Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy review: How far can nostalgia carry this blast from PlayStation's past?

 
Steve Hogarty
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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
3.0

From his cocky, anti-establishment attitude to his baggy blue jorts and hi-top trainers, Crash Bandicoot is about as beloved a 90s icon as Tony Blair and mad cow disease.

The original game launched more than two decades ago on the PlayStation 1 (which back then, because science had not yet discovered other PlayStations, was simply called “the PlayStation”). It was one of the first 3D platformers ever made, launching around the same time as Super Mario 64. Because of its unique behind-the-player camera angle, it was unofficially codenamed “Sonic’s Ass” during development.

This complete remaster of the first three Crash Bandicoot games is incredibly faithful the original work by Naughty Dog, who went on to create the universally acclaimed Uncharted and The Last of Us franchises. Developer Vicarious Visions is responsible for the restoration, dragging the graphical fidelity into the 21st century so that it now matches the nostalgia-smeared version of the game that exists in your tattered memories.

The phone in your pocket is several hundred times more powerful than the original PlayStation, and that the updated visuals hardly seem updated at all is testament either to the clarity of the original Crash Bandicoot’s environmental art, or the rosiness of our tinted-spectacles. In either case it’s beautiful, Pixar-quality animation and design.

Nostalgia is a short-lived high however, and after the first twenty minutes of play you’ll begin to find the untrammelled authenticity of this remake too much for your modern gaming sensibilities to bear.

It seems a cruel and strange way to treat somebody who’s simply doing their best to collect all of the hovering apples.

Misjudge a jump and you’ll fall down a hole and die – that’s right, die – then you have to try again like some kind of a moron with nothing better to do with the rest of your day. Later sections of the game, such as the iconic boulder escape scenes and races on animal-back, are by today’s standards, punishingly hard and needlessly repetitive.

Even the end-of-level score screens, nowadays used to shower the player in the kind of gushing adulation usually reserved for Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, instead berate you for missing a few collectibles along the way. It seems a cruel and unusual way to treat somebody who’s simply doing their best to collect all of the hovering apples.

It’s not that the game is too challenging, but that it’s riddled with these little quirks – fiddly jumps, unhelpful camera angles – that games have largely ironed out since 1996. This is a game from an era when we didn’t have an infinite well of on-demand entertainment at our fingertips, waiting to wrest our attention away from whatever we’re currently pointing our eyes at.

Of course, a far worse offence would have been to change any of this to pander to us coddled millennials, with our feeble wrists and our Help To Buy ISAs.

Put down the avocado, pop your feet up on the IKEA coffee table that you half-own in your rented one-bed flat in Chiswick, and be treated like actual human garbage by a game about a type of marsupial that you no longer recall if you’d ever heard of before this game came out.

That’s what classic gaming is all about, and Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy is as much of a wake up call as it is a trip down memory lane. Everything you loved about the 90s might well have been terrible, and nothing you believe or hold dear can be spared from the ravages of time.

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