Developers: Vicarious Visions
Plot: Neo Cortex and Uka Uka try to take over the world, but one of their experiments, a genetically modified bandicoot, stands in between them and world domination.
Modern gaming feels like a stream-lined field these days, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. With first person shooters and open world games being spat out, each better than the last, the consumer that wants something more colourful and charming feels left out. Not everyone is a Call of Duty fan, but this market feels like one largely ignored. While the need for something fresh and new isn’t quite sated, Vicarious Visions return to the old classics: namely the first three, and the only three as far as a few fans are concerned, Crash Bandicoot platformers.
This isn’t technically a remaster. The biggest issue faced by Vicarious Visions is the fact that a lot of the original source code of the three PS1 games has been lost to time, meaning that they couldn’t just do the usual trick of touching up the games with modern technology. However, the demand, and chance of profit, of remaking these games was so great that the production company literally built the game up from scratch. Examining the level layouts in great detail, Vicarious Visions have artfully joined the game together, in almost seamless fashion. Idle players will likely test the authenticity of the production company’s work, but as of yet, they don’t appear to have dropped the ball. Every hidden shortcut, every secret level, every meagre collectible has been lovingly placed where it belongs. The soundtrack has been restored and the maps looked like they have pulled directly from the first time you picked up that game. It really does feel like going back in time and discovering Crash for the first time. Washing up on that beach in the very first level, wandering into Cortex Strikes Back’s warp room for the first time, meeting a baby dinosaur… the nostalgia just hits you and keeps on coming, which is an extraordinary achievement, when you consider that the developers has almost nothing to work with, when commencing this gigantic project. But, of course, Vicarious Visions couldn’t resist updating it with the PS4 visuals. Therefore, not only do we get the feeling of going back in time, but that usual experience of going back to a game from your memory and discovering it was better in your head, is absent. The animation here is superb, the backdrops to each level popping out at the gamer. While the updated Crash Bandicoot might jar at first (sometimes you almost want the terrible animation for the title character), he quickly wins you over. Best of all is discovering the enemies for the first time all over again. We remember encountering the giant polar bear in Unbearable or the swordsmen in Hang Em High, but as we get closer to them in the game, we wonder what terrifying and exciting new form the updated visuals have given us. In needing to go that extra mile to accomplish this hefty remake, N. Sane Trilogy has ended up a better finished product than many could have ever imagined.
But hell, was it always this hard? The first Crash Bandicoot game was always a tad too tricky for its own good, but here in the remaster, it seems excessively complicated. Slippery Climb was always a controller-throwing moment, but in N. Sane Trilogy, it is downright evil. And if you really are a glutton for punishment, there is a DLC that gives you an even longer and harder version of the level. However, Crash is one of those games, where you end up relishing the challenge. Soon, you will amaze yourself at how you can memorise every jump, every enemy-killing technique that you have imprinted into your gaming style. With the PS4, there is added motive to complete each mission. Trophies reward you for collecting those gems, winning those relics, finding those death routes… I have completed far more bonus missions with N. Sane Trilogy than I ever did with the first three games, simply because Vicarious Vision have inspired me to try harder and push myself. And just to treat yourself, there are bonus achievements earned for killing yourself in amusing ways. So after a stressful evening of trying and failing to conquer that final, tricky stage of the game, you can relax by throwing Crash to the mercy of some angry bees. The death animations are as good as ever. In fact, N. Sane Trilogy has hopefully lit a fire under the Crash Bandicoot hype once again. While some are likely pushing for Crash Team Racing to have a turn at being remastered next, surely there must be some demand for an original game, with these new and improved graphics. I want to embrace the next chapter in Crash’s story.
Final Verdict: Vicarious Visions deserve a handshake for so lovingly recreating this cult game and rekindling the world’s love of Crash Bandicoot.