When video games made the jump to 3D, the scene was dominated by Nintendo and Sega. Sony then came along and decided to get into the video game business with the Playstation. Since they were new to gaming, they needed a mascot to represent the Playstation brand. That’s when in 1996 Crash Bandicoot was born.
Crash Bandicoot is a 3D hallway platformer. The goal of the game is to navigate through each level, which is usually set in a straight line with obstacles and enemies set in your path. After every few levels there is a boss battle. The game is pretty simple, as you just beat the levels and bosses until the game is over. The first issue that really comes across in the gameplay is the gems. There are breakable boxes in every level, and if you break every box in the level, you get a gem at the end of the level. Some of these gems are a certain color, which are needed in order to complete levels when revisited. In order to get 100%, you need to get all the gems. The biggest problem with this is that if you die after you reach the first checkpoint, the boxes respawn. This means that in order to get the gem, the level needs to be completed without dying and with all boxes broken. This becomes super difficult, as there are difficulty spikes throughout the game. Along with difficulty spikes, in some levels the boxes are hidden in very cryptic locations that one would usually never find out without the help of a walkthrough. Another issue with the level design is just how similar each level feels. A lot of the levels, even with different motifs, look the same, and don’t feel very different from others. Each level is either set in the woods, a temple, an Indian reservation, a Castle, or a laboratory. The boss battles are fairly simple. The boss will have a health bar that is segmented. Each hit the boss takes, the bar loses a segment. The way to attack the boss is fairly simple to figure out in each battle and it shouldn’t take you a long time to beat them. The boss battles are easy but still fun. One of the things that ages this game the most is the very archaic way of saving the game. The only way to save the game is by reaching a bonus round, which is reached by collecting three tokens in a level, and by beating said bonus round. There is also a password system which shows how old this game is, since passwords were becoming outdated by the late 90s. These issues are fixed in the later games in the series, as in the sequel the hidden boxes are much less cryptic and checkpoints save the boxes that have been broken. Beating this game without collecting everything will only take about three hours, but collecting everything extends this to upwards of ten hours. Overall the gameplay is pretty flawed, but this gets fixed in the later entries.
The controls in this game really show the game’s age. The Playstation controller didn’t have an analog stick at the time of this game’s release, meaning that this 3D platformer had to be played with the Dpad. Crash moves very awkwardly and a lot of the time precise platforming needs to be executed, but because of the awkward controls, this can’t be easily done. If there were an analog stick, I feel that the platforming would be much easier, as it is in the later games in the series. Along with the awkward controls, in certain straightforward levels the camera is placed behind Crash and not high enough, hindering depth perception. If the camera and controls were fixed, this game would have aged much better.
The graphics and music for the time were fine. The graphics consist of the usual polygonal models and backgrounds, but when looked at nowadays, the character models are very ugly. I mean uglier than Ocarina Of Time ugly. Secondary antagonist Dr. N. Brio looks like something out of a horror film, and Crash himself looks a bit off when compared to later designs of the character. The enemy designs are a bit sloppy, as they look very jaggy and almost unfinished. This was a very early PS1 game, though, so it’s understandable, but today they are an eyesore. The music on the other hand, is still fantastic. There are so many tracks in the game that I’m always humming to myself or are playing in my head. The game does a good job with how the music changes throughout. At the beginning of the game in the jungle, the music sounds like tribal music or music that fits the wooded setting. Later on in the temple areas, the music fits the dark and eerie setting. Finally, in the final area of the game, while Crash treks through the laboratories of Cortex Castle, the music has a more techno feel. The music might just be the best part of the original Crash Bandicoot nowadays.
For the early PS1 days, Crash Bandicoot was a landmark game, and spawned many successful sequels and spinoffs. All of the sequels on the PS1, however, have improved upon the Crash Bandicoot formula and have in return aged much better than this original game. Crash Bandicoot suffers from the common case of being the first in a series that continues to get better. Crash Bandicoot has not aged well, but is still worth checking out if you’re curious about how this great series started.
Next time on Games Growing Up, we’ll be taking a look at the first game in another dearly beloved Playstation Trilogy, Spyro The Dragon!