Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (Xbox One X) Review

From the very moment you start up Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, it’s made crystal clear that you’re in for, as the voice of villain Cortex declares, “a smashing blast from the past” as we see everyone’s favourite marsupial literally being remade by leaping into a machine humourlessly titled Vicarious Visions, the studio behind this stunning remake. Bringing the original Crash Bandicoot series into the current generation, the N. Sane Trilogy manages to recapture the zany spirit and tough challenge of the original series in a gorgeous new visual style that’s bound to please those who grew up with he series alongside those who missed it the first time around.

The first thing that immediately jumps out is just how much love and care has been put in to updating the over 20 year old series. Crash looks more expressive than ever, environments are rich with detail, and it’s just as fun to notice small details on other characters and enemies; all of which looks even better on Xbox One X with a full native 4K resolution. It’s not just the visuals that have been given the full makeover treatment, the series’ iconic soundtrack is now more infectious than ever thanks to an HD remaster. Marimbas have never sounded so great.

Being released for modern consoles, the trilogy has also been given modern video game tweaks including an autosave feature that makes diving in and out that much more convenient. Other additions include the ability to play as Coco, Crash’s plucky sister, in all three games. Time trials are now also available in the first game, too, bringing a whole new level of challenge with them. And, if the maddingly addictive challenge of these games isn’t enough, this version of the game includes two new levels to put your platforming skills to the test.

Out of the three games on offer, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the original instalment is the one that shows its age more in spite all the modern bells and whistles added, especially in comparison to the far more refined Cortex Strikes Back and Warped. With a more rudimental gameplay design of spinning and jumping to navigate increasingly tough levels combined with a sometimes infuriating inconsistency to bouncing on objects that can make notoriously difficult levels like Native Fortress and High Road that much more inaccessible, this is the weakest entry. Similarly, Crash’s racing and underwater missions in Warped suffer from poor controls that make the challenge of these levels more about wrestling with unruly movements than about overcoming obstacles; vehicles feel stiff and unresponsive whilst Crash will drift all over the place when swimming underwater which makes even the simplest of movements (or staying still for that matter) the hardest aspect of these sections.

Despite all of the shiny new additions to these games, there are still one or two features missing that the remake would have hugely benefited from like the ability to retry levels from the pause menu. You could be on your way to completing a perfect run of a level only to miss one pesky crate near the end. Instead of simply selecting an option to retry to put you back to the start, you need to wait for any animations to finish, quit back to the hub world, and jump back into the level. A slight and mostly unintrusive inconvenience, but an inconvenience nonetheless. Likewise, it comes as a disappointment that there is no ability to play in 60fps on the X enhanced version.

A small issue also arises from the strangest of places. In this remastered version, loading screens offer hints and tips designed to nudge players towards finding the cryptic secrets and challenges scattered throughout the levels, but with loading screens lasting only a second or two, there’s simply no time to read what’s there. The positive here is that there’s virtually no waiting to jump into gameplay, however the hints are rendered redundant. One possible fix for this would be to include the level hint within the pause menu so it’s easily visible for those who need it.

In short, N. Sane Trilogy is, quite literally, an insane feat of game design that succeeds in capturing what has kept these games in our hearts for over 20 years. The first game may show its age more than the others, but each entry in these series is platforming at its craziest and finest, and now we can experience it all again in a stunning new coat of paint.

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