Nintendo has Mario, SEGA has Sonic, and PlayStation has Crash. Crash Bandicoot, that is.
Over the years, however, Crash has fallen by the wayside only to come back in 2017 -- a full seven years after his last title, the oft-forgotten racing game Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2 and 21 years after the hero's debut on the original PlayStation. And while he has returned, it's not in a new adventure. Rather, the talented folks at Vicarious Visions (rather than the series originator Naughty Dog) have remastered the three original core Crash games for an experience that's just as fun as it is challenging.
Speaking of difficulty, this collection of 90s-era platformers is simply unforgiving. It's not hard for Crash to find himself on the wrong side of things, ending in lost lives and an eventual game over. Honestly, we wouldn't have it any other way. In a way, N. Sane Trilogy is a commentary on the state of gaming today with their checkpoints and seemingly unlimited lives. This collection of games from years gone by reminds us that there is such a thing as a game over. There is such a thing as a fun-yet-frustrating challenge. There is such a thing as the sense of accomplishment for finishing a level on your last life. And it's great.
In visually modernizing the original three Crash games from the blocky, low-resolution graphics of yesteryear to the crisp, colorful presentation of today, nothing seems to have been lost gameplay-wise. This includes the fairly shallow-ness and repetitiveness of the original game. Thankfully, all three of the games are available from the get-to. Nothing to unlock, really, and everything to enjoy.
For as enjoyably shallow the first game is, the second game -- Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back -- is that much better. It's a great middle point between the first and third for those who (like us) played the games in chronological order. It boasts longer levels with more chances for exploration compared to the extremely linear and simplistic designs of the first. Furthermore, its levels have enough variety between them as well as a good level of challenge that it keeps things fun throughout.
The third and final game of this remastered trilogy, Crash Bandicoot: Warped, isn't quite as difficult as its two predecessors, but it's still quite fun to play. To make up for easier gameplay, Warped features more secrets and vehicles, as well as better level variation compared to the first two games. For better or for worse, it's the most "modern" of the three (which makes sense) and is the one younger gamers will probably enjoy the most, but more veteran gamers will still have a blast with it.
Outside of gameplay, Vicarious Visions made some improvements to the originals beyond higher-quality visuals and sound. There is now a universal save system, longer cinematics, and the option to play as Coco Bandicoot (Crash's little sister). Coco plays exactly the same as Crash, but offers something different as far as appearance and adds female representation to the games' otherwise roster of one.
Retro revivals can be ether rather good or rather bad when it comes to video games. With Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, the case is very much the former as there is a lot to like. Older gamers will enjoy the nostalgia, younger ones will like the colorful setting and characters, and the game's sometimes unforgiving difficulty comes off as being rather rewarding once the challenge is met and surpassed. It's a game that deserves consideration for most any PlayStation 4 owner's collection.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is published by Activision and rated "E10+" by the ESRB.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
A copy of this game was furnished by Activision for the purpose of review.