Growing up in the 90's, some of my favorite gaming experiences involved running, jumping and spinning my way through the colorful levels of the Crash Bandicoot series. Now, 20 years later, we've got Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a from-the-ground-up recreation of the OG PlayStation games. Available for the PlayStation 4 last year and now launching on every other major platform, the question is whether this is a case of classic games made even better thanks to modern technology, or a collection of titles that were better left fondly remembered.
Since N. Sane Trilogy has been available on the PS4 for about a year, folks who have been following the game won't be surprised to learn that, yes, the Crash Bandicoot series has stood the test of time. Even when I've made sure to remove my rose-tinted glasses, it's easy to see that the games were so well received back in the 90's because they were so well put together in the first place. Not to take away from the great work Vicarious Visions has done in creating the N. Sane Trilogy, but you've got a nice leg up on a project when the blueprint you're working from is of a high quality.
Now available for PC, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch (reviewed), N. Sane Trilogy is just as good today as it was on the PS4 in 2017 or the original PlayStation before the turn of the century. You've got access to the original Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped, a game that remains one of my all-time favorites. You can plow through the trilogy one at a time or bounce back and forth as you please. On top of all of those lovely new visuals, a couple extra bells and whistles include the ability to play as Crash's sister, Coco, through most levels, as well as a chance to tackle two brand new levels made just for this collection, Stormy Ascent (Crash Bandicoot) and Future Tense (Warped).
What stood out about the original Crash Bandicoot games is still impressive all these years later, and that's how Naughty Dog managed to cram so much creativity into the platforming genre. Back in the day, platforming games were a dime a dozen, with Nintendo's Mario titles typically setting the bar. Crash Bandicoot was clearly inspired by the mustachioed plumber, complete with wumpa fruit to collect instead of coins and crates to break instead of brick blocks.
But that's where the similarities came to an end. From the very beginning, Crash Bandicoot was all about variety, bending the early rules of what was considered standard practice in platformers to create something bold and new. The spinning marsupial would spend one level running away from the camera toward an end goal, then find himself being chased by a boulder or charging dinosaur toward the camera the next. The former played more like a standard side-scroller while the latter completely changed the tempo and difficulty by forcing the player to run headlong into the unknown. Next thing you know, you're fighting a boss, riding a motorcycle, cruising in the water or even hopping on the back of a tiger and racing across the Great Wall.
These games forced players to continually rethink how they approached a given level, and that kind of variety is as refreshing today as it was back in the 90's. While platformers are still alive and well here in 2018, few offered as much variety as these 20-year-old classics.
If there's one downside to the Crash Bandicoot games, it's that the jumps could occasionally feel too floaty for the type of precision platforming on offer, and that could frequently result in levels or sections of gameplay that become infuriatingly difficult. I loved that kind of challenge as a kid but, nowadays, I have less of a tolerance for such shenanigans. The good news is that, the more I played, the more comfortable I felt with the mechanics/physics of the game world, and the less trouble I had.
In short, N. Sane Trilogy will feel like a homecoming of sorts for fans of the original games. Everything you remember is here, it just looks and sounds better than ever. Vicarious Visions has done a fantastic job of bringing the Crash Bandicoot series to modern consoles and keeping the vision of the originals intact, warts and all.
There are dozens upon dozens of levels to play through in this collection, with each level offering plenty of secrets to discover, time trials to tackle, and even incentives to go back and play each level a couple extra times. There's a lot of bang for your buck, on top of receiving a crash course in why solid game design is so important. What was good back in the day is still good all these later, and now all I want out of life is for Vicarious Visions to take everything they've learned from the N. Sane Trilogy and apply it to a Crash Bandicoot 4.
This review based on a Nintendo Switch download of the game provided by the publisher.