Sgathaich: Crash Bandicoot

Sgathaich, an old woman with long hair and wearing a crown

I’ve talked about Ratchet and Clank before, one of the PS2s many potential mascots. But there wasn’t really much competition as to who was to be the mascot for the original PlayStation, there was one that just was there. Promoting platformers and by extension mascot platformers into the new 3d era.

Crash Bandicoot really does feel like a continuation of the previous gens mascot platformer designs. But of course, the big difference is this is 3D so he has a fair few more directions he can move in than just left to right and jumping. Crash’s primary movement is with his back to the camera going forward, to the point the game went under the code name once of Sonic’s Ass Game.

Having played the game, comparing it to Sonic is rather inaccurate. While both definitely feel like characters created in their time (though thankfully both avoided the worst and thus didn’t go down as far too 90s to continue afterwards). Sonic games emphasize speed and reward speed, Crash Bandicoots levels are however not designed to be rushed through. Crash can’t take a hit as well as Sonic could and levels are absolutely primed with instant death falls. The acquisition of an Aku Aku mask lets you take a hit from a hazard or an enemy but those aren’t as common as Rings were to Sonic.

The Crash Bandicoot character

Crash 1 is a much slower paced game of you working out the timing for jumps and enemies. Sure, there are some levels that are fast paced like when you’re running away from a bolder or riding a pig at high speeds. But those are offshoots compared to the much more cautiously paced levels.

Each level is also covered in boxes. Smashing these will give you Wumpa fruit which are your standard collect 100 for extra lives. There are also other boxes that have extra lives and the ones with Aku Aku masks in them. Worth noting these stack and when you get 3 you get temporary invincibility and speed boost. While not necessary for passing a level, using it can help you just burn through some rather tricky moments if you managed to keep from being hit till then.

At the end of a level you are rewarded with a colourless gem for having smashed every box on the stage and this is your primarily post final boss completions task.. but it is also where one of my issues with the game comes. Knowing this I would try to smash every box on a stage BUT some stages have special paths that required you to have gotten a coloured gem in somewhere in the game… and these always seemed to be from levels I had not yet gotten to. So, I go through the challenges of going through a level, only to find I have to come back later.

Coloured gems are definitely the hardest challenge in the game. They require you to beat a level, breaking all its boxes without dying. now fortunately dying in a bonus stage doesn’t count and you can just redo those, and dying before the first check point also doesn’t count.  The first one you can get is in the level “The Lost City” and I found this the hardest by far.. since it was also the longest level to have these. So that meant a long series of different kinds of obstacles, enemies, jumps and traps, 2 bonus stages and get to the end having broken every box and not messed up once… says everything that first thing I had to do was jump round a bottomless pit protected by a wall to get some boxes.

Bosses in this game can range from pathetically easy, to rather annoying… and rather fast too. First boss is the first category while the second is annoying.

For the sake of this review, I played the N sane trilogy version which you can get on modern consoles very easily and comes packed with the other 2 PS1 era main Crash games. It also features after the first boss the ability to play as Crash’s sister Coco.

And I got all this way without mentioning the plot… because there really isn’t much of one. Sure, at the start you get it all. Dr Neo Cortex aided by Doctor Nitrus Brio is trying to make an army of animals using the latter’s evolvo ray. But when he tries to use it on a Bandicoot it fails and escapes landing on the Wumpa Islands and then you run through a bunch of stages to get back to the castle and beat up the doctor. Oh, and there was a female Bandicoot girlfriend to rescue… that’s really it. It’s like Mario World in that the main plot is alright at the start then it’s just go through levels occasionally beat boss till the end. No interactions between characters even in the boss fights. For the importance of the character of Aku Aku in the franchise, he is just a power up here once again no explanation or dialog.

When the N sane trilogy came out, people were calling this the Dark Souls of platformers, and honestly barring one of two levels (not counting the extra hard dlc one) it’s rather undeserving. Yes, the no death runs on some levels had me pulling my hairs out after an hour but the main issue seems to be people trying to rush through this, something the levels aren’t meant to be done… which makes the inclusion of time trials in that version rather daft. Still a classic platformer that helped push the genera into the 3d age, I recommend checking it out.

Rating: 👍👍👍👍

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