Game Review: Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy (PS4)

By Adam Ouakli (@AdamOuakli)

Being a 90’s kid, if I were to list the top 3 things that I wanted in life to satisfy my need for nostalgia from a bygone era, it would look a little something like this:

1) Pokemon being real

2) Oasis reforming

3) Crash Bandicoot re-mastered

With number 1 probably being a more realistic expectation that number 2, it’s safe to rule them both out. That leaves us with number 3 on my list: Crash Bandicoot practically raised me. Since I got my first PlayStation at the age of 5, I’ve been playing the orange marsupial’s games – hell, I even used to have dreams that I was scaling the Native Fortress as a kid. It’s a game that, for me, has stood the test of time, a classic that will go down in history as one of the best trilogies every produced.

So it’s safe to say that the recent remastering of these three games, aptly titled the N.Sane Trilogy, was a very much anticipated event in the gaming sphere. They’ve had a total HD makeover and it truly shows: starting from the beginning, washing up on N. Sanity Beach again after all these years was special. I didn’t move forward in the level, I just sat for a few minutes taking it all in. It was beautiful. It is how I always dreamed a re-master of the game would look like – full of vibrant colours, amazing visuals, animations and detail like a modern cartoon and it blew me away.

Advancing in the level I noticed that even though the music has a fresher, clearer sound, it is still the basic original sound we know and love. The animations look and feel just like they should and Aku Aku, well, his “Wooga booga” had me emotional. The sound of breaking boxes, of collecting Wumpa Fruit, of jumping on a tortoise – everything is pretty much perfect. Naughty Dog who originally developed the Crash Bandicoot games in the 90s were not involved in making the re-masters, leaving the task to Vicarious Visions to bring Crash Bandicoot back into our lives, and they’ve done the originals and Naughty Dog proud.

All three games play very much like they used to as it’s a re-master not a re-haul. Personally I think this is how it should be; if too much was changed it wouldn’t feel like a proper Crash game. So far I’ve played through an awful lot of all three games and I’m absolutely loving it. I have seen countless people on social media complaining about how hard the game is, which confuses me a little. Yes, the game is tricky at times (Don’t get me started on levels like ‘Road to Nowhere’ and ‘The High Road’) but the majority of games out there will have tricky parts in them. If a game isn’t challenging it gets pretty boring pretty fast. I even read one review where the critic wrote that “the 3D throws off your depth perception” and that “the colourful designs on levels like ‘Hang ‘em High’ trick you into thinking there’s space to land on trampolines when there isn’t.” These are pretty petty complaints: the only substantial one that holds any real weight is the change in physics for Crash 1 which makes certain levels a bit more difficult than they should be.

Nine times out of ten, though, the game requires some precision and timing – when you don’t succeed at landing jumps, that’s not the game’s fault. Having completed these games before I was 10 years old, in addition to the fact that not much of the gameplay has changed from its original release, it’s odd for people to compare this to Dark Souls in terms of difficulty. Some people are either just bad at the game or have forgotten that there are several tricky levels and have lost a lot of patience now that they’re older. There have been some comments calling the game ‘monotonous’ and ‘only good for nostalgia’: well pal, if you think the game is boring then why did you buy a re-mastered version of the very same game? The games are extremely refreshing even two decades after their initial release which says a lot.

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Despite the fact that a lot has remained very similar to originals, there are a few changes that are mostly welcomed. As well as a refined saving system, something that the original Crash game was sorely missing, and online leader-boards, players are now given the chance to play as our titular hero’s laptop wielding sister Coco. While she plays exactly like her big brother, it’s a nice addition which helps the trilogy to feel like you’re playing a more improved version of the game you played years and years ago.

One thing that must be said about this trilogy is that if you’re buying it solely for that nostalgia factor, you’ll be more than stuffed. However, newcomers may feel like these feelings for a bygone genre will wear off quickly, leaving them £35 lighter and with no real urge to fully complete the games. They’re arguably limited in content though with the time trials and gems, some of which are attached with some challenges, but others may feel like the campaigns are too short: altogether I’d say it only took a few days to complete all three titles. As I’ve mentioned though, this is only an issue for those who don’t intend on getting all they can out of this game: for those that do and want to get 100% (or more *hint* *hint*) then there’s more than enough to get your money’s worth.

Overall, this trilogy has next to no shortcomings, at least ones that didn’t also come along back with the games during their original release. Criticisms regarding clipping and such are overblown considering how rare an occurrence of this could be with the only real negative these games bring being the controls being not quite as fine tuned or polished as the beautiful visuals and sound design. Every minute of these three games I’ve enjoyed thoroughly and while they aren’t perfect, enough has been done to recreate these games as perfectly as possible.

The only other criticism I have: I’m now left with the urge for a remastering of Crash Team Racing. Please Vicarious Visions, do this and I can die a happy, happy man.

8/10


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Is Crash Bandicoot Really That Difficult?

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

We may be a little while away from actual time travel but this past Friday, we got the next best thing. After nearly a decade without gaming’s favourite orange spinning marsupial, Vicarious Visions released a HD Remake of the original Naughty Dog developed Crash Bandicoot trilogy – not to spoil our review that’ll be dropping in the next few days but it’s a faithful recreation that manages to instil a great sense of joy and nostalgia, even to those who haven’t previously played the quintessential PS1 titles.

However, we’re not here to chat about how much we’ve enjoyed the comeback of Crash, Coco and co. No, instead we’re here to chat about a specific story that seems to have been gaining a lot of traction over the past few days regarding the challenge the game offers. Here’s a few tweets to paint the picture: 

As soon as I saw this narrative that other gamers were trying to push, I rolled my eyes faster than the wumpa fruit icon. We are living in a time of challenging games after going through a period of hand-holding, difficult to die games (that are still around sadly), such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Binding of Isaac and much, much more. While Crash Bandicoot has a fresh lick of paint and other new goodies attached, it’s still very much a product of its time and isn’t a game to be included amongst the aforementioned titles.

A quick history lesson for those unacquainted with consoles before the PS2: analogue sticks weren’t always a thing. It wasn’t until around a third of the way into the PS1’s lifespan that analogue control was incorporated, allowing for all titles after to benefit from a greater level of dexterity and accuracy. Sadly, this meant that most early titles such as the original Crash were at a bit of a disadvantage despite the fact they were made solely with directional buttons in mind. The game is pretty easy for the first half, with only the latter portion providing a lot of challenge, some of which came from some cheap trial and error gameplay as well as the controls just not being up to scratch.

Crash Bandicoot is back...fur realz.

Naughty Dog were aware of these issues though and when it came to the sequels, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, the controls were improved significantly with not only the analogue sticks helping out but a new bunch of skills at your disposal. Whether intentional or not, this meant that a great deal of challenge was alleviated from the games with most difficult stages requiring just a small amount of patience to be able to beat: after all, a lot of younger players managed to beat the game 100% so it wasn’t a Goliath sized feat.

Sadly, this outrage over difficulty seems to be unaware of this and it’s hard to pinpoint why. It would be naive to assume these people aren’t good at games, considering one of those outraged has managed to beat some Soulsborne games, but it may be the case that they aren’t good at these type of games.

They may have played it when they were younger but chances are, bar these early steps in the platforming genre in their early days, they haven’t returned to similar games since. The past few generations have been heavily reliant on gritty FPS shooters and action packed third person titles, which has allowed a remake like Crash to feel so refreshing more than 2 decades after its release. With this in mind, as well as many of these gamers being adults with full time jobs and growing up around a culture of speed-running and social network connected trophy hunting, that small amount of patience required to complete the challenges these games throw at you may have disappeared entirely.

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That’s not to say there’s not any challenge to be found in these games at all: Slippery Climb is a level that stole many a life from me in my early days and the time trials that are included in all three games will have you etching the layouts for each world into your mind. However, most of the criticisms I’ve seen revolving around challenge seem to be coming from levels which are, to put it lightly, simple – ones like the very first level of Crash Bandicoot which offers very little in the way of genuine difficulty, bar maybe the split path which requires you to hop on every box in order to get a gem.

Overall, the main point of this ramble isn’t simply to say “I’m better than you”, rather to show gamers trying to find difficulty where it simply isn’t. If anything, it’s a relief to see so much discussion surrounding an era gone-by and hopefully with this remake seemingly being a success, future titles in the Crash franchise could offer more of a challenge. Regardless, if you’ve made it this far and take one thing away from this rant, it’s this: just have a little patience.


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GAME REVIEW: Ratchet + Clank (2016)

14 years after their debut, Playstation’s shiniest and furriest duo return in one of the greatest remakes ever.

“Fan favourites Ratchet and Clank are back. Can they repeat the same magic we saw during our last competition?” says an overly enthusiastic commentator during your hoverboard race on Rilgar, unintentionally harking back to the great platformer boom of the early 2000’s. Crocodiles, lizards and bandicoots(?) lead the genre with Insomniac having two horses in the 3D race with their former entry being beloved purple dragon Spyro. The latter was Ratchet & Clank, an unlikely duo who have put on a suphero performance, managing to do what most Playstation icons can’t by traversing not one, not two but three console generations.

In a strange turn of events, predicted by the original game nonetheless, Ratchet + Clank have reached the status where they can have their name adorned on a feature length film. The results have been…less than stellar…but it feels like the ultimate pay off as the game (based on the movie, based on the game) is not only full to the brim with nostalgia: it’s a damn solid game overall.

Right from the get go, you know that you’re in for something special with Ratchet and Clank. This is the first game I’ve played where I’ve totally avoided the objective on hand to admire the look of the environment as, having played the PS2 original, there are a lot of memories attached to these levels. From the rich, piranha infested waters of Pokitaru to the snow and war afflicted land of Batalia, Ratchet and Clank is full of levels that have a Pixar level of shine to them. They aren’t just areas for you to test out your lucrative arsenal of weapons, more on that later, they’re characters in their own right and are accompanied by some equally impressive music as well.

How Blue-tiful: Pokitaru is one of 14 spectacular looking planets.

Now about those weapons. Ratchet and Clanks prides itself on not only its sense of humour and interesting world but its gameplay and that’s where these aforementioned weapons come into play. Ranging from the aptly named Groovitron, which causes all enemies in the vicinity to start dancing, to the Pixelizer which turns enemies into 8-bit versions of themselves with a shotgun blast, Ratchet + Clank is the pinnacle of imagination when it comes to how creative these weapons are and whilst they may lose their laughs fairly quickly, they never get any less cool to use, especially with the leveling up system in place.

Whilst it may be seen as a sin to profess it, the PS2 original was not perfect and having played it recently, I can say that implementing the evolve-as-you-use method with the weapons adds an extra layer of replay value as well as immersion. All too often games ground themselves in realism and, to their credit, immerse you in their gritty, depressing narratives so it’s refreshing to have a game where you can turns enemies into sheep and rocket jump over their fleecy coats.

Snaggle-what?!: Many bosses will greet you on your journey to save the galaxy.

Speaking of narratives, Ratchet + Clank’s story is where the only issues with the game lies. Delivered to us via Captain Qwark, think Zap Brannigan from Futurama with a love for the colour green, the story suffers from being affiliated with the movie as it moves at such an alarmingly fast pace that we never get a chance for the characters to develop. The eponymously titled protagonists friendship seems rather tacked on despite having been established near flawlessly in the original series. Given the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure Insomniac would have managed to avert this issue and it’s something that, helped out by a sequel, could easily be fixed.

Despite that nitpicking, the story is pretty solid though predictable. It’s your classic tale of intergalactic peril with Ratchet and Clank stopping the evil tycoon Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the galaxy. It’s fairly bread and butter as things go but it’s all that it needs to be: a template for the developers to display their wacky ideas and humour without feeling too jarring.

Pesky Slimeballs: Enemies look as vile as ever with the refined graphics

Launching with a £30 price tag, the game packs a lot of replay value with a challenge mode, Ratchet + Clank’s New Game Plus of sorts, providing the bulk of your playtime and will have you doing multiple playthroughs to fully upgrade your weapons and collect everyone of those holocards. It’s not quite Gwent but it’ll do.

TL:DR
When all is said and done, you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that this game is simply a byproduct of it’s big blockbuster brother. Ratchet + Clank manages not only to outdo its own film but the entire series that it’s rebooting with it’s newly refined graphics and gameplay giving a breath of fresh air to both the series and gaming itself. All nitpicks aside, you’d be crazy not to go out of your way to play this game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some boxes to smash.

9/10

– Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)