/Played is a regular post where I dissect and discuss a game I’ve recently played.
I recently got my hands on a copy of Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy (thank you Emily for the birthday gift!) – and I’m loving it! I spent hours playing the Crash games as a child and this really gives me the same thrills and frustrations as the originals. Unfortunately I don’t have an “Hours played” for this at the moment, I’m playing on PS4 so not the usual case having a quick glance at Steam!
The first thing that struck me is how incredibly faithful these remakes are to the original games. Even down to big difficulty spikes that were synonymous with titles of that era. For example, tricky platforming sections that require near perfect timing and manoeuvres appearing in the early levels. It’s definitely challenging!
However, as a lot of reviews have mentioned, it can feel too difficult at times.
The problem is that statements like this are very susceptible to Nostalgia. The originals may be this difficult, but 20 years is more than enough time for our memories of moment to moment game play to be skewed.
During playing I struggled with whether the above statement is true or not. My gut feeling is that it’s not, and that the remakes are successful in recreating the same frustratingly tricky 3D platforming the originals featured. Without the original games playing next to the remake it’s difficult to say for sure, so I decided to entertain the idea that something may be different. These are parts of the game that if changed I suspect could cause this;
The controls feeling a tad less responsive than the originals. Emulating a 20 year old game, the engine it was running on and the hardware is no easy task! With the timing and precision required in this type of game even a slight delay in input could effect game feel.
A slight difference in field of view or cam positioning, Crash feels closer to the screen in the first game than I recall. The remakes having to work with modern resolutions and aspect ratios could be related to this, giving the feel of a change to the camera.
Finally, a difference in character size and/or collision meaning targeting your jumps could feel awkward compared to the original titles. Browsing comparison shots online I feel that if this is an issue it’s likley down to collision rather than player model and perceived scale.
As I said, the game(s) have stayed extremely true to the 90s era game play. Progression is linear, there’s no secondary mechanics to bolster content, and the camera is always in a fixed position. It’s very pure, and it works. The experience is tight, each game executes what it sets out to do extremely well.
The narrative is lacking in Crash Bandicoot’s first outing, you can advance through multiple levels and advance through the hub map significantly with no or very little story beats. The initial cut scene isn’t very interesting, and feels like a loose wrapper for the solid game play.
The advantage of the three games being neatly packaged together is seeing the differences between each iteration. The lack of narrative beats in the first game is an issue Naughty Dog addresses beautifully in the second game with Dr Neo Cortex and Coco Bandicoot contacting Crash between levels and delivering sharp story chunks, which provide the player with a quick update on how the narrative is progressing but don’t interrupt the pace of the overall game.
“Just one more go” is the best way to describe why these games worked 20 years ago and still work today. Every time a jump is missed you’re back in the game within seconds, if that. Combined with the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment when you string together a successful succession of jumps, spins and slams. Tossing enemies into the distance, smashing open crates and crunching through wumpa fruit. All this accompanied by juicy visual and audio feedback in a beautifully crafted world, make these games extremely more-ish. A good comparison would be Super Meat Boy, juicy, fast paced and difficult to master!
I love Crash Bandicoot, and perhaps my opinions are also coloured by nostalgia, but I can’t help but feel these games are an example of old school, pure game design that has withstood the test of time.