Yahtzee takes on the Crash Bandicoot remaster, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.
Once upon a time, video games were invented, thus rescuing the human race from not having video games. A short while later someone said "These video games are great and all, but they'd be even better if they were constantly reminding me of my rate of acceleration in standard Earth gravity." And thus was born the platform game, a genre that ruled the roost for many years until it was sacrificed on the altar of 3D graphics; turns out being able to fall off the front as well as the sides of the platform was the one step too far that would make platforming suddenly not fun.
Lord knows people tried it anyway - Mario 64 has officially aged about as well as a herring under a floorboard - but during this confused, transitionary period, a little company called Naughty Dog, responsible up to then for a few nondescript titles like Keef the Thief, said "Hey, let's see if there's a way to make a 3D platformer that doesn't feel like directing a kitten around an air hockey table, and if possible, let's see if we can do it while climbing aboard Sony's massive todger and banking their cheques for the rest of our fucking lives." And so they developed a 3D platforming system based around moving along a single axis, thus pioneering the concept of '3D, except not really'. "Great job, Naughty Dog!" said Naughty Dog to itself.
"Now all we need is a plot!" "Okay, how about something like Sonic the Hedgehog meets... actually, fuck it, let's just leave it at that." So, we end up with Crash Bandicoot, in which a mad scientist with nothing better to do with his time than pick on small furry animals gets decked by one of the furry animals who has acquired advanced offensive capability by putting on some shoes and spinning around a lot. In fairness, Crash Bandicoot takes it a step further than Sonic by putting on trousers as well as shoes, a look known in the cartoon world as "the inverse Donald Duck".
Crash Bandicoot came out around twenty years ago, a period that the ever-advancing nostalgia wave has recently crashed against with its usual tiresome predictability, so of course the first three Crash Bandicoot PS1 games have been remade in HD for PS4, which presents a wonderful opportunity for old gamers like myself to recreate those wonderful screaming one-sided arguments we used to have about what does and does not constitute a "collision."
Crash Bandicoot 1 features Crash Bandicoot on a quest to rescue his girlfriend, who has slightly disturbingly human sexual characteristics. The girlfriend mysteriously vanishes from all subsequent games, for the obvious reason of wanting to avoid turning any more kids into sexual outcasts with DeviantArt accounts. Crash Bandicoot 2 features main villain Doctor Cortex hitting upon the unsophisticated but surprisingly effective plan of, instead of trying to steal the power crystals, simply asking Crash Bandicoot for them, which works for a while because Crash Bandicoot isn't the sharpest witticism in the book of after-dinner speeches. Finally, Crash Bandicoot 3 pulls the old Masters of the Universe bullshit where the villain is revealed to have been working for another, more evil villain all this time, so now we can get to work on making that villain totally ineffectual and nonthreatening as well.
The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy is the warts and all style of remake, stopping just short of having that special button that switches back to the old style graphics largely for the benefit of people making comparison videos. It's precisely the same levels and music but with a modern restyling, meaning that Crash Bandicoot is covered in that slightly creepy digital fur effect that makes him look like he was stitched out of bath mats.
There have been some changes: you still have to smash every crate to get the gem for each level in an act of flagrant genocide equivalent to the blood diamonds crisis, but now in Crash Bandicoot 1 you no longer have to do it without dying as well, at least in most levels. This does mean that at the end of each level we have to watch Crash being brutally beaten about the head with every box we missed until he's prostate and weeping on the floor, which I suppose is motivating, but is probably adding sadomasochism to the already exotic cocktail of fetishes you're giving to those DeviantArt kids.
Now, I owned Crash Bandicoot 1 on the PS1 and actually 100-percented it back in the days before I had more games vying for my attention than Daniel Radcliffe has weird-smelling fans. And as I played the remake and watched myself miss a ledge for the fourteenth time in a row, I became convinced that something fundamental had changed, besides dimmed vision and stiff hands from twenty years of self-abuse. And I'm led to understand that I was right - Mr. Bandicoot's hitbox is slightly more rounded than in the originals, making him slide off ledges easier. So it was only partly the wanking. It's a small change but it becomes a big one considering how often you're called upon to cross gaps the width of a gnat's labia shorter than your maximum jump distance. It's platforming focus, after all, and combat consists only of spinning around and nudging things like you're looking for the toilet on a packed subway train.
But perhaps the relevant question is not how accurately the N-Sane Trilogy recreates the Crash Bandicoots of yore but how well the Crash Bandicoots of yore hold up, in this modern, spoiled age of quicksaves, auto-aiming and online wikis providing access to an entire global network of big brothers to get past the hard bit for you. It is easy to forget, in our nostalgia madness, that the games are pretty murderously difficult even without the edges sanded off the hitboxes. All three games are an adventure in completing the sentence that begins with the words "those fucking": as in, "those fucking bridge levels, those fucking motorbike races out of nowhere," or "those fucking chase levels where you have to run towards the camera so you can only see about two inches of the upcoming road and hazards require reacting quicker than the amount of time between arriving at your girlfriend's parents' house and them starting to judge you." So to anyone considering the purchase, I counsel caution if you're only remembering the fun parts of the 90s, like the Pogs and Saved By the Bell, not the controller-gnawing frustration or the dead princesses.
But I think it's too easy to say we're all pampered by modern games that hand out pillows and rimjobs with every preorder - not in the age of Dark Souls. The fact is, Crash Bandicoot's murderous difficulty is more often related to things other than skill, like the perspective for the levels where you travel into the screen making it difficult to tell how far away the hazards are, and then your spin animation abruptly stops one millimetre from a stationary monkey and you lose a life because I guess the monkey was wearing contact nerve poison aftershave.
And with the ability to look back from our enlightened 21st century futuristic utopia, what really was the point of that whole push for 3D gameplay in arcade platformers? Considering that most arcade platformers these days have gone back to being 2D? You can't even say it was for looks, since early 3D was like rubbing a lego dog turd in your eyes. Ultimately it made as much sense as grafting two extra legs to your butt cheeks. They have no sensation and you can't run properly anymore but at least you can wear twice as many Crocs.
- Big Australian rat in shoes: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Not many people know this but Crash Bandicoot was called that because in the first game he was coming down from a sudden opiate withdrawal
- And I didn't even mention the pig molesting