When Sony entered the console wars, gaming was a battle of mascots, Nintendo and Sega had the mascot platformer genre cornered. Nintendo had just come out with Super Mario 64 and Rare was preparing to take the world by storm. Sony needed a mascot, and a platformer, so they put their faith in developer Naughty Dog. This small team created an orange marsupial to challenge any other gaming icon. The rest was history, or so it should’ve been, the Crash Bandicoot franchise went dormant for nine years. But, in 2017 the franchise came back with an N-Sane new hit.

The Crash Bandicoot N-Sane trilogy remade, and fixed up, the first three games the orange bandicoot was most famous for. These games, being his original PSX trilogy, nearly got an entire generation to fall in love with the character. Remaking them, faithfully, was a tough task. There was no better team for the job than Vicarious Visions. I felt there was a no better way to show appreciation for the character, and this package, than looking at all three games.

Crash Bandicoot

You are Crash, an orange bandicoot native to Wumpa Island, who was captured by Doctor Neo Cortex for use in an experiment to create a powerful army of mutant animals. There are not many cutscenes in the game, and it doesn’t beat you over the head with story, but it does present the story in a very colorful way. The game employs a structure of, mostly, show not tell. There isn’t much dialogue dragging the game down, but when there is dialogue, it’s creative and shows a ton of heart.

Crash has access to a simplistic spin attack and can jump on some enemies’ head, leaving him an easy character to explain. The main goal is to get to the end of the level. The game also awards gems for destroying every box without dying. I found Crash controlled fluidly, but a bit too heavy in the air, I got very familiar with control by the end of the game. The learning curve at the start is large, but rewarding, if you do end up sticking with it. Sometimes obstacles could have just a slightly too big hitbox to feel like I was the one at fault. Just often enough for me to feel upset by it.

Level design is split up into two major types of gameplay. There are 3D levels that sometimes take the forms of hallways or large expansive platforming challenges. These were easily my favorite parts of the game. It was just easier to control Crash in them. There were also pseudo-2D platforming levels. Where the camera would be aimed directly at Crash’s side. It is a mistake to treat these as 2D, because you have access to full 3D movement, and I found the levels easily abused. They were fun, but not as fun as the 3D levels, and that’s alright! After collecting a few tokens, you can access bonus areas! Dying in these places won’t take a life off of the counter. They mostly exist to hide crates you need to smash and extra lives.

Crash Bandicoot features a few different bosses for you to fight. Some are far too easy for their own good, including Cortex himself, and some are so hard that I could feel my veins popping out of my forehead. Not many of them felt fun, which is negative, but they also weren’t a damper on the experience. So I can’t help but question if I can hold that too much against the game. Another recurring theme were levels where Crash has to run from a giant boulder. I didn’t enjoy them because of the camera giving me a very awful idea of what was up ahead. Especially when it asked me for very precise jumps.

Music and presentation is off the chart for the remake! From the wonderful remixes of nostalgic hits, to the updated designs everyone sees! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to put a new spin on all of these old favorites. None of them drastically change from their original visions. Some characters, like Crash and Cortex, really only get new proportions. Just the charm of seeing the levels is one of the things that kept me going.

Crash Bandicoot is well worth your time and money. Especially as part of this collection, there’s very little reason to pass this over. Being the first game in the series, they were still trying to find their footing. There are a lot of moments that feel less-polished than later entries. If you’re picking up the collection, or digging out the PSX, I recommend starting here.

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

The original was an immediate hit. It’s no surprise that Naughty Dog was immediately on a sequel. They set out for bigger and better, while never forgetting their roots! The result of this expedition was a title that many still hail as the best of the series today.

After Coco Bandicoot requests you find laptop batteries, you’re thrust into a room by Doctor Neo Cortex’ design. You’re tasked with finding twenty-five crystals hidden across the world. Cortex allows you to use his teleportation room to track them all down. He claims that Doctor N. Brio has turned against him. Supposedly, N. Brio will be using a space station to blow up the planet. Crash is told that the only way to stop the blast is with the power of the crystals. The question is, do you believe him?

AiAiAi Rangers! We have an incoming transmission from Zordon! Wait… this is just some floating yellow nutcase. Carry on.

Crash, once again, feels like a joy to control. He keeps the same ballooned weightiness that he had in the original. Crash 2 implements two new moves. The slide, and a body slam, which become surprisingly useful in the late game. Crash can now do what is called a slide jump. Where you can jump further, and even off of the air if you jump out of a slide. Master this technique early on. It will become your savior later on. I only found true use for the body slam in bonus areas, but they use the move well enough for me not to care.

Level design is even more simplistic than in the first game. The most complicated areas you’ll deal with are the entrances to the bonus areas. Just like the first game, dying in these areas will not take a life off of your counter. Crash 2 separates 3D Levels into the main areas and 2D segments into separate levels. There isn’t any crossover until the final world.

The game brings back alternate level styles in full force. You still have levels running from boulders, and there are even some new types of levels this time too! You can ride a baby polar bear, functioning exactly like the hog from the original, these levels are perhaps my favorite. Some levels later in the game also give Crash a rocket pack. I found the controls for the rocket were far too finicky for me to enjoy the levels. I had trouble with timing going through certain hazards.

After collecting every purple crystal for that floor, you challenge a boss. Most of the boss fights were just dumb little diversions. I honestly can’t remember what the first two encounters were like. None of the bosses felt like they had weight. The fight with N. Gin was extremely annoying. Only because of having to aim the wumpa fruit at precise locations. The final boss, an encounter with Cortex in space, is a rocket level. It took me 37 seconds to complete. An incredibly dissatisfactory finale to an otherwise excellent experience.

Crash 2 may end with a bang, but it doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t booming! I had way more fun with Crash 2 than the original! It’s easy to see where people are coming from when they refer to this one as the best. I’d recommend the entire trilogy for this game alone. The difference here is the execution. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with more of the same. Especially when the second course is cooked better.

Crash Bandicoot: Warped

Crash Bandicoot was on top of the world after his last two entries were a huge success for Sony and Naughty Dog. There wasn’t much more they could do to improve the basic formula. So Naughty Dog decided to take the series in a completely different direction. Focusing more on level themes than the levels themselves. As a newfound fan of the first two titles, I was excited to jump into the final game in the original trilogy. It has an incredibly mixed reception, but I was willing to toss that to the side.

After his frantic flop in Crash 2, Cortex ends up accidentally setting the evil Uka Uka free. Aku Aku, the mask that has been helping you throughout the franchise, had previously locked his brother in a magic prison for a thousand years. It’s a simple plot, but it works well enough for a 3D platformer. I like the effort they put in to connect to the previous game.

As stated before, there’s no gameplay difference between Crash here and the other titles. Warped differentiates itself by adding unlockable abilities. Crash has a double-jump, a wumpa bazooka, and other moves, earned by defeating a world’s boss. These moves didn’t add too much in my opinion. They were too situational for me to care too much about them. I appreciate the fact that they are here, but I think they should’ve stopped at the double jump and upgraded body slam.

Crash Bandicoot: Warped divides the story between two playable characters. Crash and, his sister, Cocoa. They’re restricted to their specific levels. Cocoa can ride on a boat, or on an animal. Crash has his normal levels, plane levels, racing levels, and so on. Crash games always have “that level,” but here it was “that type of level.”

The racing levels are the absolute worst thing I’ve experienced in a 3D platformer. I can’t properly express my anger, or frustration while attempting these. To acquire the gem, and beat the level, you must get first place in the race. The tracks are long, boring, and the music loops over and over. It’s incredibly repetitive. I have to give the levels credit though. They made me so angry to the point of wishing to scream profanities and then to the point that I gave up all will to express emotion. Never had a game do that to me.

Warped is definitely the most unique looking of the trilogy. From Athens Greece to the swamps of the amazon, Warped keeps up a specific theme of time travel. The game doesn’t care about the location, instead of focusing on about one gimmick per level. I was constantly impressed with how each stage looked. Especially for the Switch. Crash 3 sounds just as good as it looks too. Each track had the perfect blend of quick and snappy with a little bit of sincerity. A lot of the songs are still stuck in my head now.

Overall, I thought this was a huge step down from the last two games. I don’t see myself ever revisiting it like I would the others. The basic gameplay wasn’t rough, just as fun as the other two games, but the extra level types took the experience down that many steps. I just can’t say I enjoyed “most” of the game. If this was still Indie Gamer Team, it wouldn’t get the seal of approval. That’s really all I have to say to end this tirade.

The N.Sane Trilogy

The N.Sane trilogy itself makes a few changes that might impact how fans of the originals view it. The biggest change was unifying how Crash controls over all three games. It’s a lot easier to get into all three! Not having to burn a new set of controls into muscle memory three more times is great! This change does make certain jumps a lot harder in the original Crash Bandicoot.

The trilogy adds Cocoa into the first two games! At any point, you can switch between the two at your leisure. I wish they would’ve kept this in Warped. The difference between the two is entirely visual. I stuck out my adventure with Crash, but I can see why others would want to use Cocoa!

The game received two free DLC levels. Stormy Ascent was a scrapped level from the original Crash Bandicoot. Vicarious Visions painstakingly recreated it for all to enjoy! You can access it in the Crash 1 remake. Future Tense is the first, and only, original level released. As a taste of what’s to come, I’m excited to see where VicariousVisions takes the franchise in the future.

I highly recommend the N. Sane trilogy to anyone interested in picking it up! The remakes are lovingly crafted for newcomers and long-time fans. Not everyone is interested in an extremely tough challenge like the Crash Bandicoot series. This was right up my alley. I’ll definitely be following Crash wherever he goes in the future!