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The greatest game I ever played: Crash Bandicoot

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As its PS4 return is announced, one writer salutes one of the best platformers of them all...

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t remember the first time I played Crash Bandicoot.

It was the summer holidays. I got up sometime before noon, poured myself a bowl of Frosties and headed straight back upstairs, waited for my PlayStation to load (let’s be honest – the disc reader could be hellish at times), and before I could slop milk on my controller the music began and I was transported to exotic lands lined with far too much TNT to really warrant any sort of habitation.

My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy, Kellogg’s on my sweater already. Mom’s spaghetti.

Two seconds in and the pressure was on. ‘This is what it is all about’, I thought. The camera chased my every move; it was clinical like that. I could change direction, even go back on myself, yet I pushed forward, the adrenaline not allowing me to think otherwise. I crushed every box, caught every mask, and killed every crab. Then Crash hit the deck.

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I’m overwhelmed with rage and any form of rational thought is instantly out the window. Stupid game. How dare a crab kill me, it must be a glitch. I peel my hands from the controller, wipe the pain away on my legs and take another spoonful of cereal whilst the checkpoint loads (this time it’s all over my chin, like a fucking savage) and I push on like a true warrior.

Crash has served me like no other. If you ever wanted a real ‘get-up-and-go’, for me this was it. Level after level, it always felt so unexpected, jam-packed with twists and turns; bosses and conundrums. A few years on since the original Crash Bandicoot had launched and one Crash game in particular, for the Game Cube, with a level called ‘Bamboozled’ will always stick in my mind:

There was a sense of freedom within this game. Yes I was a Bandicoot, yes he was rolling round in a bamboo cage sometimes, or perhaps jumping on TNT to collect apples, but who cares? This guy was, and hopefully still is to some, an escape into a world absolutely unrivaled to reality, a source of gaming independence, as it were.

These days, however, gamers want to game with one another. Back then, online-less, I gamed on my own and if I wanted spend time with others I’d go outdoors. If I wanted to game I would game. I did not game to achieve the equivalent of my girlfriend saying “let’s watch a film” to only realise that we’re 45 minutes in, I don’t have a clue what’s going on and that Ryan Gosling has still not said anything. FIFA’s fine, Halo death matches also, but where is the joy in a game with no story? It all seems so lacklustre compared to the heroism on Crash Bandicoot.

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PlayStation owners may remember this

Cast your mind back to the platform worlds of old: blue hedgehogs on speed, mustachioed Italian plumbers encountering mushrooms - if the clues weren’t there already, the gameplay was a drug in itself; addictive experiences found through the guise of plucky characters intent on rampaging across levels for hours on end. Crash, doubtlessly a juicer, brought this same ethos of older games into the late nineties and early noughties with each title. Even the spinning mask power-up was plucked directly from Marioland’s superstar. Even Crash Team Racing, a poor man’s Mario Kart on paper, had its charms – and while Crash would never have an impact on multiplayer games, so long as people have thumbs there will always be space for platformers.

So yes, with news that a remastered Crash Bandicoot N.Sane trilogy is hitting the PS4 on June 30, I’m once again transformed into a child lump of goo again. Now to get the Frosties in.

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