Crash Bandicoot (Sony Playstation)

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Introduction

The nefarious Dr. Neo Cortex is engineering animals from his island fortress to be soldiers in his bid for world domination.  Crash is a failed experiment who escapes…. somehow… for reasons. Help Crash wreck Cortex’s islands and save his girlfriend from being turned into the general of Cortex’s army (More damsels in distress… ugh).

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At least I think that’s what the backstory is, the opening scene jumps around a lot.

Development

Crash Bandicoot was developed by the three man development effort known as Naughty Dog and was published through Universal Interactive Studios– the fact that three guys made this game astonishes me. Naughty Dog was composed of Andy Gavin, Jason Rubin, and Dave Bagget– who was hired later in the game’s creation. They decided to jump into the 3D world with a classic genre of game, action platformer. They chose to release for the Playstation because it seemed less clunky than the alternatives like the Atari Jaguar, Sega 32X, and Sega Saturn– if these consoles don’t sound familiar there’s a good reason for that, they’re terrible.

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I’m sorry if you owned one of these.

They wanted the game to have a Sonic the Hedgehog vibe so they made the setting a clash between nature and technology and made the character an anthropomorphized version of an unheard of animal. They jokingly called the game “Sonic’s Ass Game” because the camera would only view Crash from behind. They chose the Bandicoot from a list of animals from Australian and Tasmanian animals. Other animals from Australia and Tasmania, like potoroos and koalas, would join the cast of villains.

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This is a Bandicoot. Crash scarcely resembles him.

Crash Bandicoot was released in August, 1996. It was up against The Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall, Diablo, and Super Mario 64.

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Staring squarely at the hindquarters of our valiant protagonist.

Nostalgia

In 1996 you were either a Playstation kid or a Nintendo 64 kid. You either took a gamble on a new system with new mascots or kept playing Mario games. And that was a big gamble to take. Someone’s first foray into 3D platforming in this divide is either going to be Mario 64 or Crash Bandicoot. My father got me a playstation so my game was Crash Bandicoot. I could go left, right, forward, back, up, and down, it blew my mind! I could go anywhere, do anything! But Crash has so many boundaries. The game is mostly a linear path with a little wiggle room to the right and left. Some of the most fun levels are actually returns to the 2D form. It was a sign of what was possible, but also felt very limiting which is the game in a nutshell really.

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GO ANYWHERE, DO ANYTHING! Like doing the same things of last generation but slightly better and with a better paint job.

Gameplay

The goal of each level is to reach its end, enemies and pits will impede your progress forward. Jump over the pits and jump on or spin attack the enemy. It’s pretty Marioesque, boxes hold fruit which Crash can collect for extra lives and Crash can only take one hit unless he finds powerups to protect him. This one of the first platformers that I can remember where the protagonist actually has a melee attack, he can do more than just jump on things. And Crash’s spin attack was deadly at best and humorous at worst, arms akimbo cartoonishly lashing out. The most fun levels are the ones with the craziest gimmicks, 2D levels, pig riding levels, rock fleeing levels. The additional challenge of each level lies in breaking all the Marioesque boxes in the level, but more on that later.

The Kvetch

This game was really good for its time but it has not aged well. The Playstation’s disk storage capacity was great for making games look better but save data couldn’t be saved on a disk. So the Playstation had memory cards but no one knew what those were at launch because no other system needed them before. This created some problems for the game. Naughty Dog figured that no one would no what memory cards were so Crash had a password system but passwords get to be 32 characters long. I had sheets of paper with passwords and I could never remember which was the most up to date. And Crash can only save in bonus levels which can only be accessed by finding randomly placed pictures of his girlfriend hidden in boxes in each level. It was so frustrating I would try to beat the whole game in one sitting and it’s just not possible.

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One of the last password screens in gaming history and with good reason.

The only way to unlock the secret ending is to get gems, Crash gets gems by breaking all the boxes in each stage. Some boxes can only be reached by getting certain gems, so sometimes you think you’ve gotten all the boxes but you haven’t and don’t know why. Some levels break into 2 paths, both of which have boxes. Which means Crash has to backtrack through levels and that’s easier said than done.

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This is the standard camera, you can’t see what’s behind you. So backtracking is a matter of memorization.

The Gush

This all being said the game is pretty fun if you’re not trying to complete it. The art is really good, especially for the time. The jungles, forts, labs, and castles all look really interesting with little bits to notice. The level design is really solid, it’s easy to find the rhythm of jumps and spins to defeat levels.

My favorite part of the game though is the boss fights. Did you ever want to fight a body-building Koala? There’s a boss for that. Did you ever want to fight a small mammal that’s been genetically experimented on so hard it became a mobster? There’s a boss for that.

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This is the only level where Crash will take cover, but with good reason.

Did you ever want to fight a mad scientist that hulks out during the fight? There’s a boss for that.

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This fight has actually glitched out on me more often than it hasn’t. It’s still super fun though!

The Verdict

This game’s too hard to complete but too easy to finish. It’s in this weird difficulty anti-sweet spot. I might play it to walk down the memory lane of beating Pinstripe Potoroo, but probably not. Like many first attempts , the sequel fixes most of these problems but this isn’t the sequel.

Next Week: Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

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