with pun­ish­ing jumps, traps that de­mand pixel-per­fect pre­ci­sion and foes who can kill you in one hit.

Some peo­ple will love the sound of this, of re­turn­ing to an era when 3D plat­form­ers were un­sul­lied by the trap­pings of the modern videogame. But for me it feels like go­ing back to a time when games were a lot worse than they are now. Hell, I even re­mem­ber think­ing Crash felt out­dated back then, which makes its lin­ear lev­els and frus­trat­ing de­sign even harder to stom­ach in 2018.

The fixed cam­era an­gles make gaug­ing the start of a jump dif­fi­cult, which is a prob­lem in a game where fall­ing down a pit means be­ing

thrown back to a check­point or the start of a level. The elab­o­rate Looney Tunes-style death an­i­ma­tions are amus­ing the first time you see them, but wait­ing for them to play out when you just want to get back into the ac­tion is te­dious. And Crash just doesn’t feel sat­is­fy­ing to con­trol, with weight­less physics and a short, stiff jump that I hated back in 1996 and still do now.

Hon­estly, this kind of ba­sic, tim­ing-based, pat­tern recog­ni­tion plat­form­ing just isn’t en­ter­tain­ing any­more. Es­pe­cially when I could be play­ing one of the many PC plat­form­ers that, in the 22 years since Crash was first re­leased, have taken the genre in in­ter­est­ing new di­rec­tions. That’s a life­time when it comes to game de­sign, and Crash feels like a relic, even if those crisp re­mas­tered graph­ics try their best to make you think oth­er­wise.

This is, at times, an as­ton­ish­ingly pretty game – es­pe­cially run­ning at 4K. Ev­ery­thing is big, chunky and tac­tile. In terms of main­tain­ing the look of a clas­sic game and si­mul­ta­ne­ously up­dat­ing it for modern hard­ware, Vi­car­i­ous Vi­sions has done a re­mark­able job here. But the down­side of those sump­tu­ous vi­su­als is that they high­light just how ar­chaic the game feels to play.

It’s au­then­tic, and that’s ex­actly what some peo­ple will want from a Crash Bandi­coot re­mas­ter. But if you have no in­vest­ment in the se­ries, no nos­tal­gia, and are look­ing for a well-de­signed 3D plat­former – a genre woe­fully un­der­served on PC – you’ll be dis­ap­pointed. The ad­di­tion of au­tosave is one of the few con­ces­sions it makes to modern game de­sign, but oth­er­wise it clings stub­bornly to the past.

It feels like go­ing back to a time when games were a lot worse

SEC­OND WIND

It’s not all bad. The gru­elling, repet­i­tive first game has aged badly, but the sec­ond, Cor­tex Strikes Back, has some well-de­signed lev­els that are an en­joy­able test of dex­ter­ity. It al­most feels like a rhythm ac­tion game at times, mem­o­ris­ing pat­terns, main­tain­ing your mo­men­tum, and it can be ex­hil­a­rat­ing in the mo­ment. At least un­til the next cheap death. The third game in the tril­ogy, Warped, is the most var­ied of the three, al­though time has been par­tic­u­larly cruel to its mo­tor­cy­cle lev­els.

As a faith­ful re­make of the first three Crash games, the N. Sane Tril­ogy is pretty much per­fect. The prob­lem is those games ar­guably weren’t that great in the first place, and have only got­ten worse with age. There’s fun to be had here, but also a lot of frus­tra­tion as you wres­tle with de­sign de­ci­sions that were made over two decades ago, in an era when 3D jump­ing and move­ment were still be­ing fig­ured out. We need more 3D plat­form­ers on PC, but ones that look to the fu­ture, not the past.

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