Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review: Take it for a spin
This remaster bears fruit and Coco pops in 4K.
Available on PlayStation 4.
This culturally important remastering could have spun out one of two ways. A: Activision decides to do right by mascot royalty by putting the required time and effort into Crash’s resurrection. Or, B: they lazily wheelchair out a geriatric old ‘coot, neglected and covered in poopy textures. After being been burned by Activision “remasters” before (case in point: the decidedly half-arsed Marvel Ultimate Alliance games) we figured the latter would happen. Imagine our childish delight when the answer came back A. Vicarious Visions’ “remaster plus” of the first three Crash Bandicoot games (originally developed by Naughty Dog) has been wrapped up into one delightful package.
Forget all your fears. The 3D platforming games of original PlayStation legend have never looked nor played better. The visual upgrade you’re getting here is about as ridiculous as Naughty Dog’s understanding of Australia. Instead of a low-res texture smeared over polygons sharp enough to have your eye out, the bandicoot and his weirdo version of Oz are in all ways sumptuous. Crash’s fur glistens in the rain (which was once thin, jagged white lines, now beautiful droplets streaking down the screen). The most primitive visuals of the package, the tribal ruins you endless ran through in the first game, are now popping with amazing detail. Fully-formed vegetation pokes through these monoliths, swaying softly in the sea breeze and lit by gorgeous multi-source lighting. A lazy-arsed upscale to 1080p / 60fps this most certainly is not.
Expect your ears to be in remix heaven, too. This new collection features a fully-remastered game soundtrack, packed with all the didgeridoos, xylophones, thumpin’ bass lines and all those random Swahili call-and-response sound bytes of yesteryear. Likewise, returning voice actors Lex Land (Dr. Cortex from Twinsanity onwards) and Jess Harnell (Crash from CTR) put in solid performances which stick to the original source material.
Though Crash might look like a kid-friendly caper, it has a core tougher than the “all clear” diamonds you're chasing. Judging the depth of your jumps correctly in this kind of game can be hit and miss for a while, and the controls are classic Crash – sensitive, finicky. Vicarious, however, has done a remarkable job of preserving the marsupial’s weighty yet gymnastic movement. Controls require precision, but not so much as to hamper the fun of mid-air splits and slides. Obviously the third outing, Warped, is the pick of the litter here. The basic jumpy-jump and crate kleptomania of the first game is all well and good, but it can’t compare with the set-pieces of the third, or just the feeling of whipping out a Fruit Bazooka on L2 and felling the brutes by squeezing R2 (a subtle, but more natural-feeling, improvement from the original Circle button). Crash’s basic moveset feels razor sharp and sure, too. Expertly bouncing off stuff to slingshot up into otherwise unobtainable goodies; sucking up wumpa fruit; nailing gaps; and face-slamming fools below. The old muscle memory momentum kicks in and instantly transports you back to the Nineties. We fully expect parachute pants and pog sales to spike after this game releases.
Vicarious hasn’t dumbed down the difficulty one iota, but the team has modernised with some greatly appreciated creature comforts. New Crash fans can experience playing the trilogy with full analog stick support, though we personally prefer to bruise our thumbs on the d-pad. You also no longer have to wait for Tawna Bandicoot's blessing before getting a chance to preserve your progress. No mini-games to run through, no token collection, just a new unified save and checkpoint system available from the map screen. Speaking of femme furtails: a bit of time machine logic has allowed Crash’s sister, Coco, to be a playable character across all three titles. We found tackling the first game with her unique skillset to be especially novel. She’s also the more talkative version of herself (she was oddly mute in the original Warped). Props to Vicarious for not only adding some diversity, but also giving veterans a very good reason to replay. Existing, eagle-eyed fans will also enjoy the improved bonus levels and time trial opportunities retrofitted into the game. There’s extra challenge to chase and an opportunity to rub noses in, thanks to the obligatory integration of worldwide leaderboards. We remembered ourselves to be lighting fast and economical with our runs, but man, there are some freaks out and about already.
Ultimately, what you’re getting the same old Crash. Three quality Naughty Dog games which can be attempted in any order you please, and can be 100-percented in roughly 4 hours apiece by a skilled gamer.
There are no massive goal post shifts to the original source material, merely small quality-of-life improvements.
These remastered games feel perfectly at home in 2017 – and it’s so good to see the old bugger back in the polar bear and/or warthog saddle again. Fingers crossed the success of this package will spin us all into a brand new era of fresh Crash Bandicoot capers.
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