All Together Then: Crash Bandicoot (Part 1)

A wumpa wumpa burnin' love

It's finally happened, Nauties. "They" (Toys For Bob) have "done" (developed) a Crash Bandicoot 4, coming out in October. And it's about time. No, really; that's the name of the game. Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time. Of course, you would be right in observing that there has already been a Crash 4, and it was called Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex. But! This is one of those mulligans, where the wilderness years didn't count. It's an all-new adventure in linear platforming style, just-a like-a mamma used-a to make.

This seemed like as good a time as any to give those first three Crash games the All Together Then treatment, for all the Crashmeisters out there. Actually, what is the right term for the Crash fanbase? Crashthmatics?

All Together Then!

Crash Bandicoot (1996, PlayStation)

The first game in the Crash canon is the most straightforward platformer in the series. Oh, no, I don't mean it's easy. God, no. It's easily the trickiest one of the lot just to reach the end of, with ceaselessly demanding and ever-escalating difficulty. It's also the most focused of the lot, a very pure linear platformer with, well, a lot of actual platforming. Later games introduce more (hack, spit) gameplay variety but this one is a sniper's bullet of pure jumpery tipped with... I dunno... more jumpery. Achieving 100% completion is no picnic either, with the series' traditional gems in abundance. In later games you collect said gems by breaking every box in a level, but in Crash Bandicoot you've got to do this as well as, erm, not die ever. This is a very tall order with some of the levels being very long and difficult, but it's bloody satisfying when you manage it. The later N.Sane Trilogy release mitigated this slightly by removing the "don't die" criteria, but not for the crucial coloured gems, meaning the most difficult gems in the original game are still the most difficult in the remake. Whoops!

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997, PlayStation)

A big ol' step up for the series, Cortex Strikes Back is a major improvement on every level. It looks and sounds great, and the oppressive difficulty has been pushed into a more manageable, but still challenging format. Everything's been tightened up, the gems no longer require you to not die ever, and the stage design is more interesting and characterful. There are some gimmick levels, such as the rocket pack and polar bear rides - though the latter is just a refined version of the "hog" levels - but overall they still feel cohesive. The secrets, here, are better and weirder, requiring keen observation skills and a little bit more daring. Said hidden content also cleverly overlaps with the base game, too, requiring real lateral thought to fully clear some of the stages of all their boxes. I'm at a bit of a loss for a direct comparison, but Crash Bandicoot 2 is basically Streets of Rage 2 to the original's Streets of Rage. The first one is still a good time, but the sequel? Better in every single way.

Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (1998, PlayStation)

The last platforming game in the original PlayStation 1 trilogy has so many diversions from ledge-hopping that I had to bite my lip hard to even type the word "platforming". You'll find yourself taking control of a jetski, a motorbike, a tiger, an aeroplane and a submersible - and none of these divergent styles are as much fun as the normal stages. The motorbike and jetski are, in this writer's view, especially wretched and they simply get in the way of levels that might actually be fun. Despite this, Crash 3 is beloved for a reason; the levels are geared towards the new time trials, where collecting a stopwatch icon at the start of a beaten level will switch it into a special mode where certain crates are replaced with temporary clock-stoppers and you need to bomb it through the stages as fast as you can to earn Relics, which allow access to hidden levels. This means the stages flow very nicely indeed in order to account for this speed-running focus, but unfortunately their challenge and complexity is otherwise compromised. Crash Bandicoot 3 is a fabulous-looking PS1 classic but it's just not what I want when I feel like playing do do, dah, do do, dah, do do, dah, feel like playing Crash. Sorry, that was a Bad Company reference. It didn't work and I shouldn't have done it. Unfortunately there is no way to delete it. See you next fortnight for the second and final part of All Together Then: Crash Bandicoot. Bye.