This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version.
What can you say about a game like Crash? I barely remembered playing these games when they first came out, or so I thought. As I went through all three games in the Crash PSX trilogy, only now all dolled up and remastered, I remembered so many different things about my time spent playing these games. Sadly, in most of these memories I was a very bad Crash Bandicoot player, and that seemingly has not changed in the past 20 years.
CRASH BANDICOOT: ORIGINS
I don’t know why I thought this, or why my memories were so cloudy, but I was under the assumption that Crash Bandicoot games are easy. I remembered not having much trouble with them. But that was wrong. I knew as soon as I began playing it remade for the Switch.
Right off the bat, the first level of Crash Bandicoot triggered my mild OCD, because I didn’t collect all the boxes. Each level you are tasked with breaking all the boxes in the level in order to score a gem. And in the original game, you get bashed over the head once for every box you miss in a level. So if you fly through the level just trying to survive, you may make good time, but you will have to suffer through watching Crash getting mercilessly bashed into submission due to your impatience.
It took me a few levels to realize I probably wasn’t meant to break all the boxes just yet. Still, my need to complete before moving on was strong, but I fought it.
The level selection map and the inclusion of time trials will remind you of the Donkey Kong Country series’ later entries. I attempted a few early stage time trials and immediately quit out. I openly admit that time trials make me itchy, and I don’t care for them at all. Anything where I am forced to rush due to a time restriction amps up the old anxiety.
These games look and sound great. I’ve never been one to spot the differences in graphics between systems, but often times it is blatantly obvious when a game is ported to the Switch. Sure, just like with the Spyro games, the quality is a little downgraded, but it’s honestly nothing the average gamer will notice.
Also, I didn’t experience any slowdowns or glitching when I played this collection. The original game in the series may be basic and more than a little repetitive, but the presentation is very polished.
The first Crash is frustratingly difficult at times due to the vagueness of when and where to jump. Sometimes I wasn’t sure where exactly I was landing, I merely hoped for the best. This was a common issue in the PSX era, however playing a faithful remake of that in the modern era doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
2 CRASH 2 COOT
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back did what a lot of platformers wisely do and employed a hub section call the Warp Room to make the traversal from level to level a bit more streamlined. What Crash 2 does to improve the formula is extract some of the more punishing bits of difficultly in exchange for a more fun, fast paced experience for the player.
Jumping isn’t quite the random guessing game it was in the first game. This matters because when you have a game that is already difficult on it’s own, adding in unfair controls and mechanics does nothing except put off the player.
The game doesn’t do much innovation wise, although you get a few new moves. It does what the first ones did, just a whole lot better. Was it still frustrating and unfair at times? Heck yeah. This is Crash. If these game designers made a Mario Maker 2 level you know they’d have a doorway somewhere that’d just drop you into a billion spikes. They do what Ninten-don’t.
CRASH 3: WARPED!
This is the one that has it all. The level variety gives you a little bit of everything. You get old school Crash 1 style levels, Coco-centric levels focused on speed and precision, levels that find Crash manning vehicles with firepower, and of course the mandatory, super-easy boss levels.
Not only that, but these types of levels take place in different locations and places in time thanks to the giant plot device and hub area, the Time-Twisting Machine.
Warped! has a very carefree vibe to it. The story doesn’t take itself very seriously, and the game gets all the exposition out of the way quick and dirty. Personally, I liked the way the game basically yadda-yadda-ed the story and game mechanics. I wanted to get down to it as well.
By employing time travel into the plot, Warped allows the level variety to shift drastically without being completely jarring. You will of course step on one of the corresponding buttons on the floor and get a preview image and level name. After that, it is your choice whether you choose to enter the void, or press another button. In the end you have to defeat them all to collect the crystals, and defeat the boss, to advance to the next section, where you do it all over again.
I don’t mean this to imply its formulaic in a bad way. This Crash is like the perfect streamlined experience. It gets you into the action right away and makes sure you know exactly where to go and what to do.
The fact that it then tosses you blindly into levels often using new game mechanics on the fly is a juxtaposition I think is worth noting. This game is nowhere near as punishingly difficult as the original, but it requires fast reflexes and the kind of dexterity I’m not sure I ever possessed even as a young gamer.
I enjoy a difficult platformer that works on two levels. The Donkey Kong Country and Rayman series create levels that are not only difficult to beat when you want to collect everything, but they’re difficult to beat if you just try to run and mash your way through. Warped operates on this level at times, but doesn’t quite match the tight controls of those games.
Also, there’s something, for lack of a better word, basic about these games. I remember, as do some of my fellow writers, looking for secret side paths and surprises that simply weren’t there because Crash just wasn’t that kind of game. Get from A to B. Get all the stuff. Now do it again, but be real quick. That’s all it cares about. That’s all it wants and needs to be. You, as the player, need to stop looking at the scenery and get your head back in the game.
The levels with Coco have a sharper focus on testing your hand to eye coordination. This, of course, is what we all told our parents in the 80s about why video games were good for us. I remember in the original version the graphics were pretty good, but the remake is remarkably smooth, clean, and pretty endearing.
Flourishes like seaweed passing in front of the main action in the underwater level are where remakes like this shine. There are so many examples of beautiful art direction I had to stop taking screen captures for this article because it was going to be a picture book.
It’s the general consensus that Crash 2 is the best of the three, and I can see why people feel that way. The original was a difficult to control but challenging beginning. Part 2 built off the template of the original and made everything bigger. Part 3, while having the most variety, is a surprisingly easier journey, and some hardcore fans of the series may not like that aspect of it. Personally, I enjoyed the third one because my deaths felt more like my own bad choices, and not the work of poor game design stickin’ it to me.
Also, bandicoots hide crystals in some disturbing places and Crash Bandicoot: Warped! goes there.
NOT FOR THE EASILY DEFEATED
Overall, Activision and developer Vicarious Visions did an excellent job remastering the Crash Bandicoot games for the Switch. These games look gorgeous and they stay true to their original versions (just as I said in my Spyro Reignited Trilogy review) for better or worse.
The animation and character designs are faithful to the original game, but also have little flairs of originality mixed in, showing that the designers went the extra mile at every turn.
This collection is what sparked the renaissance of PSX era remakes and paved the way for Crash Team Racing, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and hopefully many more like it. These games are exactly as they were, brutally difficult platforming gauntlets. OTSS. Only The Strong Survive.
Not me though. I didn’t survive. I didn’t beat any of these games. But in my defense, I’m not all that strong.
- This game is a tough platformer that doesn’t always seem to play fair. If you can overlook a few (okay, many) cheap deaths, you’ll be rewarded with a true sense of accomplishment, and probably a great sense of relief.
- Just like the recently released Spyro Reignited Trilogy this game plays great in docked or handheld mode. This is the kind of addictive collection the Nintendo Switch was made for.
- The Crash games have a pretty forgiving Continue policy, so even if you lose all your lives, you won’t lose much progress.
- If you loved Spyro but found those games a tad too easy, Crash might be a dream come true for you. If you’re a completionist, this game just might break you and make you question your life choices.