IM Retro – Crash Bandicoot

Welcome to the first of our retro reviews!

When we started IM PLAYIN we wanted to talk about any games we were playing at any time, whether they be old or new, and it’s still something we make sure to do all the time. But with the Vita and other such platforms providing access to a wide arrange of classics, it seems a wasted opportunity to not give these special games their own place on the site. Looking at these games there are many ways to judge how they hold up today, and I for one won’t be looking at graphics in the slightest, instead focusing on gameplay and the ability to provide me with a challenge combined with the satisfaction of the victory. At the end of the day, a game has to entertain, and old games can do that just as well as they always have.

To kick off our first Retro game I am spinning back with a classic. In fact, I am not sure that you can get much more classic than Crash Bandicoot. When Crash went up on for £3.00 on the Vita, it was only a matter of how fast I could get the download going.

Just as a reminder of how old this game is, I was stumped to find the analog sticks not working, it has been a long time since I played a game where they have not been supported, so I hastily made the transition back to the D-pad where I quickly learnt that I really, really like analog sticks! Fighting past the adjustment, I quickly found myself getting completely sucked back into the the world. The level designs still hold up and having recently played Rayman Legends on the PS4, it was nice to get back to a platformed that has a 3D scope to it rather than side scrolling. The variety of levels is also instrumental in making the game the sensation it became, switching from an Indiana Jones style boulder run to forward and side scrolling platform combined with forest, mountain, lab and jungle environments means that every level you reach provides something new to look at. Not once does the game keep you in the same environment for too long.

That said, I found myself having to replay many, many levels due to the games difficulty and unforgiving save system. There is a very good case to argue that games today have been made considerably easier than the games back in the day, and having to relay endless missions on Crash only kicked me awake to see I that have been coddled through many modern games. While much could be said for the lack of control with the D-pad, it is just poor reactions and lacking a sense of space that will see you fall through gaps or miss-time just a second. Many modern games are very forgiving with checkpoints or lives, but this again is where Crash keeps you on your toes. There may be 3 checkpoints in any level, and they can be a challenge to open (that’s right, no auto checkpoints) and save points are hidden behind bonus levels. These bonus levels are not a guaranteed save, if you mess up, guess what? You are right back in the mission, having to power on. Never has it been more enraging to beat 2 missions you have spent hours grinding through, only to die on the third and having to go all the way back because you died on the bonus missions. I appreciate a challenge, but thank God this has been fixed in modern games.

So what for the rest of the game? Well as much as it may be a weird word to describe it in a Crash game, a lot of the game is combat focused. Crash has his iconic spinning attack but can also jump on enemies to dispatch them. Throughout most of the game you will want to get rid of these nasties as soon as you can, but as progression is made, they become more important as ways to progress in the levels. What was a turtle becomes a bounce pad and what was a bird becomes an additional platform. There is a significant lack of help screen around these creatures, again highlighting the handholding gamers are reviving nowadays. With no “you will want to jump on these” to help, every new creature poses a threat with one wrong move costing an all important life.

Crash holds up today, not because it is still one of the best games ever made, in fact when you boil it down, it has only a small proportion of features and playability when compared to many other games today. But like many Naughty Dog titles, what it does, it does extremely well. You love Crash even through he doesn’t say a word and you love the world even though it’s not as pretty as you may remember. Most of all, beating a level makes you feel like a real gamer, and it is that feeling that can get lost in some modern games.