The fact that the PlayStation made gaming cool, hooking hordes of twenty-something trendies with its adult marketing and ruthless abandonment of childish characters in favor of games like Wipeout, is well documented.
But after the Playstation's first year, Sony was becoming anxious that maybe it had been too hasty in overlooking the younger market; perhaps the idea of a platform mascot wasn't so retrogressive. The revolutionary Mario 64 was proving a compelling vindication of an antiquated concept, and Sony was getting nervous.
Luckily, a little known development team called Naughty Dog was already well underway with a title to plug the gap. Seizing the opportunity, Sony snagged the publishing rights, introduced a hardware price cut, frog-marched Crash Bandicoot centre stage and sat back, anxious for its plan to take effect.
Though we can probably be thankful that Crash didn't end up being cemented as the Playstation's official mascot, we can be glad that the game performed well, especially seeing as 12 years later it has given the PSP store another classic title.
The story goes that on a trio of islands just South East of Australia, the evil Doctor Neo Cortex and his sidekick, Doctor Nitrus Brio, have created an 'Evolvo Ray' - no prizes for guessing what that does. Before long, the pair have sped up the evolution of several creatures on the island, causing massive amounts of pollution in the process, with plans to make these super evolved creatures do their evil bidding.
Of course, Cortex and Brio didn't factor the resilience of one highly evolved bandicoot into their science project, and before they know it one of their own creations, Crash, is heroically attempting to thwart their diabolical scheme and save the object of his affection, Tawna, another bandicoot who has fallen victim to the evil scientists.
As is the tradition for video games involving anthropomorphs, Crash is a platformer, and a very competent one at that. The twist is that although you have full 3D movement within your environment, the play area is restricted to a very slim tunnel-like path.
Rather than constricting gameplay, however, the tight linear structure helps to keep the very traditional hazard ridden game world focussed and there are none of the irksome camera issues typically associated with this era of 3D platformers
The action is broken up with side-scrolling bonus stages and occasional sections where you need to move vertically, or ride on the back of a wild boar. It feels like classic platforming from the halcyon days of the 16-bit era, and though visually the game is on par with any of the best looking games the Playstation had to offer, the 3D perspective does not compromise the tried and tested rules of the platform games that sold millions of consoles while Crash was still just a glint in Naughty Dog's eye.
It can be a bit of a frustrating title at times, simply because the twitchy, spinning Crash character encourages recklessness in an environment that often requires patience and the the odd pixel-perfect jump sequence. Even so, you're never heavily penalized for untimely deaths, with checkpoints scattered liberally throughout the levels, which are themselves short by today's standards and perfect for nugget sized bouts of play on the go.
All in all, Crash is a great looking, great fun title and makes for a great bargain prelude to anyone getting excited about the forthcoming Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant. One of the PSP Store's finest so far.
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