Comparing Crash Bandicoot 1-3

After many long hours of platforming peril, both delightful and frustrating, the Duck has finally completed the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.  And almost with 100%, too.  While I was able to get 100% in the first two games (minus the relics), I was not able to get the final gem in the third game.  Since it, you know, required me to get all those silly relics, gold or higher.  Which is…not happening.  Though I had planned on writing a separate review for each of these three games, I decided it would be more fun to write a single review comparing my experiences with all of them.

Though I did actually write a review for the first game, at the time, I had nothing to compare it to.  Having played through the entire trilogy, however, I believe the first Crash Bandicoot is my second favorite.  The original installment in this wacky series of platformers is, in a word, simple.  By simple, I do not mean the difficulty level.  If you were going in simply to complete these games and not to get 100%, I would say this game is the most difficult thanks to such horrors as the High Road and Slippery Climb.  Oh, how those words send a shiver down my spine.

By simple, I mean that this game has the fewest features.  There is no high jump or slide ability or belly flop.  In order to get 100%, the only challenges include breaking all boxes, with or without dying.  And the two bonus stages are not extremely, almost unfairly, well-hidden.  You simply have to find the keys in two stages, which are required anyway if you wish to break all of the boxes, whereas the second two games require you to do things I would have never have thought of without a guide.  Get carried off by the second pterodactyl?  But why!  The first game felt very much like the original Donkey Kong Country, with simple, pure platforming.  No clutter.  No bells and whistles.  Just classic vanilla, and darn it, a lot of people, including myself, like vanilla!

The problem with the first game, however, is that it’s sometimes a bit too simple.  There is not a huge variety in levels or challenges.  Sure, the scenery changes, but the biggest deviations were the hog-riding levels, boulder…um…running-away-from levels, and perhaps the levels where you have to use Aku Aku as a light or risk braving the level in pitch darkness.  My one other major issue was the fact that, in order to get 100%, you need to majorly backtrack.  Early into the game, you can’t break all of the boxes and get the clear gem without colorful gems that can only be obtained far later in the game.  Which was, honestly, a bit frustrating for someone like me who likes to complete levels as I go.

And then we arrive at Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back.  One nice feature with this game, and its sequel, is the fact that you can play through your current set of five stages in any order you wish.  There was still some backtracking required in order to get 100%, but the ability to play the levels a bit out of order helped here.  Despite such improvements, though, I think Crash Bandicoot 2 was my least favorite of the trilogy.  Whereas the first game could be a little barebones, I feel like the second game had too much going on.

Variety is good.  This game certainly improved on the variety of stages and challenges (though I was not liking those ice stages).  But getting 100% in this game was absolutely harrowing due to some rather unfair obstacles we had to overcome.  This game introduced death routes, time limits (not of the relic-earning kind, but of a variety that would earn you a gem in select stages), and obnoxious enemies like those horrible bees that could never be eliminated permanently.  That would all be tolerable if certain gems didn’t require you to complete such absurd tasks like having to reach the end of a stage, then, backtrack to the death route in order to obtain the rest of the boxes.  And though this game granted players such things as improved jumping abilities, this did not actually grant that many benefits because it simply meant the jumps would be more difficult this time around.

In the end, Crash 2 could sometimes be more aggravating than it was fun.  But, if you’ve been keeping track, then you may have noticed that, by process of elimination, Crash Bandicoot 3 has the honor of being my favorite game of the trilogy.  While certainly not perfect (those motorcycle races were utterly annoying), I felt that this game had the most interesting variety of locations (ancient Egypt, the Great Wall of China, medieval England, underwater).  The game also sported power-ups that I felt really added to the game, such as the ability to double jump and a fun fruit-firing bazooka towards the end.  Sure, that last one made things a bit too easy by the end, but after getting that far into the game, you kind of feel like you earned it.

Minus the requirement to get all of the relics, gold or higher, in order to get 100%, this game is also far easier than the previous two, and the challenges to obtain the extra gems are not nearly as absurd.  Of course, that could be good or bad, depending on whether or not you want a challenge.  After braving the high difficulty of the other two games, though, I have to say this was a welcome relief.

The Crash Bandicoot series has earned itself a new fan with its fun, challenging, and sometimes wacky old-school platforming, all remastered for the PlayStation 4 so those of us who came to the series late can enjoy a fresh new take on the classic PS1 platformers.  Now I’d like to hear your thoughts, folks.  Which is your favorite game in the original trilogy?  Which one is your least favorite?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

A Warped Duck

This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on 9/4/2018.

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