My experience with the Crash Bandicoot games in the 90’s were all through Playstation demo discs. I specifically remember the Crash 3 demo with one of the tiger riding levels on the Great Wall of China. I recall playing it over and over again. It was fun but I also had a hard time finishing the level. When the N. Sane remastering of the original trilogy was announced, I immediately wanted to play it and finally experience these classic beloved games.
While playing the games, I realized the original Crash games are in a strange place in this day and age. The more linear 3D level design and stiffer movement controls have dated compared to other more explorative, free moving 3D platformers popularized by Mario 64. There haven’t been many platformers with hallway style levels like Crash since the 90’s. The first one that comes to my mind would be Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS. This unique style of levels is the main reason I think the Crash Bandicoot games are still worth playing today.
There are other strengths of the Crash trilogy that still make them enjoyable to play. With the N. Sane Trilogy being Remastered in HD, the games look better than ever. The characters are cartoony and expressive and everything is so lush and colorful that the games pop off the screen. There is also a variety of level types from 3D paths to 2D side scroller and the infamous chase levels and multiple vehicle sections. Sometimes, particularly in Crash 3, the variety of level styles make the games feel inconsistent.
Along with this slight inconsistency, there are two other major areas of frustration in the games. The first is the movement, which feels heavy and sluggish. This help to some extent when making precise jumps, but the heaviness of the jumps and some finickiness with the slide can make what should be simple jumps difficult. The second frustration are the hitboxes. They seem to extend further off the character model than you’d expect, leading to a lot of infuriating deaths where Crash turns into a ghost or smoking pair of sneakers slightly before he touches anything.
These issues should be deal breakers. Especially in a platformer where movement and control are paramount. But while these issues are frustrating, they are surmountable. More importantly though, the Crash trilogy is still worth playing just based on the uniqueness of the games. As mentioned before, there are not many games with the same type of 3D levels as Crash. The games are more linear than 3D Mario games and require more precision than 3D Sonic games. It’s an interesting case study of a style of 3D games from a time with more limited hardware, a style of level that didn’t gain as much favor as more explorative 3D platformers.
If you are interested in the Crash Bandicoot trilogy, the N. Sane collection is great. It looks great, plays well, and is easy to get your hands on. My rankings of the games would be:
- Crash 1 as the worst because the level design is sloppier and is by far the most frustrating of the games
- Crash 3: Wrapped in the middle because the over reliance of multiple vehicle level styles makes the game feel the most inconsistent
- Crash 2: The Wrath of Cortex as the best because it has the best difficulty curve that gets challenging but never too frustrating.