Cast your mind back to the 90s. Pogs were all the rage. Questionable fashion was rife. Anthropomorphic video game characters ruled the world. ‘twas a simpler time, a time when it was perfectly acceptable for a video game character to not have a purpose in life other than to collect all of the stuff simply because we must always have all the stuff.
Recently, on Factory Sealed: Episode 129 (that was a beautiful segue, if I do say so myself), we played a rather charming, fondly-remembered game that fits neatly into this 90’s stereotype: Crash Bandicoot.
He had it all. Obsessed with collecting/breaking stuff – check. Ridiculous name – check. An animal barely anyone who lived outside of Australia had never heard of – check. He span, jumped and died in amusing ways right into our hearts, where, for many, he’s stayed ever since.
The question is, however, how has the first Crash Bandicoot really aged? In this article, in which I, Mr Dan himself, look back at the games we played on Factory Sealed, I shall remove my rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia wistfulness and cast a critical eye over the games we play. It’s almost like having intelligent thought, albeit dispersed with occasional nonsense and funny pictures. Huzzah!
So What Is Crash Bandicoot Anyway?
I’m going to assume you probably know what Crash Bandicoot is, but if you don’t (where have you been??), Crash Bandicoot is a PS1 platforming game starring the titular orange marsupial.
The first game in what would spawn a franchise, in this game, Crash escapes from the evil Dr Neo Cortex, who is experimenting on the local wildlife to turn them into mindless slaves or some such evil stuff. Although he is now free – with his brain slightly addled by the process – Crash left behind his girlfriend Tawna Bandicoot at the mercy of Cortex and his minions.
Crash must therefore travel across the islands, battling everything from deadly turtles to giant rolling balls that chase you into the screen, as he battles to rescue Tawna from Cortex Castle.
To get there, you must navigate deadly pits, ride a warthog while dodging tribal natives, jump on boxes, spin attack into enemies and collect wumpa fruit (100 gives you an extra life), actual extra lives and Aku Aku masks (who acts as a form of protection – collect three and it turns you into a super-powered witchdoctor-god with increased speed and temporary invincibility!).
Alright Great, So How Is It To Play?
Honestly, if you had really taken away my nostalgia goggles and hidden them somewhere in a box, I’d have to tell you that Crash Bandicoot hasn’t aged amazingly.
While there’s some good level design and jumping, spinning and smashing stuff is pretty easy and intuitive, there comes a point in the game where Crash 1 just gets brutally, unforgivingly difficult. It’s generally after the halfway point where this happens; you go from nice, challenging levels to ones which are basically standing on your neck, pushing you down into a sandpit.
Even as a self-professed Crash pro, I struggled to go back and get through all of Crash 1. The third island levels, in particular, are somewhat unfair at times and you feel like you may routinely die through no fault of your own.
It’s worth noting that, at the time, hardly anything like this had existed on the market. Developers Naughty Dog were doing something new here; combining together high quality 3D models and characters with new platforming challenges. They succeeded in some ways, but, in my humble opinion, they only perfected Crash in the sequels, Crash 2 and 3.
For new gamers, the hardest part of going back to Crash Bandicoot is the extremely odd saving system. To save the game, you must either:
- Finish a level without dying, making sure you smash absolutely every box along the way
- Finish a one-time only available bonus level without dying
If you can’t pull off either of these, you ain’t saving your game on Crash. There is a password system – and a ‘super’ password system – but you again need to unlock these through the bonus rounds or by not dying. Or, if you’re really 90s, by using a cheat manual. Remember those?
How’s the Graphics?
Looks great in 4K. Kidding.
Yeah, so Crash Bandicoot probably won’t win any awards for its visuals, but at the time, this game somewhat raised the bar for platforming on the Playstation. One, of course, could argue that Mario 64 did platforming better at the about the same time, but one who said that would be a numpty. ‘Jeeves, remove this man proclaiming the superiority of Mario 64 from my Crash Bandicoot review! Mm, quite!’
Again, Crash 2 and 3 are visually superior to this game with a more refined colour palette, more diverse level design and better animations. However, Crash 1 still has some cool levels, including a trip up a deadly river, an industrial factory and a sprawling native fortress called, well, Native Fortress.
So, Should I Play It?
While I have some reservations about giving this one a hearty 10 out of 10 pip pips, I would say that yes, Crash Bandicoot is a game you should probably play.
It can be frustrating and the save system is absolutely ridiculous, but there’s fun to be had here. I particularly think you’ll like the bosses (who are a mixed bag of fun), most of the earlier levels and – for some – the level of challenge the game has.
If you want to be a real pro, you should try and finish the game with all the gems. To do so, you’ll need to get through a level without dying, making sure you also break all of the boxes along the way. It’s basically impossible.
6.5/10 Pip Pips