I don’t buy games on Day 1 too often. When I do it’s typically for a big franchise that I follow like Super Smash or Dragon Ball Z. If you asked me a few months ago if I’d buy Crash day 1, I probably would have chuckled. Crash always seemed fun enough, but I’ve never played any of his games so I couldn’t call myself a big fan. That being said, the collection got a lot of hype and just about everyone I talked too had also pre ordered it. I decided that I needed to see what the hype was all about. It’s not the greatest game of all time as I’ve heard some say, but it is definitely a very solid title. The fact that it is 3 games in 1 just makes this even more of a bargain!
Lets start with the first game. There isn’t much of a plot, but Cortex has decided to destroy the world. Crash must stop this mad scientist’s quest for power while he can. The problem is that Crash isn’t very smart so he just mindlessly runs around and beating people up. He’s a force of nature and fortunately he is acting on the side of the heroes. The 3 games have some similarities as they all have around 25 levels and in the same format. You have 5 worlds and each world has 5-6 levels. That’s where the similarities start to end. The first game is easily the hardest of the 3 and relies less on gimmicks than the others. All of the levels in the first game are classic platforming challenges in 2D and 3D.
One of the level styles is the overhead water ones. They were my favorite levels but they were admittedly the easiest as well. I found them to be pretty bearable as I jumped from platform to platform. There were also the boulder chase levels where you have to rely on your reaction times to jump when a pit appeared since you couldn’t see them. (You’re running towards the screen) Surprisingly, this is the one aspect where the sequels were a bit tougher..or maybe my reaction time just slowed down.
The meat and potatoes of this game are the sky levels where you have to get past crumbling bridges. Apparently you can cheese parts of the level by running on the rope, but I didn’t notice that so I had to beat them the old fashioned way. I must have gotten 30-40 game overs on this level style because I just couldn’t get past some of the obstacles. Finally completing them was always a very satisfying experience. There were quite a few levels that I just barely completed and can’t imagine going back anytime soon. The game is merciless with the difficulty and it’s no walk in the park. I usually would only beat 1 world every time I turned the game on because it wasn’t easy to beat them in large batches like the sequels.
The gameplay is simple as you just run, jump, and spin. It’s easy to know the controls, but the levels are still tricky because you have to be very precise. If you don’t time your jumps perfectly, then it’s game over for you. I have to give the game credit for never being unfair though. The challenges were tough, but they weren’t luck based or anything like that. The more you played the levels, the more you got used to the obstacles. Also, you would only have to restart the level so the penalty for dying wasn’t absolutely terrible or anything. It was an intense way to start the collection.
The sequel adds some more plot and cutscenes into the mix. Cortex has asked Crash for help because an asteroid is going to crash or some other villain is messing around. Anyway, he demands that Crash find all of the gems once again and gives them to him. Crash’s sister consistently warns Crash that the guy is lying, but Crash doesn’t seem to understand and after being threatened, gives them to Cortex. I may as well say it now, I don’t like Crash. He’s not smart and not endearing. He makes all of the wrong decisions time and time again. He’s just lucky that Cortex isn’t much of a villain either. He’s certainly no Eggman or dare I say even Bowser? At least Bowser was threatening for a time. Cortex is just a second rate Wily.
This game is noticeably easier than the first. I only got the game over screen a handful of times and in particular the first level of the final world. Part of why the game is easier is because they added a new dash mechanic similar to DK Tropical Freeze. You don’t have to be as precise with your jumps anymore because the dash grab can cheese almost any obstacle. All of the villains are slower now so it is easier to time when you should spin. The final boss takes this low difficulty to the extreme as you can beat him in about a minute. He literally can’t attack you so you just chase him down 3 times which is incredibly simple. I was shocked at how fast he went down. There was no final form though so I guess that was that.
The second title experiments with the game a little more as you get airship levels and other gameplay styles. This meant there was a little less time for the traditional Crash levels which plays a big part in why the game was easier. Although, the normal Crash levels have also been nerfed from the first game so it’s probably a moot point. While the first game may be more satisfying, I can safely say that the second one is better since it had more of an actual plot and I did like the gameplay variety.
Finally, we make it to the third game. This one ramps up the gameplay variety even more as you get racing levels, water racing, underwater submarine combat, Star Fox simulator, and then the occasional Crash level. This game easily has the fewest Crash levels which may be a little sad for gamers who had to wait until it came out back in the day but since this collection already had a bunch of those I was pretty content. This game is even easier and I only saw the Game Over screen once. Admittedly that was kind of my fault for underestimating the game. It got so easy that I allowed myself to get a bit sloppy for a while there.
The plot for this game is that Uka Uka has returned and is commanding Cortex to destroy Crash. They also halfheartedly try to trick Crash again, but don’t seem too committed to that as they flip flop around the issue. I doubt Crash figured that out anyway though. Despite the hype, I can’t say that I care much for the mask. I can’t really take him seriously and his design isn’t all that good. Honestly the Crash series needs a better supporting cast. Who knows, maybe I’ll like them more as I play more games though. There are definitely a bunch of others to get at some point right?
There is a lot of replay value here and that’s an understatement. Even after beating the three games, there are many collectibles to get in each. Obtaining the 3 Platinum Trophies in the game will also take a considerable amount of time. Games 2 and 3 are easy enough, but part of getting the Platinum in the first game involves completing all of the levels…without dying. That sounds pretty insane to me and I just can’t picture pulling that off without an incredible amount of work. I don’t think I want to spend quite that much time since the deaths will really get to me, but this is certainly great news for Crash fans. You’ll have a shiny trophy to prove that you’ve overcome all of the odds.
The graphics are pretty good and it is nice that the game completely redid them from the ground up. They have certainly modernized Crash and friends with the new designs. The soundtrack is also surprisingly catchy. Some of the themes are pretty memorable like the final boss tunes and some of the factory ones. Crash 1 certainly has the best array of songs, but they’re all pretty good in their own right.
I do have one big criticism with the game though…the unskippable cutscenes. You can’t skip the Gameover screen which is the saltiest part of the whole losing experience. You have to watch the Mask laugh at you a few times and there isn’t anything you can do about it. The cutscene isn’t incredibly long, but it is definitely long enough to make you wince and take a step back. It feels quite bad. You also can’t skip the opening credits to the game. Every time you boot it up you have to watch all of the logos fly by and the narrator try to hype the game up. I can understand doing that the first time, but I don’t want to have to watch it every time. That’s just a little too much product placement.
There are no other real negatives to the game, but I did find a glitch during one of the boss fights. If you hit the scientist who throws the bottles at you too soon, he’ll forget to drop the bottle and just stay in a permanent electrocuted position. You then have to get out of the game and retry. It’s a mild thing as you can easily beat the boss another way, but it felt like I was being punished for being too fast. Did the quality testers never see this because they weren’t fast enough to beat him that way? Not to toot my own horn or anything. I do like the fact that there is an auto save for the game active and that you can save at any time as well. It’s just a nice quality of life addition that makes the whole package better.
As for the bosses, most of them were pretty easy. The only challenging ones were in Game 1 as you’d expect. It took me a little to realize that I could jump on the first boss so that took a bit. Any boss that involved aerial combat was a breeze. The final boss in Game 1 was reasonably difficult since dodging the energy bolts was tricky. Game 2’s was easy as I mentioned and Game 3’s was also very simple. It wasn’t all that hard to dodge his attacks. There was a lot of variety in the bosses so the game did good on that front. Very rarely was a boss similar to a previous one.
So, how does Crash stand up next to the all time greats? Clearly he is no match for Mario or Sonic, that one’s a given. I’d also give Ratchet and Clank as well as Jak the edge. Crash does surpass Sly and Klonoa though. I think that’s roughly all of the main platformers. I’d mention Rayman, but I haven’t actually gotten to start that one yet. One of these days though, it’s just around the bend.
How do the 3 games stack up? Well, as I said Crash 2 is the best, then 3, and then 1. I do appreciate Crash 1’s challenge and difficulty of course, but you can see how the games got a little more polished after that. As I mentioned, I like how they shifted the gameplay a lot in the sequels. The first will always be a classic, but the addition of a plot is just too big of an advantage to miss either. I will say that the first does give you the most bang for your buck since you’ll be there a while.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend picking this game up. It’s quite a bargain considering that you’re getting 3 full games for the price of 1. They are all classics as well so it’s not like you’re getting Flip’s Twisted World or anything like that. They have a seal of quality on them with solid level designs. It’s an all around pleasant experience. The 2nd and 3rd games are great for relaxing as you can breeze through the levels with minimal effort which lets you enjoy the scenery more. Then the first game helps wake you up every day as you have to bring your A game to conquer it. I suppose I may buy the next collection day 1, (After all, the 3rd game does end with a cliffhanger!…even if you can’t take it seriously) but it likely won’t be an issue because I plan to buy the sequels way before such a collection comes out. Gamecube/PS2, here I come!