For as long as I’ve been playing games (which is pretty much my entire life) I’ve played the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy over and over. They were some of the first games I ever played and finished, and all three of them hold a special place in my heart. As one of these people, the N. Sane Trilogy is exactly what I wanted out of a remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games.
The N. Sane Trilogy is not just a facelift of Naughty Dog’s old PS1 classics. Vicarious Visions have completely rebuilt the game from scratch. The original trilogy’s colourful, but dated, blocky Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetic has been reworked to shine brighter than ever before.
The original trilogy’s colourful, but dated, blocky Saturday-morning cartoon aesthetic has been reworked to shine brighter than ever before.
The lush jungles, icy valleys, rampaging rapids and futuristic cityscapes of the trilogy have never looked more stunning. The water and fire effects are especially dazzling. The visuals breathe new life into the series and exploring even the most familiar levels felt fresh like I was exploring them for the first time.
Seeing Toad Village, a renaissance-fair flavoured affair and the first level of Warped, remastered so lovingly in HD brought me back in a way that I have never felt before. It’s not limited to the levels themselves either; the plethora of enemies Crash faces throughout his journey have not only been given the same treatment. Some particularly tricky enemies (such as Cortex’s flamethrower wielding minions in Crash 2) now make their tells much more obvious, giving the remaster an overall fairer feel.
Seeing Toad Village, a renaissance-fair flavoured affair and the first level of Warped, remastered so lovingly in HD brought me back in a way that I have never felt before
The soundtrack has also been rerecorded too. It’s not exactly the same, with some slightly different instrumentation here and there, but the new score still captures the energy of the originals. While Crash mostly grunts as he always has, everyone else has had their roles reprised by their original voice actors, which is a nice touch.
And the work Vicarious Visions has produced is not simply skin-deep. A huge amount of care and attention to detail has been placed into rebuilding each game in the original series from the ground up. The result is a series of games that play and feel exactly as well as they did twenty years ago.
The platforming itself, for better and for worse, has also been preserved in painstaking detail. The first game is easily the weakest of the three on offer here. Crash has a more limited moveset here, and the levels are far less intricate and interesting, and jumps feel far more treacherous here than they do in the sequels. Many of the levels have not aged well and can come off as fiddly and frustrating.
The platforming itself, for better and for worse, has also been preserved in painstaking detail
The environments are also much less diverse than in later games. As beautiful as the jungles and ruins are here, you sure do make your way through a lot of them. Despite this, Vicarious Visions have done a good job adding a few quality of life improvements to make the experience an overall more pleasant one than the original game. Box counters have now been added (breaking all of them in a level is a requisite for collecting the many gems throughout the games) and a handy autosave function makes the remastered version much more pleasant that the original. The first game is still fun to play, but it’s easy to see the many improvements Naughty Dog made as the years went on.
The first game is still fun to play, but it’s easy to see the many improvements Naughty Dog made as the years went on
Cortex Strikes Back is a much better package overall and stands the test of time far better than its predecessor. The core platforming strikes a much better balance, reaching some truly difficult and punishing, but rarely frustrating, heights. Crash’s new expanded arsenal, now featuring sliding, long jumps and clambering along monkey bars, opens up a lot more opportunities for platforming. Cortex Strikes Back feels more like a test of skill, rather than the reliance on tricky jumps and wonky enemy placements that, at times, plagued the original game. There’s still the whole host of secondary objectives to the core platforming, such as collecting gems, going through Death Routes and finding secret exits and entrances to levels, but the tighter design and greater control over Crash make for a much more enjoyable time.
Warped is the jewel in the trilogy’s crown. Building on the fantastic foundation laid down by Cortex Strikes Back, Crash travels back through time to some of the best levels the series has to offer. The futuristic, skyscraper-laden Future Frenzy, the prehistoric chases packed with bubbling pits of tar and lava and the trap-filled corridors of ancient Egyptian pyramids are where the visual overhaul shines the brightest.
Building on the fantastic foundation laid down by Cortex Strikes Back, Crash travels back through time to some of the best levels the series has to offer
Levels are bigger and better paced than previous games while simultaneously never feeling quite as punishing. The main change comes from a whole host of new vehicle-based levels – although the quality at times feels a little hit or miss. Shooting down blimps in Coco’s plane is hardly a challenge, but outrunning hot rods on Crash’s stiffly-controlling motorbike can be. The underwater levels, while being incredibly visually striking, are the weak point, as Crash controls far too loosely, making the minute movements required at times very difficult. Despite that, the more memorable settings, improved boss fights, and less punishing difficulty make Warped the best of the three.
Vicarious Visions also offered a few new toys to play with across the trilogy. You can play as Crash’s sister, Coco through the entire trilogy. She’s functionally identical to her older brother, so it’s a bit of a shame that certain levels can only be played with certain characters. Coco can only be played as in one boss fight in Warped for instance and nor can Crash hop aboard Coco’s jet ski. It’s a nitpicky complaint, but one which I think would’ve made the addition of multiple playable characters even better.
New hint screens are added to the, admittedly quite long, loading screens; giving some much-needed help with some of the more cryptic moments without entirely giving the game away. The time trials introduced in Warped have also been retroactively added to Crash 1 and 2, giving series veterans plenty of new challenges to spend hours upon hours on. There are even online leaderboards, so you can compare that speedrun of Toad Village you’ve been honing for years with others across the globe.
There are even online leaderboards, so you can compare that speedrun of Toad Village you’ve been honing for years with others across the globe
To conclude, the N. Sane Trilogy offers one fine game and two excellent ones to play through. There was always a worry that the game feel of the originals would be lost in the transition to modern consoles, but Vicarious Vision aced the landing; preserving the platforming perfectly in one of the most beautifully presented packages I have ever seen.
There was always a worry that the game feel of the originals would be lost in the transition to modern consoles, but Vicarious Vision aced the landing
If you’re a newcomer to Crash, this is absolutely the perfect place to start, and there’s plenty here for series veterans to sink their teeth into (with the added benefit of getting teary-eyed at seeing these classic games remade with so much love and care). Just as a very young me was completely sucked in by the world that Naughty Dog created all those years ago, Vicarious Visions has made me fall in love with this series all over again.
This copy of Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy was purchased by writer, Michael Hicks for £24. He spend around 20 hours attempting to run, jump and spin through Doctor Neo Cortex’s army of goons.