By Jake Rushing
The new Xbox and Playstation generation is well underway, with notable games like Titanfall, Outlast and Assassin’s Creed IV garnering praise and attention from gamers and critics alike. However, as amazing as these games are, sometimes it’s beneficial to get a good dose of nostalgia by heading back to the past. For the first Nostalgia Game Review, we’re heading into the early years of the first Playstation generation. In fact, he’s one of the first mascots for the Playstation and is still talked about by many gamers today: Crash Bandicoot.
During the years where Mario and Sonic were dominating the platforming scene, Sony decided to have their own platforming mascot to try and go toe-to-toe who would also be the first 3D platform mascot. Two years after Playstation’s console debut, Naughty Dog decided it was time for 3D platforming to make its debut on the scene. Thus, Crash Bandicoot was born. The story of the game centers around the quirky marsupial named Crash, who was mutated as a result of a failed experiment by Dr. Neo Cortex and Nitrus Brio in an attempt to create an army of mutated animals for world dominance. After Crash makes his escape, Dr. Cortex wanted nothing more than the demise of that darn bandicoot (y’know, aside from any old evil scientist’s desire for world domination of course). You must navigate crash through three Australian-based islands in order to get back to Cortex’s lab to not only save the world, but Crash’s girlfriend too.
Like Mario and Sonic, Crash Bandicoot had it’s own basic platforming mechanics: run, jump, break cubical objects, accessing bonus levels, and jumping on enemies. In these aspects, all three mascots seem the same. However, all them had something that set each other a part. Mario had power ups that enhanced him in many ways to aid his quest of rescuing Peach. Sonic had speed to blaze through levels to defeat Dr. Robotnik (or Eggman, exccuuuuuusssee me). What did Crash have that differentiated him from the other two? The ability to break boxes and push away enemies by…spinning? As odd as the mechanic sounds, the designers managed to make the mechanics mesh well in the game. I’ll explain more in depth later.
Aside from the spinning mechanic, the developers decided to add a few more things to make the game a bit more unique. Throughout the game, you’ll find boxes to break in order to obtain Wumpa fruits (aka the rings and coins of this game) and lives. In some boxes, you’ll find a floating mask companion named Aku Aku who’ll aid you in your quest by protecting you from enemies (since one-touch-kills rule also applies in this game). If you manage to collect three of the masks without getting hit, you’re given brief invulnerability that lets you decimate anything in your path.
The developers also decided to reward players for completing levels without dying and breaking every box in the level to earn a gem. What would you get for doing all that the whole game? A secret ending accessible by a certain level? Of course! If you’re curious to what it is, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Controls wise, the directional pad controlled Crash’s movement. An odd choice considering that Playstation had…you know…joysticks to use. Pressing ‘X’ made Crash jump, ‘Square’ or ‘Circle” made Crash execute his spinning attack. That’s all there is for the controls; why they didn’t add more to Crash’s movement is beyond me.
If there’s anything good to come out of the lack of controls, it would be that the lack of action forced level designers to be creative. They played with the idea of easing players into the game with shorter, simpler levels that increased in difficulty and length over time. Even in later levels, designers turned up the creativity knob and kept the environment in mind as well as the spinning and jumping mechanics. Their creativity provided an adequate challenge to players and it showed! Even in ceratin sections of the level that was only accessibly by certain colored gems, developers carefully curved the difficulty of those special sections according to the color of the gem you used to access it. As if I couldn’t say it enough, the level designers gave a lot of thought in each level. They even had the decency to implement some tutorials in the game without using text at all! Then again, text based tutorials were not as common as they are today.
Comparing the graphics of Crash Bandicoots to today’s graphical behemoths like Titanfall or GTA V would have you balking at the graphics. Considering that this was made in an era where 3D games are brand new, this was a rather impressive feat. The work done to make the environment flourish was amazing; for graphics in 1996, they made the water look impressive. From the plants serving as decoration to the piranha plants that could make you their next meal, they went into great detail for every entity added to the game. Looking at how diverse the level design is between the jungle levels, cave levels, Dr. Neo Cortex levels tells the effort put into this game.
Geez JAke, you really enjoy this game! Is there anything you don’t like about it?
Actually there is something they could’ve done to enhance the gameplay. Despite the crowning achievement of being the first 3D platformer to feature a mascot, game play became a bit stale after a while. Jumping and spinning can be fun initially, but eventually it became boring. If Crash Bandicoot had one or two more moves in his arsenal, the level designers could’ve had a field day making the levels even more memorable.
Criticism aside, it felt great going back to this game years after first playing it at my aunt’s house. I never owned a copy of the game on my own until recently when I got the PS3 on Black Friday and remembered I could get PSOne games on te PSN store. This was one of the first game I purchased and was worth the $6 spent. The experience I got from it was almost as magical as when I played this game years ago. The level design and graphics truly made this a memorable experience despite the lack of controls. If you have a PS3, and have yet to get Crash Bandicoot, do yourself a solid and get the game. While you’re at it, why not get Crash Bandicoot 2 and 3? They’re also available if you’re interested.
Thank you guys for stopping by. Until then, don’t be strangers!