Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review #138: Crash Bandicoot

Playstation's original pseudo-kinda mascot!
 Crash Bandicoot was the first entry in the long running Crash Bandicoot platforming game series, back in the day, it was considered a classic, Playstation's answer to Mario, but has time been kind to it?

 The story is all kinds of ridiculous, and unless you possess the instruction booklet, you'll be oblivious to it. Basically, N. Cortex is the big bad who not only created Crash, but kidnapped his girlfriend, so now Crash must stop N. Cortex's evil plans and save his girlfriend. The story doesn't really matter and it's never expanded upon in the game, you shouldn't care about it. As for the characters, bosses, while not exactly charming, aren't terrible, N. Cortex and Crash do sport timeless designs and as for Crash's girlfriend, well, there's a reason she never returned, but given her relationship to Crash and how she looks(compared to Crash), it does fulfill her purpose.
 Gameplay is fairly simple, a jump button and a spin attack button, that's all you get and all you need. The game takes place through different stages, each with different sets of obstacles and gimmicks. While Mario 64 took place in big, open environments, Crash's stages feel cramped. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's the game's style and it gives it a different flavor. Crash can, normally, only take one hit before he bites the dust, but running across Aku Aku masks will provide an extra hit, up to two, grabbing a third Aku Aku mask will provide a couple of seconds of invincibility. Early in the game, Aku Aku masks are plentiful, but the latter half of the game is rather stingy with them. The series' trademark are the crates, spread throughout each stage are various crates that contain fruit(Collect 100 for an extra life), extra lives or Aku Aku mask, with the occasional TNT crate that you need to avoid unless you want to die.

 The game starts off easy enough, but progressively gets harder and harder, but the difficulty curve throughout all 32 levels does scale appropriately. There's a couple of stages that are extremely challenging later on in the game, but the game is fairly generous with extra lives. The game can be beaten in a day without major issues, but, if you aim for 100% and the secret ending... you must finish each and every level without dying while smashing every. Single. Crate. This is all kinds of nuts and more of a chore than anything else, back when I was younger it was a non issue, since I had anything but time, but nowadays it's crazy to expect anyone to invest so much time in something so repetitive and obnoxiously challenging. The terrible save system doesn't help either, you can only save your game after clearing one of the bonus stages(The one with Crash's girlfriend), and this is a one time thing. Fail the bonus stage, and you have to replay the entire stage. What where they thinking? The cherry on top, is that every time you reload your save file, you start with 4 lives, just dandy.
 Sadly, those aren't the only problems with the game. The game was made before analog sticks were a thing, and Crash's movements are pretty floaty, making for very imprecise movements. For as many times that you'll die due to an error on your part, Crash's movements will cause the other deaths. Collision detection is a bit off as well, sometimes in the players favor, like on the dreaded "Slippery climb", you can sometimes stay on the air when certain blocks turn into a slide, instead of, well, sliding down. Furthermore, certain stages have a behind-the-back camera angle that can make it hard to see where you are jumping, or to measure the distance towards an enemy.

 The overall presentation has stood the test of time fairly well. Graphics are very pretty for its time, it's actually surprising just how much Naughty Dog got out of the PS1 so early in its life. Stages aren't very varied, you've got jungles and mechanical themes and that's about it, common enemies are fairly simple and forgettable, but as previously mentioned, bosses fared a bit better. Music is fairly good, with a couple of very memorable songs(Which I'm fairly sure where reused in the following games!). Sound effects deserve a special mention, since it makes collecting fruit in-masse very satisfying.

 Crash Bandicoot was a classic, it was a great game back when it was released, there's no denying that. However, as it stands today, it hasn't stood the test of time. It remains a fun game, frustrating if you aim for 100%, but there's no reason to go out of your way to play this one when the next two sequels are so much better.
 6.0 out of 10

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