Review: Crash Bandicoot 1 (Sony PSP)


Crash Bandicoot
Publisher: Sony
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 12/05/2006

It seemed Sony finally had a true mascot when Crash Bandicoot was first released, but after a multitude of sequels and a transition to a cross-platform property have rendered its impact considerably less. Now a decade after the release of the first game, PSP owners who also own a PS3 can download Crash (and other PS1 titles) from the Playstation Online store and transfer them to PSP.

As 3D action platformers, Crash is one of the best from the PS1 generation and is arguably the best game in the series. The process to get the game is somewhat convoluted (which I’ll go into detail on later), but once it’s on the PSP memory card, it’s a trip down memory lane that holds up incredibly well a decade later.

1. Story
The evil Dr. Neo Cortex has kidnapped Crash’s sister Coco and plans on taking over the world using power crystals. Crash washes up on a beach, and sets off to get his sister back, gather the crystals and defeat Dr. Cortex. There isn’t a whole lot to the story, and Cortex is a bit of a cliché as a super villain, but it works to set up the Crash universe.

Early levels have Crash move through lush jungle environments. Later levels that are closer to Cortex have a more technological and scientific feel. There are a variety of level types, almost all used for 2 different levels with different level layouts.

Story Rating: 5/10

Graphics
The world of Crash Bandicoot is brightly colored and lush, with crisp blocks of color and gradients used throughout. The game’s graphical style has always relied on shaded shapes rather than an excessive use of textures, and that style holds up extremely well emulated on the PSP. The graphics seem crisper than they did on PS1, probably in large part due to the PSP’s screen resolution.

Crash himself animates very well and shows a ton of character. There are a bunch of death animations that depict Crash dying in comical cartoon manners, such as turning to a pile of black soot after being burned. Crash also gives you attitude if you leave him idle for too long, a platforming tradition that has been lost in recent years.

The locations are varied and well laid out, and are used twice each to create levels in the game. With over 30 levels and a bunch of locales, the visuals in Crash Bandicoot are one of the reasons it holds up so well today.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound
The music is fun and light, with an Australian tinge. They are mostly jungle type beats that stay very much in the background, but fit the game very well.

The sound effects are understated but well done as well, with the “Humbaga” of Aki Aki particularly notable and enjoyable. There is also a nice satisfaction when picking up rumpa fruit and having the slicing sound play in repetition for however many fruits are being grabbed.

The sound experience in Crash Bandicoot isn’t overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be, it compliments the graphics and gameplay very well.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay
Crash Bandicoot was one of the best 3D platformers, and it harkens back to a time before all major platformers had to act more like Grand Theft Platformer, combining as many genres under one roof as possible

Crash moves with the use of the D-Pad — the analog nub does nothing to move our bandicoot hero. Crash can jump and bop enemies to kill them, or can use a Taz-style spin attack. Crash also has the requisite butt stomp, but instead of using his rear end, he does a belly flop from a height and smashes though crates or enemies with his belly. Unlike in later Crash games, that is the basic extent of Crash’s abilities, and he does not earn new wacky abilities like a wumpa fruit cannon.

Everything in Crash revolves around platforming, and there are two main types of levels — side scrolling and 3D rails. The 3D railed levels put Crash on a path into or out of the screen, with motion from side to side limited to the path. This was panned at the time for not being as wide open as Mario 64, but the truth is that the confines on the levels concentrate the action and make the jumping and platforming more urgent. Rather than avoiding an enemy or obstacle by circumventing it, Crash must find a way through.

The 3D levels have some extremely exciting levels where Crash is running towards the screen being chased by a large beast or a giant bolder. This type of level, presumably based on the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc, are some of the best levels in the game, and have been copied in other platformers since.

The side scrolling levels are a nice surprise as well, as they feature traditional 2D platforming using the slick Crash 3D engine. There is also limited motion possible from side to side on these levels, and there are secrets that allow Crash to move behind objects into the background.

Crash is a straight ahead platformer/collection game that is becoming more and more rare as platformers branch out. It sticks to the core action of jumping and taking out enemies, and does it in a variety of fun ways and viewpoints.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 8/10

5. Replayability
Just getting through all the levels poses somewhat of a challenge, especially on the third island, but once the game ends, the real fun begins in trying to get all the crystals. These types of replay-the-level-endlessly tricks have been beaten to death by now, but at the time it was somewhat of a novelty. It’s quite a feat to reach 100%, even if the rewards aren’t quite worth the extra hours needed to get them all.

Replayability rating: 5/10

6. Balance
The first world is fairly easy, but towards the end of Crash Bandicoot, the difficulty ramps up quite a bit. The bridge stages are very tricky on first playthrough and take some memorization to get through.

The game’s difficulty gets even moreso when trying to earn every crystal on every level. This is sometimes a Herculean task, especially when needing more than one colored gem to access hidden areas. Unlike in later crash games, when checkpoints could be reached in order to collect all the crystals, there is no dying allowed when trying to earn crystals by breaking all of the crates.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality.
Platformers have been around forever, and even when Crash Bandicoot was released there were already a wide variety of 3D platformers using many of the techniques in the game. Crash is a rare case where the sum of the parts is greater than the parts individually. The character design is cute but basic, the controls are fairly generic and the story leaves something to be desired. But the graphical look, the charm of the levels and characters and the tight and focused gameplay make Crash feel like something a bit different than the normal 3D platformer.

Originality Rating: 5/10

8. Addictiveness
There aren’t any 3D platformers as good as Crash currently available on PSP, and that moves this to the top of the list of games on that system. It has boatloads of charm in the character designs and the level designs, with the classic boar riding’ and the chases by giant boulders or bears. The side scrolling levels are a throwback that seem to almost be old school gaming with new 3D graphics, and feel fresh compared with a lot of what’s out there today.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor
The Crash franchise has been devalued greatly over the last 5 years as Universal took over the games and released them on every platform. Players who remember the first game fondly will likely seek it out to try out the new PSP/PS3 connection, especially given the generally weak lineup of PS1 games available from the start. The price is decent too, at only $6, as comparable N64 games on the Wii Virtual Console are $10.

Appeal Factor: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous
The idea of playing emulated PS1 games on PSP is a great idea, and the possibilities are vast. However, at launch, the process is long and tedious, not to mention the fact that you need to own a PSP AND a PS3 and have a Playstation account. Oh and have your firmware updated to the latest version available at the time of download.

What this means is that my 2.81 version of firmware wasn’t enough, and before even getting the game I had to upgrade the PSP from the Sony website to version 3.01. Then the PS3 also needed an upgrade, this time to version 1.30, which also took a bit of time. Finally I logged into the Playstation store, chose to buy Crash, and downloaded it. It was 466Megs. It took about 20 minutes to download, but then the PS3 lost internet connection at 99% and it exited the store. So I had to re-login and download the game, from the beginning, again.

After hooking up the PSP to the PS3 with a USB cable and setting the PSP to USB mode, I was able to download the game to the PSP. After that whole process, booting up the game from the memory card is very easy and fast and I was playing Crash finally.

Also worth noting is that not only have I already bought Crash Bandicoot, I still have the disc and can play it for free in the PS3. It would be awesome if they figured out a way for PS1 games to be ripped from the original disc and stored on the PS3 for transfer to the PSP, but the piracy concerns are probably too large.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10
Total Score 67/100
Final Score: 6.5 (Above Average)

Short Attention Span Summary
While the series is mired in mediocrity under the auspices of Universal, the Naughty Dog originals rank among the best 3D platformers ever. Despite upgrades to the gameplay in 2 and 3, the pure platforming bliss of Crash 1 makes it perhaps the best game in the series. Not to mention how hard it really is to get all the crystals on all the levels without dying, and Crash is a perfect game to revisit the PS1 era on your PSP.