I made no secret about my discontent regarding Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’s exclusivity. Not the exclusivity itself, but rather what Xbox players had to contend with back when the game first arrived on PlayStation 4. PlayStation fans were enjoying Crash, Nintendo fans were enjoying Mario and Xbox fans, well, we had to put up with Super Lucky’s Tale, which let’s face it, didn’t have a scratch on either Crash or Mario. Now, however, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has finally arrived on Xbox One, somewhat a year post-launch on the PlayStation 4. I think we can safely jump to the point here. It’s absolutely amazing.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a compilation of Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. These three classics have been wonderfully remastered, or more specifically, recreated, by the talented folks over at Vicarious Visions. That comes on top of the inclusion of Stormy Ascent and Future Tense, a previously unfinished and unreleased level and a brand new level, respectively. Safe to say that for the cost of just £34.99/$39.99, you’re getting more than a decent return for your investment. Especially if you’re a fan of either Crash Bandicoot or platformers in general.
Revisiting my remark regarding its remastered work, Vicarious Visions has gone far beyond that of a traditional remaster. This collection sits somewhere between a fully-fledged remake and carefully structured remaster. Vicarious Visions couldn’t utilize much of the original’s source code, so instead, they took the original level geometry and rebuilt the game from the ground up. Thankfully, the end result is one that’s faithful and respectful to the original games. Ultimately this means that although there’s a fresh lick of paint and a refined personality overall, the gameplay itself is exactly how you remember it to be.
Each and every single asset is positioned and behaves precisely as they did before. The varying boxes are located in the same spots, the enemies patrol exactly as they once did, the bonus levels and how each can be accessed remains identical to the originals, and everything else follows suit. By and large, Vicarious Visions has produced one of the best remasters of this gen and by staying nearly perfectly inline with Naughty Dog’s concept, the end result makes for an unforgettable adventure that will appeal to newcomers and returning fans alike. That’s not to mention how much of a challenge these games bring.
Perhaps I was a much better player back in the day, or maybe platformers have just become more forgiving over the years, but damn, does this trilogy take me back to a time where I felt a great sense of reward just for beating a single level. I’m more than certain that Vicarious Visions has implemented the additional checkpoint box here and there, so I’m falling more toward the latter of those two beliefs. Still, when all is said and done, there’s no denying this trilogy of its wonderful structure and design. There’s roughly 100 levels packed in here in total, all of which offer replay value and frequent hidden secrets throughout.
There’s also the neat addition of time trials, which the original two games never enjoyed. However, these additions feel brilliantly suited nevertheless. Naturally, each game offers additional mechanics and added longevity over its immediate predecessor, simply due to the games needing to evolve with the times and bring something new to the table back in the day. The main menu servers as a choice-gateway that enables you to select which game from the trilogy you wish to play. Crash Bandicoot is the most basic of the three, with Cortex Strikes Back and Warped (as alluded to above) climbing in complexity with each title jump.
If you’re new to the series, each game is relatively easy to get to grips with. The gameplay typically consists of running from one end of the level to the other, spin-attacking enemies and boxes, jumping to avoid a shed load of environmental hazards, taking on the occasional epic boss battle and working to uncover hidden pathways and secrets. Despite the lack of a tutorial, it’s very simple stuff to digest. I suspect the original camera angles will cause some annoyance among the younger audience, simply due to how tricky it can be to judge a jump as a result, but at the bottom line, I hand on heart would not have it any other way.
My only gripe is that Crash’s hitbox appears to be a bit unforgiving. My memory doesn’t serve me as it once did, so I struggle to recall if this was present in the originals, but I would lying if I said that it didn’t frustrate me from time to time. Cases when this issue is at its most dominant tends to revolve around jumping over fire, trying to avoid a hungry piranha, clearing a chomping plant, and other similar tidbits. Thankfully the checkpoint system is quite generous, so it never feels too punishing. Also, boxes that you smash or items that you collect along the way will remain smashed and obtained from checkpoint to checkpoint.
Throughout the adventures, players can select to play as either Crash or Coco, Crash’s sister. Irrespective as to who you play as, both of these characters function exactly the same. Whatever the case, there’s easily tens of hours worth of fun to be had here. The level diversity has held up quite well over time. Collectively tasking you with traditional stages, side-scrolling stages, as well as those iconic stages that toy with your reflexes, such as outrunning a huge boulder or riding on a hog through some deadly terrain. Each level also houses a small number of optional side objectives too, such as smashing every box in sight.
These requirements can be viewed at anytime by pressing Y during a play-through, or via the over-map at each game’s menu. It pays off to smash as many boxes as you can and seek out hidden sections within each level that the game’s strict camera angle attempts to cleverly cover up. Boxes mostly contain apples (collecting 100 for an extra life), extra lives and character stamps that are necessary for accessing bonus stages. There’s also some nefarious boxes including the likes of Nitro and TNT, which as you’ll remember, can be a real pain in the ass when they’re so closely, deviously positioned next to the standard wooden boxes.
Aku Aku masks are also dotted around most of the levels. Collecting three of these in total will give you a short run of invincibility, which certainly comes in handy when you’ve got a long stretch of boxes and enemies waiting for you ahead. Moving from Crash Bandicoot to Cortex Strikes Back and then to Warped only showcases the improvements that each title adopts. I completely recommend playing these games in chronological order. I made the mistake of playing Cortex Strikes Back before playing its immediate predecessor, which only went on to show how stiff its design can be from time to time throughout play.
Don’t get me wrong, Crash Bandicoot is a wonderful adventure, but it’s a lot easier to witness its design cracks when you’re moving down the title chain rather than up it. Despite its few niggling issues, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is far too easy to recommend. Vicarious Visions has recreated all of these games magnificently well. Moving from title to title is achieved fluidly, and its accessibility alone gets a special thumbs up from me. It helps, of course, that the games look absolutely stunning. Each jam-packed with atmosphere and excellent color usage across all of their diverse, well developed and utterly distinct levels.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at an ocean backdrop, a jungle backdrop, a lab backdrop or anything in between, Crash has never looked so good. I extend that same appreciation to the game’s audio too, which again, has been faithfully reproduced to perfectly capture that classic essence. The bottom line in all of this is that Vicarious Visions has reminded the world that they don’t make platformers quite like they used to. If you’re looking for a challenging, endearing, and vibrant platformer that comes with heaps of replay value and charm, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy will serve you well for hours on end.
In an age of remasters that don’t always feel earned, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is one for which fans have been rightfully clamoring. Vicarious Visions’ recreations are simply stunning. The nostalgia overflows from this collection for those that played them so many years ago, and if you’re new to the series, they mostly still hold up today. Depth perception problems return in their original state like so much else in a trilogy so faithfully remade, but as those are uncommon after the first game, the majority of your time in Crash Bandicoot will feel like a fun, wumpa fruit-laden stroll down memory lane.