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Zadzooks: ‘Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’ review (Xbox One)

July 3, 2018

An iconic, anthropomorphic marsupial returns to debut his early platforming adventures on Microsoft’s Xbox One entertainment system in Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (Activision and Vicarious Visions, rated E+10, $39.99).

Once upon a time in the 1990s, Crash entranced PlayStation owners with his three-dimensional platforming antics, and he became a nearly subversive mascot for Sony’s fledgling gaming empire.

Anybody remember a guy dressed up in a Crash costume wielding a megaphone and calling out Nintendo in the live-action commercials?

Gamers now looking for slightly updated but still very challenging action and a massive remastered nostalgia trip with their old, orange spinning friend can now relive his glory days through his earliest trio of cartoony adventures.

Specifically, Vicarious Visions has given Wumpa Island and surrounding realms a potent visual upgrade while rebuilding from scratch the familiar gameplay in “Crash Bandicoot,” “Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back” and “Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped.”

The results are more realistic character models, such as a hero sporting some slicker matted fur (with more detailed leather motorcycle gloves and laced sneakers). Dr. Cortex’s shiny gloves really stand out but are not quite as impressive as the recent reimagining of Clank and Ratchet a few years ago.

The developer’s work also includes upgrading the environments in a reality-based lighting system to help make special effects, water and greenery shine.

Look to appreciate such minutiae as glistening hippos lying in water ready to be bounced on by Crash, his ducking translucent ice cubes and fiery explosions or sliding across a shiny slick ice pond.

They even toss in a better save system and unlockable time trials for every level a player completes.

Now combine all of the upgraded pixel pop and furry circumstance with over 100 levels of colorful action for a reasonable price and the solo gamer will revel in the decades’ old games.

I’m betting gaming families are more than happy to enjoy his focused, humor-entranced worlds when compared to some of the more overtly complicated titles these days.

For those unaware of the objectives in the game play, it’s worth noting Crash was competing at the time with legends such as the Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, always required dashing around while collecting and breaking stuff.

He will still accomplish missions by jumping and spinning around a variety of terrain (mostly following set paths with little deviation), smashing crates and collecting such items as crystals, health and bonus level icons, and an abundant supply of Wumpa fruit.

He uses vehicles in some games (such as a jet board, jet pack and a jeep), some more complex sliding moves and plenty of help from Aku Aku, an ancient witch doctor (when collecting and wearing his wooden masks).

Additionally, Crash’s adventures are backed up by a wide range of encounters with wacky characters and bosses.

I have to believe an 8-year-old will appreciate moments with Crash’ younger sister Coco or Crash’s famed frosty bear cub Polar and battling such foes as the mutated kangaroo Ripper Roo or the ferocious flame-thrower-wielding Dingodile (a cross between a dingo and crocodile).

Here are some quick thoughts on the three bundled games offering hours of collecting and reacting.

“Crash Bandicoot” The title where all of the mayhem started back in 1996 offers the dramatic tale of evil Dr. Neo Cortex creating genetically engineered animals within a goal to take over the world. However, his prize mutation, Crash, escapes and the doctor looks to kill him before the empowered creature can save his pals and his cute girlfriend Tawna.

A player will find a sometimes frustrating and super-challenging adventure as he conquers plenty of those mainly linear environmental obstacle courses. It took me an hour just to complete a trio of the early levels, and I still never found all of the crates to smash in each area.

That friendlier manual and auto-save system (in all the games) helps, but gamers will be screaming as they may have to play entire swath of a level over if they perish in the treacherous terrain.

This game also features access to the level Stormy Ascent requiring Crash conquer a treacherous castle on a stormy night. The never-completed level was apparently so difficult, it was left out of the original release.

“Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back” The marsupial was back in 1997 and ready to actually help Dr. Neo Cortex save the world?

Well, of course it was a trap, but players were more than willing to tackle the challenge that featured finding crystals in 25 environmental warping levels and fighting a fair share of boss battles against the likes of the Komodo Brothers (a pair of komodo dragons) and muscle-bound Tiny Tiger.

This game was actually easier than the first, despite all of the boss battles and had tighter controls. Terrain was also expanded to move from the jungles to areas with water, snow and ice.

“Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped” Perhaps the pinnacle of Crash’s evolved adventures arrived in 1998. The game featured time traveling (from ancient Egypt to World War I), motorcycle riding, plane flying, scuba diving and avoiding a stampeding triceratops.

In the story, Crash gets assistance from his sister Coco to stop Aku Aku’s evil brother Uka Uka. The female sibling is a very playable character and actually stars in many levels, even riding her cub tiger Pura across the Great Wall of China.

This game also features immediate access to the new and hardcore level Future Tense requiring Crash to scale a futuristic skyscraper while dodging lasers, rockets and battling robots.

Overall, “Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy” maintains the traditions of the merciless original adventures for the purists while unleashing enough of an eye-popping update to allow a new generation of fans to fall in love with the maniacal marsupial.

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