Although I cop it from the other Press Start crew for admitting it, my youth wasn’t filled with the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. I didn’t have a PlayStation, so my nostalgia rests with other treasures like Banjo-Kazooie and Conker. That being said, I hold Naughty Dog with astronomically high regard.
My first foray into their work was the Jak & Daxter trilogy, a series that’s near and dear to my heart. Renegade is hands-down one of my favourite games I’ve ever played. And of course, we all know how acclaimed their recent catalogue is.
Uncharted. The Last Of Us.
They’ve got the Midas touch. Each and every game they produce is a master class in all things game design and now, after having played Crash Bandicoot, at last, I see their first hit is as good as their last. It’s apples and oranges, of course, but even in a game as simple as Crash, they’re a league above.
All I’d experienced in terms of Crash Bandicoot prior to the N.Sane Trilogy is the brief Did You Know Gaming short that showcased some of Naughty Dog’s god-tier development techniques. The game had so many polygons at the time that they had to find a way to hide them. It’s actually a masterful watch, I recommend you check it out, even if you have a passing interest in Crash or game development.
Beyond that, and his Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End cameo, Crash Bandicoot means nothing to me. My childhood ticked along without his wily guidance and jean shorts.
So why is it that I, for some reason, still put the little scamp on a pedestal? Is it because he is, after all, one of the pioneers of platforming? Or is it because he’s a national treasure who I’ve heard a lot about from friends, cousins and even strangers who regale me with stories of his brilliance? Either way, his importance isn’t lost on me.
He’s an icon. He may not be as prolific as Mario or Sonic, but he’s definitely in the conversation.
I’d always dismissed Crash Bandicoot as being a downhill runner because all I’d ever seen was the Boulders level. Little did I know that variety is everything in Crash. The game does a great job of mixing up its levels so you never tire of the formula. At the end of the day you’re only jumping and spinning, but it manages to feel fresh and exciting every damn time.
Of course, the game isn’t without its niggles. Hog Wild can go and get stuffed. I’ll go eat if that final jump over the rotisserie pig isn’t straight up broken to its very core. I burned through all of my lives four times over trying to hop that hog. Plus I watched my housemate do the same thing. But despite the rage, it’s all forgiven by the time I hit that exit gate.
Its excellence is thanks in large to its simplicity. The game’s unintimidating controls go hand-in-hand with the bite-sized levels that come and go within a span of minutes and leave you constantly saying ‘one more’. It’s actually a game that would really suit a handheld, but I digress. There are very few games that age with grace and I’m so happy that the Crash series is among them. Not only is the game’s very essence largely intact, I’ve been told that the game’s time trials are a new inclusion.
I can see a lot of spiteful competition in my future as I’m destined to languish low on the ladder among my Crash loving friends.
I can’t be sad that I never got to play Crash when I was little. My childhood afforded me plenty of memories I’ll always hold dear. I stomped through Doom much earlier than any child should, I dived off of a dam in Goldeneye and I even learned a funny little instrument called an ocarina.
And now, as a 27-year-old man, I can say I’ve played Crash Bandicoot.
Its place in people’s hearts is justified as far as I’m concerned. The cockles my ticker grew tenfold at the mere sight of the title screen. The rhythmic jungle beat is a perfect precursor for everything that follows.