Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 05.08.2017 4

Review for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4

SEGA will be forever synonymous with the amped-up speed freak Sonic the Hedgehog, Nintendo itself has kept cheeky Italian plumber Mario gainfully employed for over three decades, while Microsoft enlisted the heavily armoured and enigmatic Master Chief to front operations. It's a smart tactic that strengthens brand recognition, gives an ordinarily faceless tech industry giant an iconic touch point, and acts as a friendly front. How about Sony, then? Well, despite boasting a plethora of fairly prominent franchises to pluck a company mascot from, Crash Bandicoot has unofficially held that mantle for quite some time, now, despite the series going multi-platform in 2001. The fact that there hasn't actually been a new entry to the Crash franchise since his second kart racing game way back in 2010 (he diversified a bit) hasn't diminished the gaming public's yearning for a chance to get reacquainted. Activision (the current custodian of the 'coot and big fan of money) has sensed that the time to uncage the furry little dynamo is nigh, and has tasked industry stalwart Vicarious Visions with the job of making it happen.

A few fun educational bandicoot facts to kick off proceedings. They are a small- to medium-sized member of the marsupial family, mainly indigenous to the New Guinea region of Australia, and seemingly host to the Coxiella Burntii bacterial pathogen, which, amongst other things, can manifest as Hepatitis in humans. Not quite so cuddly, then. That's not all, though, as like most other marsupials, bandicoots are endowed with a bifurcated penis (ew), and while nobody is bringing into question the anatomical accuracy of Crash, as the central protagonist, thankfully it's an aspect that was quietly skirted around in the design stages and probably the main reason why he's never seen without a pair of trousers. Let's keep it family friendly, folks. Character-wise, though, Crash does appear to have startling similarities to Taz the Tasmanian Devil, star of the popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, and renowned whirling ball of cyclonic energy.

Of course, it was the original Crash Bandicoot games that introduced the world to the talented Naughty Dog, and indeed the first three titles in the series that make up the contents of N. Sane Trilogy were all products of the Santa Monica-based developer, releasing in 1996, 1997, and 1998, respectively. Pretty quick turnaround, then. Incidentally, Naughty Dog itself recently paid tribute to Crash via a cameo appearance in Uncharted 4, revealing that even Nathan Drake himself had a soft spot for the hairy little critter, and was partial to taking him out for a spin during downtime from all that adventuring.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4

A 'coot comeback has always felt inevitable, and if there's one thing that Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and the more recent Wipeout: Omega Collection have taught us about PS4 owners it's that they're partial to a budget-priced upgraded triple pack of classics. Let's be honest here, who isn't? There can be little doubt that current bandicoot handler Activision has been subjected to years' worth of nagging for a new Crash game, so releasing modernised versions of the first three titles not only feeds that demand, but simultaneously gauges interest in an potential new entry to the franchise.

For the benefit of anybody that may have inexplicably missed Crash the first time around, it's a platformer (initially) set on the fictional Wumpa Islands that is all about getting from point A to point B while avoiding an increasing number of pitfalls. Hazards include a wide variety of wildlife, dangerous tribesmen operating on a strict anti-bandicoot agenda, the often treacherous terrain, not to mention an overabundance of deadly traps and explosive crates scattered about the landscape.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4

The default perspective tends to follow Crash running up the screen, but will frequently switch between levels, so sometimes he'll end up running towards the camera (usually being chased by something), or occasionally forced into navigating on a more a traditionally platform-esque horizontal/vertical plane via a side-on viewpoint. While danger lurks at every turn, Crash isn't entirely defenceless, as he can deploy a destructive spin or a Mario-style jump/landing combo, which takes care of the majority of the opposition.

These 'skills' can also be used to break the many wooden crates that are strewn about each level, containing either Wumpa Fruit (apples), bonus lives, Aku Aku masks, or tokens that allow access to bonus levels. Aku Aku masks act in a shield-like manner and will prevent the loss of a life, while the Wumpa fruit give Crash an extra life with every hundred collected. Throw in the odd boss battle, bareback ride astride a wild hog, and tricky upriver excursion Frogger-style, and it's enough to drive a bandicoot N. Sane. Completed levels can be replayed using Crash's sister Coco, or as a competitive time trial, adding a minor level of replayability.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4

The first chapter of the trilogy lays down the foundations for the others to follow, and spills the beans on how the titular hero went about acquiring his enhanced gift for wanton destruction. As usual, it involves a maniacal scientist, Dr Neo Cortex, and it could be argued that being saddled with such a moniker from an early age, as well as possessing the prerequisite oversized, bulging cranium, pretty much doomed the fellow to a career as a classic cartoon bad guy. His latest invention, the Evolvo-Ray, is a device that mutates any living creature subjected to its output, causing an abnormally fast growth rate. Cortex being the kind of guy he is decides it would be best implemented to create an army of amped-up animals to do his bidding. Yep… Total fruit loop.

Crash somehow finds himself among the test subjects and is exposed to a particularly high dosage that causes the Evolvo-Ray to malfunction. This provides the perfect opportunity to escape Castle Cortex, though it doesn't take Crash long to realise that his girlfriend Tawna is still held in captivity and likely to get 'Evolved' once that infernal device was back up and running. The rescue mission is on.


 
Having played the original Crash Bandicoot extensively on the PlayStation back in the day, it does feel like this remake has received a very noticeable bump in the difficulty stakes. It's hard to pinpoint precisely why this is the case, but it could be that the DualShock 4 possesses a far higher level of sensitivity than the original PS1 controller. Maybe the increased pixel count has created a greater need for accuracy given that some of the platforming sections can be overly finicky and require pinpoint precision to succeed.

Unforgiving and frustrating are two words that seem odd to level at a game primarily aimed at children, but there are definitely a few difficulty spikes that could result in hair loss/controller damage for some of the quicker-to-anger members of the gaming community. Thankfully, Vicarious Visions has implemented a system that spots when Crash is spending too long on a section and attempts to alleviate the gnashing of teeth by throwing in an extra checkpoint. It seems to be an issue that just affects the first game the most, though this is possibly amplified slightly, as it's the most linear of the three titles in the bundle.

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With the protagonist/antagonist relationship firmly established in the first game, both Cortex Strikes Back and Warped (the second and third chunks of the trio) sees the merry dance continue in a predictable back and forth manner, with a few minor plot twists along the way. While the linearity still exists to an extent, the introduction of a warp system does offer up a choice as to which level to attempt next (usually from a selection of five, prefixing a boss battle), and it also provides the opportunity to explore a wider variety of environments.

This, alongside a newfound means to travel through time, allows Crash to take in a whistle-stop tour of the medieval times, a treacherously slippy Antarctic, the Great Wall of China, and Ancient Egypt, amongst others, with the added stipulation of having to find a (missable) crystal in each level to gain access to the boss. Crash Bandicoot has never looked so sharp, as, visually, N. Sane Trilogy sports a vibrant colour palette that really pops and works well with the upgraded assets, serving to strengthen the overall cartoon aesthetic. The audio work compliments the onscreen action perfectly via some suitably vintage sound effects that could well have been lifted from the golden age of Hanna-Barbera, and it's almost impossible not to crack a smile when that familiar soundtrack kicks in.

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While the three games featured in N. Sane Trilogy all originally released within quick succession, each iteration did see an evolutionary tweak to its control scheme, giving each title an individual, distinctive feel. Vicarious Visions has foregone this aspect of the originals, and instead opted to implement a uniform system across the entire package, which makes perfect sense from a development standpoint, but is particularly evident when playing the first title, as it feels slightly different. Of course, this is something that will likely only get picked up on by seasoned veterans of the series, though it would be remiss to rule it out as one of the contributing factors to the aforementioned increase in difficulty for that particular episode.

Speaking of difficulty, the release of N. Sane Trilogy has provided Vicarious Visions with the opportunity to delve into the vaults and rescue a long lost deleted (and previously unfinished) level called Stormy Ascent, which, besides being one of the larger levels the game has to offer, is also well renowned as being notoriously tough. While it's maybe not for the faint hearted, it is currently free to download until 19th August, 2017, so if there's anybody out there planning a purchase in the near future, it's well worth grabbing now gratis before a price tag gets added. Nice touch, Activision.

Screenshot for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Activision has played the nostalgia card like a seasoned Vegas pro, and will no doubt enjoy seeing the sales figures of N. Sane Trilogy skyrocket as a result. Vicarious Visions deserves major props for doing a fantastic job of eliminating the "Whoa… This is way blockier than I remember it to be" factor and delivering a 'coot heavy package that manages to enhance the core experience without straying too far from the original templates. That's not to say that it isn't without its issues, though, as the regular, jarring difficulty spikes can be frustrating at times and seem at odds with the needs of its primary target audience (kids), though admittedly this is an observation coming from somebody with the age-dulled reaction times of a gamer long past their prime. It's safe to say that we haven't seen the last of Crash yet...

Developer

Vicarious Visions

Publisher

Activision

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I never owned a Playstation as a kid, so I only got to experience bits and pieces of Crash Bandicoot at my friends' houses. I'm definitely looking forward to catching up with the series when I have the time, though honestly it's a shame there's no modern Crash Bandicoot classic to speak of. I'd rather play that! Smilie

( Edited 06.08.2017 17:16 by The Strat Man )

Good memories of the PS1 games, CTR and Bash included. Warped was where I spent most of my Crash platforming. Defo gonna pick this one up in a sale eventually.

The nostalgia factor is strong with this one so if you loved the originals then picking this up is a no brainer really as even at the rrp it's great value.

With that said, I think I've yelled far more profanities at this than any other title in recent memory … some of the sections of the CB1 fort levels demand pin point precision and timing. It's pretty generous with the bonus lives too which just makes it all the worse when they quickly deplete whilst attempting to navigate one of the many tricky stretches. Maybe I'm just not as good a gamer as I think I am Smilie

Given the sales this has been enjoying though I can see Activision getting a new Crash game out within a couple of years

It'd be sacrilege not to make a new Crash after this!

Crash 1 was defo a hard game from what I remember, but I heard they upped the difficulty in these remakes. It is a strange one when you think about it - was the target audience really kids? The difficulty implies targeting a sort of teen/adult range, looking back on it!

That said, I don't know how I managed to beat a lot of the solid games I played as a kid. Maybe we don't give our young selves enough credit lol.

( Edited 07.08.2017 15:09 by Azuardo )

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