Developer(s) – Naughty Dog
Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment
Distributor(s) – Universal Interactive Studios
Director – Jason Rubin
Producer – Dave Siller
Released in a bid to compete with both Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64, and the subsequently cancelled Sonic Xtreme for the Sega Saturn, Crash Bandicoot was an attempt to establish a stable mascot upon the advent of Sony’s first foray into console gaming. It was met with both critical and commercial success, and would lead to the development of two sequels and a spin-off kart racing game before the developmental rights were acquired by Traveller’s Tales, but the first four games in the series was, and always will remain must-have titles for the original PlayStation, and in my opinion, it started off very positively.
Graphics – 8/10
Though it may not have aged particularly well for a fifth generation game, the strong points concerning the game’s visuals lie in the amount of diversity in level design, which is positively comparable to any game in either the Mario or Sonic series; one of many factors making it a strong competitor against the two. The boss designs are also wonderfully varied, raging from a pair of mad scientists, a potoroo gangster, an overweight tribal chief and an insane kangaroo in a straitjacket.
Gameplay – 8/10
Similar to Donkey Kong Country in its map system and progression, although it is indeed a pretty linear game, it’s still very enjoyable to play. But what separates the first game from the sequels it would eventually spawn is in its pretty stern level of challenge. But much to my delight, it does this without being too unforgiving. At first, I thought this game could have possibly been seen as a 3D throwback to the likes of Castlevania and Mega Man on the NES, but thankfully, this game’s difficulty isn’t that harsh.
Controls – 10/10
From what I found whilst playing this game, there were no problems with the controls, which at the time felt like a breath of fresh air, since many 3D games in the PlayStation’s early shelf life suffered greatly, due to the initial lack of an analogue stick on the controller in contrast to the Nintendo 64 controller. I guess it’s because the game was kept so linear in its path, and throughout most levels, that the controls scheme would have been easier to undertake, but I think any attempt to take the game in any more dimensions than what it was taken in would have led to disaster.
Lifespan – 7/10
To rush through the game, it would most probably take just under 2 hours, but if 100% completion is desired, then I’d imagine it would take about 4, which for a linear platformer isn’t too bad. The original Super Mario Bros game could be completed within a much shorter space of time than that, and there were no side quests like there are in the original Crash Bandicoot game. This game was certainly a sign of standards in games in general increasing, and the PlayStation’s library would only get better from there.
Storyline – 5/10
Although the gameplay isn’t entirely as made in the same vein as Mega Man, I found the initial story was, in the sense that the plot is very similar. Crash Bandicoot is at first a prisoner and lab rat of both Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio, who manages to escape only to try and free an unnamed female bandicoot that takes Crash’s place in the two scientist’s experiments. At first, the series essentially followed the same trope as any game in the Super Mario series; the white knight resolving to save the damsel in distress from the unrelenting villain. And for that reason, I think the series started out very primitively and blandly in terms of narrative.
Originality – 7/10
In terms of conceptual design in particular, and in its inclusion of a couple of side quests thrown in for good measure, Crash Bandicoot stands out greatly among most other games released during the infancy of 3D platformers, and in all honesty, the original trilogy still holds up to this day. As I pointed out, it could have done with having a bit more of a decent plot in order to differentiate it even further from the like of Mario and Sonic, but this was developed in an era when games were relatively light on story, and before it would become as important a factor as it is these days, so I believe it shouldn’t lose too many marks because of that.
In summation, the first Crash Bandicoot is a classic PlayStation game, and I would recommend it to any fan of the genre, and by proxy, I would recommend the next three games released in the series. It may have had a couple of flaws, but it was very much a question of trial and error, and I think Naughty Dog answered that question in style.