Back when Naughty Dog was still a fledgling studio, it took a gamble on Crash Bandicoot – a 3D character-based platforming game that, for many, would set a golden standard for the emerging genre, spawning one of PlayStation’s most iconic mascots.
Activision’s N. Sane Trilogy looks to recapture that magic of the nineties, rebuilding the first three Crash Bandicoot games from the ground up with a complete visual overhaul and one or two subtle alterations. With Vicarious Visions at the helm, there was never any doubt the project was in safe hands, having already worked on previous Crash games and, while it’s not for everyone, the Skylanders franchise, which has benefited hugely from the team’s involvement over the years.
Put simply, what you see is what you get: three PlayStation classics remade in 4K for returning fans and newcomers alike. Everything, from patrol patterns of enemies down to the distance between each gap you leap over, has been accurately recreated with equal parts passion and precision. Dumbing down Crash’s brand of platforming action to make it more accessible could have been a tempting prospect for Activision, but thankfully that isn’t what’s happened here.
Although some sections feel a tad easier than in the original games, that’s simply due to having more detail on-screen. There’s massive improvements to character models, lighting, and texture work and it all helps when timing jumps and judging distances. Part of what made Crash Bandicoot so challenging back in the day was its primitive, jagged 3D visuals, sending players to their demise for misreading the tiniest details.
That said, those levels that had you weeping into your wired DualShock all those years ago are just as punishing here. Crash’s debut is by far the toughest of the three games, mainly thanks to its sparse checkpoints and love of floating platforms. There’s a slight stiffness and lack of momentum in the bandicoot’s jump animation that will often frustrate as you slip down a crevice for the umpteenth time.
Levels such as the infamous High Road are deliciously brutal and will put even the most ardent fans of the genre through their paces. The placement of certain enemies and obstacles is definitely cheap in some parts, though can’t be faulted. Not without criticising the PlayStation originals.
Instead of simply making levels easier, Vicarious Visions has found a great yet small compromise. Continually fail a platforming section and a checkpoint crate will appear earlier than expected. Similarly, if you’re getting pulverised by the same boss or enemies, you’ll start spawning with an Aku Aku power-up. Without fundamentally changing the game, these little boosts help those that just want to beat the trilogy instead of mastering it. For the latter crowd, there’s plenty of reason to go back and revisit each level. Smashing every crate, running time trials and bossing stages without losing a life will quickly become an obsession for some, doubling or even tripling their potential playtime.
With or without 4K, N. Sane Trilogy looks fantastic, carrying the same punchy vibes of those first three Crash games. As touched on before, environments pack in way more detail, especially those areas covered in foliage. The characters look great too, including Crash, Coco, and Cortex, as well as the trilogy’s secondary cast. Many of these familiar faces are also brought to life through newly created cutscenes and recorded dialogue. For this long-time fan of the series, it’s the perfect amount of modernisation, staying true to the original games without the need for hyper-realistic visuals.
As far as remakes go, you can’t get any better than this. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is exactly how fans envisioned it – an unadulterated celebration of a PlayStation pioneer. With such a weight on their shoulders, Vicarious Visions have pulled it off with such diligence, infused with a streak of their own creativity. Then there’s Naughty Dog original efforts, of course. Even those only acquainted with Uncharted and The Last of Us can appreciate how the studio first made its name, and the journey from Crash Bandicoot to Warped is one of continued innovation. Some two decades later, it’s great to see that some things never change.
Version Tested: PS4 Pro