Push analog stick forward. X. X. Square. X. NO I PRESSED X WHY DID I FALL DOWN? WHY GOD DAMN IT!
If you have played Crash Bandicoot, or any 3D platformer, you will have experienced this feeling too. Whether it was the game glitching, or maybe you just don’t have the reflexes you thought you did. We shall never know, but that will never detract from the game which, to me personally, was the best game (and trilogy) for the PlayStation 1. But was it really the best game? Am I looking at this game through my rose-tinted nostalgia goggles? Did I really press X in time? I endeavour to find the answers to all of these questions.
The first Crash Bandicoot game was developed and released by Naughty Dog in 1996 for the original PlayStation. The lead developers Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin were inspired by arcade games using full 3D rendering and wanted to create something like that, but in their favourite game genre, the platformer. The concept for this game was called “Sonic’s Ass Game” because the player would be forced to “constantly look at the characters rear”. After a failed attempt or two at creating a different game, Naughty Dog moved to Universal Studios. That’s where the team decided the “Sonic’s Ass Game” was actually a really good idea and began to create it, after paying $35,000 US for a development PlayStation console.
Wow, hang on. Let’s back up a small way here. They paid $35,000 for a development console! In comparison, the actual console sold for $299 US, and a development console version of the PS4 either costs $2,500 US or is completely free for a year… Plus, they wrote the software they used to design the characters’ movements and interactions in the game, on computers they paid $10,000 US for. Making a game was not cheap back then; you had to have set in stone ideas, plus a work ethic that would probably have driven these guys mad. Nevertheless, they finished the game and it went on to be a huge commercial success all over the world, selling over 6.8 million units worldwide, and becoming the 7th best selling game for the Playstation. Naughty Dog also was in charge of creating Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped and Crash Team Racing, which also became huge successes.
Using my professional opinion as an amateur games journalist, I will say that Crash 2 is the best Crash Bandicoot game. It maintained some of the difficulty of Crash 1 (my god is that game hard when you are used to analog sticks, and can’t complete the game properly if you die once in a level without restarting that level…) while innovating the level-type game play with the introduction of the ‘Warp Room’, a concept which would become a staple for the series. They also introduced new mechanics for Crash while not going overboard, which Crash 3 did in my opinion. There were just the perfect amount of puzzles to solve and find in each level, making the player spend a lot of time trying to find all of the secrets in the game and to find all of the gems, eventually unlocking the final cutscene where you effectively blow Cortex up, and also cause the events of Crash 3. Well done you!
But was it the best PS1 game? Well, no. The amount of games the PS1 had makes it almost impossible to judge this. Was it the best 3D platformer on the PS1 then? Again, too hard to decide, but it is also hard to compare the series with other 3D platformers. Take Rayman for example, another one of my favourites, who has seen a recent resurgence on the Ubi-Art platform (check out Rayman Legends on Steam). Rayman had a level based system but was more story focused. There was a linear line from start to finish, with lots of puzzles and extras along the way, but you had to do it in order. That’s not saying that Crash didn’t have a story, but it didn’t seem to matter as much… or maybe I’m just spouting shit, and my preference for Crash is taking over.
Games today don’t seem to have the same kind of feel to them like the original Naughty Dog Crash Bandicoot series did. Take any popular game today from any of the major consoles and there is a huge focus on making sure it is as graphically impressive as possible, and making sure the player is fully immersed in the game. With Crash I always felt like there was a disconnect between player and game; unlike Dishonored, where you are the character and you do all the stuff in the game. I always felt like I was controlling Crash, whether that was because of the cartoony graphics or the ridiculous blue shorts, I will never know.
At the time of writing this, I am preparing for a full play through and reviewing of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, which funnily enough was also developed by Naughty Dog. It includes the first three games in the Uncharted series, released in 2007, 2009, 2011 and was made for the PS3. Again, these games were created from the ground up, including the engine. While it would have been a lot cheaper in comparison to make these games, Naughty Dog have not skimped on any part to create the Uncharted series – or so I hope anyway.
With this review I know that it will show me in more depth how video games (for consoles, I’m a bit of a PC gamer) have changed since my Crash days. Am I going to feel as immersed as I do in a game of DotA? Or is that disconnect going to be present like when I played Crash? I don’t know, but I am very eager to find out.
So, as I near the end of this article I find myself asking: “What was I writing about?” It started off with me reminiscing about Crash Bandicoot, then I talked about platformers, then Uncharted…. Games! I was talking about games. The industry has come a long long way since the PS1 days, and now the technology is available to anyone who wants to give it a crack. I have both Unity 5 and Unreal Engine 4 on my PC, and it is a tremendous amount of fun mucking around in them, just to create something small to play.
One day I hope I can do something as half as amazing as Crash Bandicoot. But until then I’ll just keep playing.