PSX Review – Crash Bandicoot

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The Console Wars in the late 90’s were fun times! There were a ton of funny commercials with all the mascots fighting it out – Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, and Sony had Crash Bandicoot! With all this excitement about the re-release of the Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy being released, I thought it would be a good time and go back and play the original Crash Bandicoot for the first time on Playstation!

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While playing the game, I couldn’t figure out what the story was. After doing some research, it turns out there is quite the back story! Doctor Neo Cortex – the antagonist of the game – has created an Evolvo-Ray to help transform animals into brainwashed super animals for his marsupial army! He grabs a bunch of animals to transform including Crash and Tawna – bandicoots from the Australian archepelago. Crash gets the Evolvo-Ray first and get transforms in to a stronger larger marsupial, but does not get brainwashed! Cortex throws him away into the ocean because he won’t obey! Crash wakes up on a small island, and decides that he must save Tawna – the female bandicoot – from the evil Doctor Neo Cortex!

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In terms of gameplay, this is a 3D platformer.  Crash’s primary goal is to get to the warp zone at the end of each level, and he does this by running, jumping, and spinning through enemies. While Crash can only take one hit until he dies, he can pick up a voodoo mask named Aku Aku who provides him an extra hit, and even “star power” a la Mario if he collect enough of them. If he dies (and he will a lot) you can also pick up fruits – 100 will give you a free life and the levels are full of them! Each level has a number of boxes too with bonuses being granted for breaking them all! While the controls are simple, they also felt a bit dated because it is a 3D platformer with no analogue joystick support! Image playing Mario 64 with a SNES controller – its strange but it can work (think Mario 64 DS)!

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In terms of level design, there is a ton of variety but almost all of them feel like they are “on-rails” which limits freedom – this is no Super Mario 64! In the first level, Crash runs forward towards his goal through a jungle with one split in the path that converges on the same ending. In later levels, he similarly rides a hog from that perspective. He also runs toward you a la Indiana Jones where he is being chased run down by a giant boulder! There are also a couple 2D levels that feel reminiscent of the 16-bit days that focus on platforming.

I really liked the variety that these levels brought, but felt some worked bette than others. I loved the animal riding levels and “running forward” levels, but was particularly frustrated with the Indiana Jones type levels where Crash is running towards you because the camera made it hard to determine where Crash was suppose to jump. I don’t know if this was just a problem with my PSX controller, but I felt that the 2D platforming levels where you had 3D movement (i.e., could fall towards and away from the screen) were particularly challenging because I kept falling off into the background even though I was only hitting the right direction pad. It was quite frustrating because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong but kept dying (see below for level examples)! I also didn’t like having to get through these stages to save my game!

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There are occasional bosses in the game, and while they do a good job adding even more variety,  I found them a bit more annoying than fun. The first boss looks like a voodoo guy, and he just spins around while spinning his wand. It took me a while to figure out how to kill him, but you just need to jump on his head  when he swings! Like most bosses, once you know then pattern, they fall quite easily. Later bosses were more challenging but still relatively easy to defeat once figured out.

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In terms of graphics, I found them just as charming as I did when I saw the commercials on TV back in the 90’s. The game has a charming colourful world with interesting characters and enemies alike! While models have low polygons, they make it work! The game also does a good job creating a sense of being on a tropical island. There is something timeless about how this game looks that makes it more appealing than the re-release version. The music is whimsical and does a good job creating a fun and engaging mood. The sound effects do their jobs and makes destroying enemies and breaking boxes all the more fun!

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In summary, this is a 3D platformer on the PSX that is challenging, fun, and still looks pretty good. There are some parts that have not aged well – including lack of analogue joystick control and some poor controls on the 2D levels – but overall, there is still a lot of fun to be had here! If you can find a reasonably priced copy, I would recommend gamers to give this one a shot. Overall, I give this game a 7/10. The later entries are even better!

Final Score: 7/10

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