Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Don't crash the coot

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Platform tested: PlayStation 4 & Xbox One X
Released: 2017 & 2018

Review: Long story short, I bought the Crash Bandicoot remaster collection back on the base PS4 when it launched in 2017. Gradually getting frustrated at the games strange control system and frustrating hitboxes I gave it up and forgot about. Fast forward until the recent release on Xbox One and I repurchased it for the X, bonus was that this version is native 4K with HDR.

My initial thoughts on this game weren't positiv back in 2017, I had considered reviewing it, but I became increasingly frustrated over what felt like input lag and hitboxes that didn't correspond with enemy sizes and the edges of falls. The added annoyance of an un-skipable intro, long loading for levels and simple tasks like title screens, I abandoned the game. My PS4 has been in little use since the XBox One X launched, but I always had an idea of going back to the Crash Bandicoot remaster, but never got around to it. However, a spontane repurchase on the X left me replaying this badly titled "N. Sane Trilogy", but this time around on way better monitor in 4K, with HDR and super low latency. Did it change my opinion? Well actually it did.

My initial disappointing impression then, has changed. The super crisp and colourful world pops even more in the largely enhanced upgrade from the standard 1080p on the base PS4 to the native 4K with HDR on the X. The HDR transforms the colour and lighting to become really vibrant and just shine even more. CB is a good looking game, that brings back a great nostalgia feeling of the original games. A lot of care is taken in each of the three games look visually extremely close to how you remember them, albeit with far improved and modern graphics. It's one of the best made remakes visually for sure.

Gameplay is another story though, the developer seems to have thought it needed to resemble the original games a little too closely in my opinion. There's even a difference here in that CB1 controls noticeably worse than CB 2 & 3, much like the original games. I ended up using the d-pad for CB1, as that was how the first game was designed to be played. But should I need to in 2017/2018? I wish they'd modernised the controls and gameplay further, but I guess they aim to copy that exact feeling for the old games. As such, this collection can get extremely frustrating at times. You'll be misjudging distances and enemy positions consistently and ripping you hair out as you will die. You will die so many times. Those archaic controls can burn in hell.

The transition then going from a 40-60ms input lag on a TV, to my new monitor at 5-10ms was significant and a great factor in making me enjoy this trilogy far more. These games have a slow momentum increase as you accelerate into movement and a sluggish precision to the jumping that I dare say it almost has to be played on a screen that allows a low latency. Playing this game on standard TV settings, which are usually terribly optimised by the manufactures for gaming, will drive you annoyed real fast. For my X playthrough I really wish they could have bumped the game up to 60fps too, it would have helped tremendously to control Crash more precisely. It's a missed opportunity once again, not aiming for the 60fps should have been a priority and will be something only PC gamers can do.

Otherwise though, the collection is a healthy bargain. Half price of a new game price and a complete set of all the first three CB games is great value for money. You'll have plenty of hours of platforming to dig into and it's a far better way to enjoy them for old Crash fans and newcomers alike. There's even a more cohesive look to the animation and model of Crash too as he is alike in all three games compared to the original three games that developed over the years they were released. Nothing to complain about there, and I like that they even allow you to play Coco on all stages too, even in CB1!

CB N. Sane Trilogy is mostly for the nostalgic players out there, wanting to relive those 90's years of the classic on the first PlayStation. While the base PS4 version is fine, the loading really hampers the game and I would recommend the X version over it, if not only for the HDR too; it makes the whole world pop out so much more and the native 4K is so crisp. Most importantly though; for those interested in some platforming you should play this game with two factors in mind. Firstly it's a brutally difficult and unfair  game at times and secondly you need to play on a low latency screen.

A nice remaster release then, hampered by some weird design choices to keep stuff that even nostalgia can't hide were bad ideas even back in the 90's. While newcomers will have a lot of value for money here, it perhaps is aimed at the fans of the games back on the PS1. Keep also in mind the frustrating difficulty before purchase.



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