Crash Bandicoot is a great series that spans across a lot of games, but the original stands tall. The game is an iconic PlayStation Classic and a title many hold with high regards.
Taking the 2D Action Platformer and literally bringing that into 3D realm was unheard of before this game came out, so lets spin into action and see the humble origins of our Orange friend.
Naughty Dog was founded by two talented programmers; Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin. They worked with Apple II computers to make a number of products like a skiing game and a graphical adventure called ‘Dream Zone’. They even got EA to publish two titles for them; Keef the Thief and Rings of Power.
They moved on from EA and worked with Universal Interactive to make a game called ‘Way of the Warrior’ for the 3DO, with it catching the eye of Mark Cerny. You know, the lead designer behind the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
After picking them up and working with them on the tile, Andy and Jason thought it would be a good idea making a 3D Action platformer. Mark gave them the greenlight they needed and development started and what was originally called ‘Sonic’s Ass Game’.
Why this? Well, you would only see Crash’s back for the entire time, so this code named worked on that level. It also works because Naughty Dog was inspired by Sonic because he was the most popular mascot platforming icon of the 90’s.
Various prototypes were being created and Naughty Dog were thinking about which platform holder they would go to for this new IP they were making with Universal Interactive. SEGA was out of the question due to them competing with Sonic and Nintendo was not worth pursing due to limited space on the N64 carts. They then turned their heads toward Sony and it was a perfect fit.
They did not have a mascot platformer of their own yet and they loved the prototypes being shipped to them. Sony even got their Japan Divisions to localize the game with its own ad-campaign! This lead to one of the biggest parts of Crash’s history; Sony being involved with the IP.
It was a deal between Sony Computer Entertainment, Naughty Dog, and Universal Interactive. Sony would publish the game and market it, Naughty Dog would develop the title and Universal would fund the project and provide office space for Naughty Dog staff.The marketing director of Universal Interactive Studios insisted that the character be named “Wez”, “Wuzzles” or “Wizzy the Wombat”. On creating the levels for the game, Zembillas and Pearson first sketched each environment, designing and creating additional individual elements later. They aimed for an organic, overgrown look to the game and worked to completely avoid straight lines and 90-degree corners.
The core team that worked on a title was a small one. It included:
Director – Jason Rubin
Producer – David Siller
Designer – David Siller
Programmers – Andy Gavin & Dave Baggett
Artists – Charles Zembillas, Joe Pearson, Bob Rafei
Composer – Josh Mancell
The story here begins in a dark stormy lab, where we have two scientist named Dr. Nitrus Brio and Dr. Neo Cortex, using their newly created Evolvo-Ray to mutate various creatures and animals on the three local islands. They experiment on two Bandicoot’s, one called Crash and another called Tawna. Crash gets hit with the ray but escapes, with Tawna still in the scientists hands. What is interesting is that despite Crash going out of his way to save Tawna, she just dumps him after the games events!
Its up to Crash to save his girlfriend! ……That is it. Really, nothing more is here and that is more then enough. Crash is goofy and a bit dumb but he his heroic, making us as the gamer connect with him. Kinda like the 2D Sonic’s, Mario and Mega Man; the simpler things get, the more we can connect with our hero sometimes.
Another interesting point is the fact that the game was originally scheduled to have animated cutscenes. You can see these below and it’s interesting to now realise how much more perspective they would have added to the series.
Crash’s personality is shown with his animations; wide eyes, funny death animations and lots of animation on his face. This allows him to have a lot of personality despite having no dialog.
Otherwise, nothing else to talk about until we get to later games where things go into more detail about the spiritual masks and the foes we fight getting more personality.
This games gameplay can be explained with this simple question: Did you ever play anold 2D action platformer? And remember how simple but challenging that was? Now take that, and put the camera behind your character instead of on the side
That is Crash Bandicoot in a nut-shell; a literal 2D game thrown in to the 3rd Dimension, and it works out very, very well. Firstly, Crash is simple to control; D-Pad to move around, X to jump and /O to spin attack. This simple set up allows anyone to pick up the controller and play the game, and that is was a very smart move on Naughty Dog’s part.
Levels are either hallways that have us running toward the screen/away from the screen, ridding on a bore or being in a literal 2D platformer. These are all spread evenly, so not one style gets too stale or boring.
How Crash feels is responsive but he has momentum and it can mess you up sometimes. Hold up too long and you can slip of a platform or something. Thankfully, the game is kind with its life system with them being all over the place.
Crash also can, well, Crash into creates…… Lets just have this animated image here for a moment.
Ah, the sound of smashing a crate…..good times, good times. It is one of the most rewarding sounds in gaming, next to getting bolts in Ratchet & Clank or collecting Rings in Sonic to me.
Crash also collects Wampa Fruit and can pick up Aku Aku masks that are more or less his hit points. Collect three you have a funky beat play as you have a short period of invincibility.
The game also pushes you to spin into as many creates as you can, and…..its one of the weakest parts of the game. I say that, as 100% Crash 1 turns what is a fun action platformer into one of the hardest games out there. I would comment more on this, but 100% the game doesn’t really give you any major rewards.
But the game has some big issues regarding being able to 100% complete the title. Firstly, you cannot die when running through the stage, as if you die once, you have to leave the stage and start it again. If you just continued where you died, you boxes don’t count.You also have 2D special stages of three types; Tawna’s (which let you save the game), N. Breo (which is just a mini-level) and Cortext (where you get two keys for two bonus stages).
Level design is very challenging though, with places like Slippery Climb or any of darkness levels really testing your platforming skills. But getting through them is so rewarding and makes you feel accomplished as a gamer. Overall, I really like the gameplay and level design a lot.[divider][/divider]
This game looks impressive still, considering this came out in 1996. The models are sharp, crisp and detailed. Some things look off, like some of the foes you meet in the final lab stages but overall, the game looks fantastic and the later games only look better and better.
Musically, it has a few really great tracks and the sound effects are fantastic.
This is a classic that has aged greatly over time. One of the best PS1 games out there .and this is just the first game. This series gets better and better as time goes on with the strong sequels that include Crash Bandicoot 2 & 3 alongside one of the better kart racers ever produced, Crash Team Racing. We’ll be looking at these over the coming weeks.