Ah, Crash Bandicoot. You whipper snappers mightn’t know this — the poor l’il guy’s been whored out to mindless sequels and Skylanders more than Spyro the Dragon – but he was cool once. Really cool. In a time where kids took to the playground to fight over the appeal of Mario or Sonic, a new contender emerged in 1996 and claimed the title with ease, a scant two months after the release of the PSone itself. Yes, my friends, Crash Bandicoot was the game that started many into a lifelong addiction with Sony’s home console, and the N. Sane Trilogy only helps to reinforce this.
A reworked, remastered bundle of Naughty Dog’s first three Crash PSone exclusives – Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped – N. Sane Trilogy boasts new character models, enhanced sounds and HD visuals alongside a universal, modern control scheme and save options. Is it Crash as you know and love it? Mostly. Some changes are for the better, some for the worst. Let’s delve into ‘em.
Gameplay-wise, N. Sane Trilogy’s collection of games play like their originals – I even dug out my old PSone (well, my second old PSone, as I brought my first from Canada and plugged it in here in Australia only to watch it catch fire from double the voltage) to check. When I managed to breeze by N. Sane Trilogy’s original Boulders level – the same one featured in Uncharted 4 – in one go, and managed to grab the Clear Gem at the same time, I was convinced the game had been dumbed down. I booted up both my PSone copy and the version inside Uncharted 4, and it played wholly as one to one.
For a second, I thought my advanced age meant I was now amazing at Crash — that the game I thought was so tough back in the day was really a pussycat. Then I ran head first – literally – into Hog Wild and Native Fortress and lost every single extra life I’d built up leading up to those levels.
Just as I did as a child of 14 back in 1996, I couldn’t ride that damn pig for the life of me. I managed to miss a bouncing box jump and had to spin platforms perpendicularly to move higher up the fortress. That sequence with three fire cauldrons in a row? Yeah, at least 15 lives spent, right there – I think the game even judged me enough to add in a checkpoint that wasn’t supposed to be there (which, admittedly, was as appreciated as much as it was loathed).
To my credit, the fire sprites used in the remake don’t go as high as the sprites in the original – so even when Crash is far above those in the remastered version, he’ll still get charred and die. It’s cheap, man; cheap.
I had less of an excuse when I consistently managed to misjudge half my jumps, scraping poor Crash’s face against the side of a cliff because I leapt too early. Simply put, Crash quickly demonstrated that I have not progressed as a gamer at all in 21 years. Cursed, I was clearly destined to make the same mistakes over and over again… and I loved every minute of it. While either control scheme – joystick or d-pad – works pretty much identically, I found myself drawn to the latter, convinced the old-school style gave me more precision in my jumps and such. It probably didn’t.
Visually, Crash is stunning – and, if you dig his inclusion in Skylanders, you’ll take comfort in the fact that his lead model designer was consistent across Imaginators and N. Sane Trilogy. The forests of the Wumpa Islands are lush, vibrant and teeming with character, true to the zany poses and faces you remember Crash pulling back in the day. Across the bundle of titles, the same level of quality is consistent, and appreciated.
Cut-scenes are equally as visually appealing, but they – like the games’ soundtracks – are just a bit off. The distinctive wah-wah of the horns during Crash’s theme is there, but it’s very subdued; restrained, or just plain ol’ lacking. Similarly, in Crash’s opening, the voiceover work for N. Brio is devoid of that “suffering succotash”, Looney Tunes-like quality that permeates the original. It’s hardly noticeable – unless you’re an oldie like me – but it’s still there, gently picking at the back of your brain.
Vicarious Visions has done an exemplary job with N. Sane Trilogy, but these are little tells – small areas that seem polished but somehow also come across as devoid of a proper soul – that make me wish we could have this treatment from Naughty Dog itself. The stellar gameplay and design seen throughout these titles really is Naughty Dog’s crafting; anything Vicarious Visions has done with the character and license since pales in comparison.
Still, that little diversion does little to detract from the real experience N. Sane Trilogy provides – a loving look at the past and three games packed full of quirkiness and challenge. This one’s a no-brainer, from fans of the original games to those looking for amazing platformers – Crash has it all.
Oh, and before you ask: Crash, then Warped, then Crash 2. But play ‘em all.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.