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Pop CultureJune 30, 2017

Crash Bandicoot is back, baby, and he’s better than ever

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Slap on your rose-tinted sunnies because Crash Bandicoot is back, and he’s aged like a fine wine. Don Rowe gets stuck into the N.sane trilogy and positively bathes in nostalgia. 

I never had a Playstation as a child. The only one on my street was shared between three families, commune style, and so my gaming was limited to the original Age of Empires on an old PC which eventually caught fire. Around the same time, however, two brothers from Hamilton moved up the road a bit and they had a Playstation all their own, with all the trappings.

There was Tekken, Medieval, something with remote control race cars, and then there was Crash Bandicoot. Or should I say Crack Bandicoot.

Entire summers were spent in their room, door shut, curtains blacked out, comatose bodies everywhere, oblivious to the circadian rhythm of day and night. It was an opium den for kids, and Crash Bandicoot was our hit. Well, Crash is back, baby, and he’s never been better.

All three games in the remastered trilogy look downright juicy, with psychedelic technicolour landscapes exactly as I remember them on the 15inch piece of shit we used to play on. It’s a delicious break from the melancholy and grim titles that have dominated the Playstation landscape in recent times. This is wholesome family fun, until you start screaming and swearing and twisting the controller in your hands like it’s a fucking stress ball CAUSE YOU CAN’T STOP DYING FUCK.

The point is, Crash Bandicoot is hard. Like, makes Dark Souls look like a game your mum might play on her cellphone at the gym hard. Crash Bandicoot could easily have been called “Everything dies: A meditation on mortality and the inevitability of the end of life”, because while technically it’s a game about an athletic and ballsy bandicoot called Crash, the real theme is death. Scorched, impaled, turned into hamburger meat by a hundred crates of TNT, consumed by carnivorous plants – Crash does it tough and thus the game retains its sphincter-clenching tension in spades.

Similarly, the iconic soundtrack and foley have been retained and improved on. Apples squomp, pigs squeal, and Aku Aku goes ‘oogabooga!’. Side note: is Aku Aku problematic now? How about Papu Papu? Ripper Roo is undeniably suffering severe mental illness – is it right or humane that he’s blown up with his arms tied behind his back? Makes you think, is all.

In the aftermath of the remaster announcement there were grumblings about the lack of backwards-compatibility on the Playstation 4, and Sony’s insistence that it just wasn’t something people wanted (but remasters were, of course). After spending some serious hours with the Crash trilogy, however, I’m sympathetic to Sony’s insistence on remastering over re-releasing. Just like watching old movies on a high definition 50 inch flatscreen, playing old games on a modern system reveals all the trick-photography that developers were forced to employ in order to circumvent the limitations imposed upon them by old hardware.

Where that analogy fails with Crash, however, is that the games are identical design-wise to the originals. With the exception of some typical Playstation bells and whistles – achievements etc – these are the same games, just much prettier. And because of that, clunky level-design exposes the rudimentary platforming of the Crash series – although it is less of a problem in the latter releases.

Even the controls remain somewhat ‘sticky’ – Crash doesn’t move like a 2017 character, he’s still pretty gummy, and that certainly adds to the difficulty of timing tricky sections. Or maybe my reflexes have been corrupted by high-fidelity controls, and dulled by the cruel and inexorable onslaught of Father Time. Either way, it’s no deal-breaker for me, and the nostalgia of revisiting those heady days more than makes up for the primitive mechanics.

The Crash Bandicoot N.sane trilogy is a trip back in time, and perhaps back into old habits – or addictions. Buyer beware.

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