Crash Bandicoot is a great way of remembering the bygone years when video game mascots flooded the airwaves. Mario would made the jump into the third dimension on the Nintendo 64, and Sony wasn't going to let Nintendo's Italian spokesperson go unchallenged. Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog was supposed to be an edgier mascot compared to Nintendo's family friendly plumber, and Sony followed suit with an animal mascot that had even more attitude than Sonic's. The end result was Crash Bandicoot, a game whose character may have been more memorable than the games he starred in. Now that Crash is available on the PlayStation Store, a new generation of gamers can experience what is certainly one of the more well-known games from the 32-bit era.
It's interesting to see Naughty Dog's approach to 3D platforming, as this game released before the superb Super Mario 64. Nintendo had redefined 3D platforming in a way that caught the gaming world unsuspected. Crash Bandicoot was marketed as a "3D platformer," but unlike Nintendo's offering, the game has very little "3D" about it. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The game has very linear paths, and considering the jungle motif, the closest comparison I can think of would be to describe the game as Donkey Kong Country, but from behind the back instead of side to side. As you run through the linear levels, you'll have to time jumps, and attack enemies in a very old-school fashion. While Crash Bandicoot didn't reinvent gaming like Mario 64 did, it certainly mixed some of the best elements of old-school gaming with fresh (for that time) ideas.
The game featured some nice graphics, a fun sense of style, and some memorable moments. The game features a ton of variety, and you'll find yourself running away from a crashing boulder, Indiana Jones-style. Then, you may find yourself riding a crazed bull. The game's great pacing is certainly one of its best features, and it actually bests some modern games in terms of sheer platforming excitement. In fact, the many aspects of the game hold itself surprisingly well, more than 10 years after it's original release. Firstly, the game looks incredibly sharp on the PSP screen. The colors are vivid and the worlds look quite detailed and well animated. This game actually looks better than you'll remember it, and the PSP's diminutive screen certainly helps it.
One complaint about the graphics would be the lack of true 320x240 output. The game seems to have borders on the top and bottom, meaning you'll get even less pixels than what the PSP (or the PSone) can really support. This is unfortunate, and it's sad to see Sony not try to fix that for this PSP re-release. Regardless, the game's personality shines through quite well on the handheld. In fact, the relatively short length of the levels in the game make it almost ideal for the portable.
Crash Bandicoot is certainly a great purchase at $6, but that doesn't hide the fact that the game does have flaws. Modern gamers may find that the control just doesn't feel 100%. You'll find yourself switching between Type-1 and Type-4 controls, where the analog stick can be used instead of the D-Pad. Switching to analog certainly makes it easier to do diagonals, something the D-Pad is awful at. However, the analog may seem too sensitive at times, so you'll find yourself choosing a different control scheme, depending on the situation. The game's relatively high difficulty and short length may also frustrate some, especially considering how antiquated the save system is. Instead of allowing you to save any time you want, you must unlock and defeat certain bonus stages hidden throughout the game. These can be few and far apart, creating for some angering moments when you get game over before you can reach a save area.
Those of you that are interested in Crash Bandicoot should go ahead and download it, regardless of the score. With its great looks and personality, the game is quite worth it at $6. However, don't expect the game to feature the conventions that have developed over the years, and expect some of the game's age to frustrate you.
PSP Fanboy Retro Review: 6.0 out of 10
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