Crash Bandicoot Review

Crash Bandicoot: a PS1 classic revisited

Last Updated on May 18, 2024

During the PlayStation era, it felt like Naughty Dog could do nothing wrong. The Crash Bandicoot trilogy offers some of the best platforming on the system, but does the original still hold up? I hope to answer that question in this review.

The humble beginnings of a PlayStation classic

For an early PlayStation title, Crash Bandicoot looks absolutely gorgeous. Naughty Dog nailed the vibrant color scheme and theming, and the level of quality holds up throughout the entire game. While the iconic Warp Rooms of later games are absent here, I don’t mind the more traditional level progression. 

Crash Bandicoot Review
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

You start on the shores of the unassuming N. Sanity Beach, and before you know it, you’re conquering waterfalls and ancient Aztec temples. The environments also get increasingly more industrial as you spin and jump towards your showdown with Dr. Cortex. The theming changes are gradual and make every level feel unique and memorable. I rarely recall levels in video games by name, but I remember almost all of them in Crash Bandicoot.

Some character models look a little flat, especially compared to the sequels. That said, there are plenty of newer PS1 games that Crash absolutely crushes in the quality department. There’s so much attention to detail, and the various death animations are a nice touch. It stings to lose a life, but a little less so when you don’t just get slapped by a generic “you died” screen.

On that quality note, the music is superb. I’ll go into specifics later, but every track feels appropriate for the location, and you’ll be humming plenty of tunes after you turn the game off.

What happened to the special moves?

Platformers live and die by their controls, and Crash Bandicoot puts on a masterclass in this department.

Crash Bandicoot Review
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

All of Crash’s actions feel precise and deliberate. While I died numerous times during my playthrough, I never once blamed the controls. Crash always lands precisely where you aim, and his spin ability is consistent and reliable.

It may sound like an exaggeration, but I’ve played many modern platformers that feel less responsive than Crash Bandicoot. I’d even argue Crash Bandicoot 4 from 2020 feels more floaty than the original.

The controls are stellar, but it does feel weird to play as Crash without his signature moves. The iconic tornado spin, bellyflop, and slide were all added in the sequel, Cortex Strikes Back. In comparison, the original feels a little restrictive.

Besides a few environmental slips, movement is flawless, and you feel well-equipped to deal with anything the game throws your way.

Not your average 3D platformer

When I hear the term “3D Platformer,” I immediately think of the legendary Super Mario 64. Crash Bandicoot feels very different for all the right reasons.

3D levels are far more linear, and I appreciate this as you can’t get lost. Crash Bandicoot also has a few stages where it plays more like a side-scrolling 2D platformer. Oddly enough, I can still walk towards and away from the camera on these levels, but the perspective adds a welcome sprinkle of variety.

Some of my favorite moments of Crash Bandicoot are when it does something entirely different. There are a couple of levels where you ride a pig and stages where you run towards the camera to escape a giant boulder.

Crash Bandicoot Review
Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

Even the boss fights are decent. The mechanics are simple and intuitive and each battle is unique, if a little on the easy side.

Fumbling in the Dark

I adore how Crash Bandicoot looks and feels when playing, but it does have a couple of glaring issues. 

Let’s start with the big one. The difficulty is all over the place. I thoroughly enjoyed most of the levels, but felt like the challenge peaked in the middle somewhere. Sunset Vista is one of the Aztec Stages, and it’s by far the hardest level in the game. The jumps are brutal, and the stage is so long it feels like it could have been split in half.

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

The funny part is I actually enjoy the challenge. It feels so rewarding to clear a problematic level after a few tries. It’s just odd that only one other stage gave me issues after that.

That other level is the infamous Slippery Climb. I adore the aesthetics of this stage as you’re ascending the side of a castle at night in a storm. The soundtrack is a haunting ensemble that softly rumbles in the background and almost gives the area horror vibes.

One false step, and you’re falling off the level, and it’s extraordinarily tense from start to finish. The issue is that it feels like an extra checkpoint or two wouldn’t go amiss. You lose a lot of progress if you die here, which is a little frustrating.

100% completion is reserved for masochists

My only other gripe with Crash Bandicoot is the Gems. There’s a Gem up for grabs on each stage, and it’s a fitting reward for smashing every box. The catch is if you die even once, the Gem is off the table. I welcome difficulty, but this design choice feels particularly cruel.

Screenshot: RetroGamerBase

I enjoyed my time with Crash Bandicoot so much that I beat it 100% for this review. The Gem Hunt is borderline sadistic, but the simplistic charm of the title shines through. The sequels offer welcome upgrades and refinements, but the original is still worth playing and remains a stellar PlayStation classic.

Crash Bandicoot is a well-known heavy hitter in the PlayStation library, but many great games slip under the radar. Check out our list of the best PlayStation games you’ve probably never played if you want to swat up on your PS1 knowledge.

Crash Bandicoot: Crash Bandicoot is a challenging 3D platformer with enough depth and variety to keep you entertained from start to finish. It may lack the quality of life additions of the sequels, but it has a unique appeal of its own. Anthony

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