bill-swift - March 26, 2014
Oh right, Crash Bandicoot! Whatever happened to that little ginger bastard? In his Nineties heyday, he was --kinda sorta-- the equal to Mario and Sonic and the other platforming superstars. He was taking dodgy pills in dodgy clubs, having sex with dodgy groupies, all those popular ‘famous dude' pastimes.
Of late, though, his fortunes have waned. Increasingly craptacular releases have done little for the world's bandicoot enthusiasm, and the last title in the series was back in 2010 (although there are rumors of a reboot, fueled simply by a silhouette seen in a recent PS4 commercial). But let's not be cynical. Instead, we're going to party like it's 1996 and take a look at the original Crash Bandicoot.
This is the story of Doctor Neo Cortex, a crazy-ass scientist who is trying to create an army of mutated animals to conquer the world. One of his experiments is Crash, because apparently a tiny rat-thing is the perfect animal supersoldier material. Perhaps the pet store were out of polar bears --or anything else huge and face-chewy-- when he went to collect test subjects. But anywho, the rodent escapes Cortex's captivity, and so begins his journey to rescue his girlfriend Shawna from his nefarious clutches.
How? through a series of charmingly tropical stages, that's how. The game is set on a couple of islands off the coast of Australia, giving it a tribal jungle-y feel and bright toontastic visuals the console hadn't managed so well before. For an early PlayStation release, it looks great, and the music is suitably bouncy and jangly and all that BS.
The gameplay itself isn't ball-bustingly innovative, but it has its moments. It's mostly a simple affair of leaping over bottomless pits and/or bizarre enemies trying to sink their teeth into your asscheeks, much like... any other platformer you care to mention. There are the peculiar moments in which the screen shifts perspective and you ride on the back of a lil' wild boar, but those gameplay shifts were mostly reserved for the later Crash Bandicoots.
You can jump, you can spin attack, and you can... well, those two things. Those fancy abilities weren't added until Crash Bandicoot Warped (the wumpa fruit bazooka being a favorite) either, but the fiendish level design and variety keeps it fresh. Never has a formation of TNT crates been placed so evilly.
This first installment wasn't particularly innovative at its core. What it did best was add its own cheeky spirit and aesthetic to the existing 'template.' It also has to be said that it's certainly more difficult than its successors, there are some particularly bastardly sections where many a life will be lost. Retro heads looking for a classic, quality platforming challenge should revisit this one.
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