Ah, the humble bandicoot. Bandicoots consist of a group of around 20 species of small to medium-sized, terrestrial marsupial omnivores that are endemic to the Australia–New Guinea region. The bandicoot is a member of the order Peramelemorphia, and the word “bandicoot” is often used informally to refer to any creature in that category, such as the bilby. The word is adopted from a Telugu language word “pandi kokku”. They love nothing more than to smash open wooden crates and hoard as much fruit as they can whilst also collecting rare crystals and riding polar bears.
Crash Bandicoot. The best of all the bandicoots. While he may have spent the last 6 years in video-game purgatory this jean-wearing, orange-furred adventurer still lives on in the hearts and minds of fans of the original Playstation classics.
Welcome to the Videogame Shoebox.
We were originally introduced to Crash in 1996 in his first, self-titled adventure on the original Playstation. The series went on to create a total of 18 games and sell a total of 50 million units across all the titles.
It’s a series mostly consisting of 3-D platformers and the occasional fun kart racer, spanning the first 3 generations of Playstation as well as other consoles. The best games in the series, in my opinion, we’re those that we’re created by Naughty Dog Studios, more famous nowadays for the Uncharted series and The Last Of Us. Naughty Dog developed 3 Crash Bandicoot platformers and a surprisingly awesome kart racer in Crash Team Racing on the PSOne before departing from the series.
For now, at least, I’m going to concentrate on my favourite of those platformers, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back.
The evil Dr Neo Cortex has been defeated, his space station destroyed by Crash at the end of the first game. Conveniently enough, however, as Cortex CRASH-lands in a dark cave he immediately finds a crystal, a new power source to fuel another go at world domination and proceeds to kidnap our bandicoot buddy and trick him into collecting them for him, under the guise of saving the world. Crash has never been known as a SMART bandicoot.
His skills mostly consist of breaking stuff. To progress through the 25 levels you will need to run, slide, spin, jump and belly-flop your way to first the crystal and finally the exit. The task of collecting the 25 crystals will probably only take you about 4 hours but the challenge comes from not only the later levels but also collecting the gems. Each level has 1 or 2 gems to collect, 1 for breaking every box and one for reaching a secret area or completing the level in a certain amount of time. Some challenges can’t even be attempted until you find the corresponding gem in another level, which just leaves a coloured wireframe of a platform that won’t be real until you find it. This leads to plenty of replayability and a great, yet achievable challenge for those who love to see that 100% before they put their controller down.
The stages are themed from jungle environments, to electric-eel-inhabited sewers, arctic glaciers, Aztec ruins and more. Each has their own challenges whether that be ice sections, water areas that let you use a super-powered-surfboard-thing or stages where you run away from a giant boulder Indiana Jones-style. There’s even a couple where you get to ride a baby polar bear! That’s awesome!
His daddy doesn’t like it but he’s despatched easily enough. Now you’re mine to do with what I please. What. I. Please.
Speaking of challenges, our bandicoot buddy is not very survivable. It only takes a single mis-timed or badly aimed jump or spin attack to make Crash buy the farm. You’ll probably find this happening to yourself as well but luckily the death animations have a great charm and comedy to them so you don’t feel too bad about failing, this idea would later be used in Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series to great effect.
Crash is not alone on this adventure, as Aku Aku, the spirit of an ancient witch doctor trapped in a floating, wooden mask, helps Crash on his missions to stop Cortex by scattering copies of himself throughout the levels in a bid to help the unlikely hero. Whenever Crash has an Aku Aku mask, he will be shielded from one attack, whether thats an enemy or an environmental hazard like electricity. Collect three masks and you’ll have temporary invincibility from all dangers, but it still can’t protect you from falling down holes. Bummer. Still, everyone remembers the sound effect when you collect an Aku Aku mask.
Whenever I prepare for these features there’s always a danger that I might be suffering from ‘gamer hindsight’. Any one of us can go back to a game from our early years and realise that it simply wasn’t all that good, our child minds simply making the best out of an ill-conceived use of pocket money. It makes me all the more happier, then, when I go back to a game that I once cherished and find that it still holds up. The Naughty Dog Crash Bandicoot series is a brilliant set of games, and I encourage you to try them on the cheap via the PSN store on PS3, Vita or Vita TV. Maybe you’ve got a copy in your Videogame Shoebox? Don’t forget that all models of the PS3 can play any official PSOne discs you might still have kicking around, why not take a little gaming regression session yourself?
That’s it for this instalment, join me next time when I’ll be dusting off some more games from yester-year. Be sure to let me know in the comments or on twitter @MikeNotridge any games you’d like to see on here.
I’ve been Mike Notridge, and I will see you, next time.
What’s in your Videogame Shoebox?