Some of you may have noticed that my backlog is getting pretty short these days, and this inevitably means finishing a few of the more loathsome games in my collection. I avoided Crash Bandicoot because I recalled it being hard. I did not recall it making me want to chuck the controller at a wall.
Now I know what you’re saying – “Crash Bandicoot? I loved that game as a kid! No way, you’re telling me you can’t beat that shit?” No, the game you are remembering is its well-known and much-beloved sequel Cortex Strikes Back, where you get to ride around on cute polar bears and fly around on sweet jet packs. This is the first game, where you tear your hair out and curse at the television.
Why, oh why, did the Playstation decide to have 3D platform games without an analog stick? I had the exact same issues with Tomb Raider. You spend half the time trying to position yourself so that you can time a jump just right, only to mess up a button press at the wrong moment and skewer yourself on a bed of spikes. Crash Bandicoot‘s controls are similarly frustrating – merely tapping one of the directions makes Crash jump off to the side, usually into an enemy (or a pit). The jump button also has a bad delay to it, meaning most obstacles need sort of a running start in order to clear them.
Nevertheless, this actually doesn’t bring the game down so much as its harsh difficulty curve. Dying at any point in a level means being sent back to your last checkpoint, but these are strewn so haphazardly into the game that you have wonder if the level designer was high when he created them. For example, the first level I returned to had its first checkpoint about five minutes into the level, and then another one almost immediately after it. It then expected you to finish the remaining ten minutes of the level without another one. And if you don’t happen to have an Aku Aku mask to protect you, you die in a single hit.
On top of that, the game adheres to the old-school concept that if you run out of lives, you get sent back to your last save. It’s makes the game tense, for sure, but also intolerable when you lose an hour of your progress after dying on the same enemy over and over again. Of course, even this wouldn’t be so bad if you could save your progress after every level. No, you can’t even choose when to save your game! Your only choices are to quit to the menu and lose your progress, or plod on in the hopes of making it to the next eventual save point.
When can you find these save point? If you’re like me and guessed that it’s after boss fights, you would have definitely been wrong. After a solid ninety minutes of palm-sweating, nerve-wracking gameplay, I finally beat a boss on my last life only to be sent to the next level without so much as a password prompt. A friendly FAQ then informed that the only way to save your game is to beat the bonus levels hidden throughout some of the stages.
WHO DESIGNS A GAME LIKE THIS? I can only picture a sadistic game designer cackling with laughter as he basks in the tantrums children would throw over this game. Why call something a “bonus level” if they’re needed to actually save the game? Hell, why make someone go through the trouble of having to find these hidden levels just to save in the first place? Is saving your game considered a “reward” for the extra effort? And why would you make it possible, after all of that work, to let the player die on these bonus levels, depriving them of a chance to save their game entirely? The mind simply struggles to imagine a reality where these were considered good game design choices. There was mid-nineties game design, and then there’s Crash Bandicoot.
Oddly, if I do happen to beat this game, I will have beaten the first game is each of the trilogies Naughty Dog developed: Crash, Jak, and Uncharted. Do I sense some future article ideas? Depends. We’ll see if I don’t snap Crash Bandicoot‘s disk in half first.
Final Verdict: Unless you’ve got a particular reason to go back to it, Crash Bandicoot will likely only frustrate rather than delight you.