Crash Bandicoot is on PC. I’ve played it and yet I still can’t fully comprehend it, like a color that shouldn’t exist, or some sort of uncanny valley android. It’s been over 20 years since I first played Crash Bandicoot, and in all that time it’s been a tentpole PlayStation series. Hell at one point in the ’90s, the titular Bandicoot was the PlayStation’s mascot, its answer to Mario.

And now it’s on PC. Even weirder? That’s the best way to play it, these days.

Crash into me

You can thank/blame the long, slow march of hardware—and for once I’m not talking about graphics cards. That’s usually the reason I’d recommend a PC over a console, and Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy certainly looks great. The N Sane Trilogy is one hell of a remake, perhaps the bar by which they should be judged. Gone are the old polygonal graphics, replaced with something that looks like it could’ve released for the first time in 2018. Pretty astonishing, given the 22 years in between.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy IDG / Hayden Dingman

It makes sense though. Crash Bandicoot came on the cusp of 3D gaming, early in the PlayStation 1’s lifecycle. Limited by technology, developers instead had to rely on strong art direction to stand out. Crash is colorful and iconic, as are the worlds he runs through and the creatures he fights.

It’s an altogether easier job to overhaul Crash Bandicoot, I imagine, than an early “photoreal” game like Medal of Honor. Not easy, mind you, but easier. Keep the designs intact, just pack them full of detail.

And that’s what you get with N Sane Trilogy. Crash has fur. Objects cast shadows. Foliage sways as you run past. Water looks like water and fire looks like fire. All the advances in textures and shaders in the past 22 years, brought to bear on an embodiment of early 3D gaming. I’ve said before: The sign of a great remaster or remake is whether it looks like you remember the game looking. The N Sane Trilogy definitely looks better than even the rosiest-tinted memories of my youth, but it’s still recognizably Crash Bandicoot.

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy IDG / Hayden Dingman

Pros and cons to that, too. Crash Bandicoot…hasn’t aged great. It’s not offensively bad or anything, but it’s clumsy in the way of most early 3D games. The first game in particular can be a nightmare, with a locked camera that sits uncomfortably close to the action at all times. The back half of the trilogy is better in that regard, but even then Crash controls like a half-deflated balloon with shoes.

The action’s also simplistic, even factoring in when Crash Bandicoot was made. Run toward the screen and smash all the boxes, or else run away from the screen and smash all the boxes, or (often the best levels) run sideways and smash all the boxes. Over and over and over. There are some standouts, and the third game does a slightly better job of breaking up the action, but in 2018 Crash Bandicoot doesn’t compare favorably to the more open-ended levels of Mario 64, Spyro, Banjo Kazooie, and its other contemporaries. It’s repetitive and more than a bit dull.

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