From the release of the first Crash Bandicoot, developed by an unknown semi Naughty Dog, it's been 21 years. After an adventure full of ups and downs like a roller coaster all Crash fans had slowly lost hope, convinced that the marsupial and his gang of friends would never return to give them company. Unexpectedly, however, Activision has fulfilled their dreams. The Vicarious Visions team is responsible for reporting on the PlayStation 4 first unforgettable chapters dedicated to Sony mascot.
That Activision harbored some confidence in the study of development was quite logical. After all, Vicarious is particularly close to the American manufacturer, who was responsible for the Skylanders franchise. Over the years it has had more time to deal with Crash, but the work done with the N. Sane Trilogy is something truly admirable. We saw it in action a few months ago in London but to truly appreciate it, you have to play in its entirety, in one breath.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for PlayStation 4
The Trilogy contains the first three chapters of the saga of the orange marsupial with Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. After a short animated introduction, in pure Crash-style, we have access to the home screen of the game where we can select the three titles. You can choose to start a new game or continue a previous one without any limitation.
For some of you, it will be obvious but since it's been more than two decades it is good to do a quick recap. Crash Bandicoot is a 3D platform game where the aim is simply to get to the end of the various levels, collecting along the way crates full of colorful fruits. By breaking all the cases you can win collectible gems. Inside the crates, in turn, they have enclosed Wumpa, the fruits. Whenever you die you lose one. This continues as you surpass levels, win collectibles, explore every few bonus areas and reach the end.
The interface and controls are unchanged compared to the past. The lives are visible in the upper right, while on the opposite side we have the Wumpa counter. At the center, there is the number of split and total crates. With X you can skip, with the square you can run. With the sequels, they have been added many other skills to the marsupials, such as the double jump. These are all available in its adventures and illustrated by the tutorial.
There is little difference from the past. The three chapters, in fact, retain their native structure with a lot of bonus areas, secret paths and collectibles scattered. It presents some uniformity in terms of content. We speak then of the presence of time trials in all three episodes. To it is added the chance to play a few levels with the little sister of Crash, Coco, even outside of Warped. For the novice or simply rusty players pointers are introduced during the loading screen of each level.
N. Sane Trilogy is divided into episodes so that each chapter has its collection of lenses with its platinum trophy. The average duration of the title after adding the three episodes is variable because it depends on how much confidence you have and how many trophies you will want to win. For us, the total duration of the three adventures was about 12 hours net of collectible. If you want all the gems and relics you will need to put a lot more effort!
Even the pause menu remains extremely dry. It provides a summary panel of the completed game percentage. One cannot act directly on the chart settings. The title remains fixed at 30 frames per second on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Pro and the only options available for the screen are swapping axes for control of vehicles. So if you expect to play in the original layout, we have to disappoint you.
As we already told you in our last try, developers have been working on these three games from scratch, using as a reference only the character's proportions. Thus they reconstruct every single object and animation. From this point of view, the work is really impressive because the attention to detail is not only dedicated to levels close to the corridor and to the elements inside them but goes far beyond.
They eliminate the graphical separation between the area of game and scenery. What makes the difference is undoubtedly the numerous graphic effects, particularly those of light and water. The glare of the sun on the surface, the reflection of the ice sheets and the rain are just a few of the many details added for the occasion. Even the characters have dealt a major makeover while keeping their original look.
The overall result is a real joy for the player but at the same time turns out to be a bit alienating for those who know the old titles by heart. The main themes of the levels were all reassembled in high definition, but the sound effects, like the sound of boxes, Wumpa or Aku-Aku mask are really indistinguishable from the original.
To really understand the impact of the game, we have to go down in a bit more detail and dissect the three chapters carefully. When we say that the three games are really those of twenty years ago, we do not say it lightly. We bet that each of you has a memory of a particularly hated level of an impossible time challenge or a cursed hidden chest that you have found only after going up and down the bonus area at least a dozen times.
Get ready because they are still there waiting for you. N. Sane Trilogy requires the same reflexes and the same concentration that was necessary to complete the original games. The difficulty offered by the trilogy extends as in the past on different floors. In addition to never letting your guard down, you'll have to flush out the various games bonuses, redo a level several times for access to its secret area, test yourselves in heavy duty backtracking sessions and understand the right order in which to break a bunch of crates almost like a little puzzle.
Would it not be better to simplify the dynamics of the game, making the three chapters more friendly and maybe opening up to a new audience? For us, the answer is no. Vicarious Visions has made the right decision, elaborating all with an elegance that was truly unexpected. If we are faced with a real return of Crash Bandicoot and then hand a totally new game then yes, it should definitely revisit good part of the game mechanics.
The genre over the years has experienced a sharp decline and even if someone timidly tries to re-accustom the players to the 3D platform, it is difficult in the current market. Let me be clear, The N. Sane Trilogy is available to everyone. It is simply a kind of game that is different from the contemporary tastes. The approach adopted by developers is the right one because although the collection has been created from scratch, this trilogy could not be any different. It had to remain as it always was.
But what the development team has created goes far beyond the most optimistic expectations. Because we are talking about an almost perfect remake that was initially created by a different developer. Vicarious Visions has found in its hands a bomb that is ready to explode at the slightest mistake in handling. Because now even a timid criticism of Naughty Dog is equivalent to automatically getting hanged in the public square.
Yet Vicarious has proven to be largely up to the job, working meticulously so as to emphasize the nuances of the three chapters. As the developer has slightly standardized titles in some ways, playing the first chapter is not like playing second or Warped. The first is significantly more woody, while the second is let's play with less resistance and in the third captures the fluidity that Naughty Dog has given it after a little experience.
It would be bold to say that Vicarious Visions with its N. Sane Trilogy has redefined the standard for remastered video games. It undoubtedly has proved that the talent of a development study is not only innate but also passes through hard work of analysis.
Simply calling it remastered is simplistic to see the work done by the development team. The first three chapters of the Crash Bandicoot rediscover the saga with a graphical splendor of the nineties. The treatment by Vicarious Visions in the realization of the series does not hide the fact that the game mechanics and the command feedback have become stale, but we would not want anything different. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a nice blast from the past with no compromises.