"There is something remarkably profound about the scenario of an endangered creature struggling to survive. One can imagine it speeding through deserts or forests, running for survival, working on adrenaline and primal instinct to out-run its pursuer against all odds and make it to safety and freedom. One can picture the desperation of this animal and perhaps begin to understand how it must feel, through our own similar experiences in life. The bandicoot is one such species struggling to survive,..."
There is something remarkably profound about the scenario of an endangered creature struggling to survive. One can imagine it speeding through deserts or forests, running for survival, working on adrenaline and primal instinct to out-run its pursuer against all odds and make it to safety and freedom. One can picture the desperation of this animal and perhaps begin to understand how it must feel, through our own similar experiences in life. The bandicoot is one such species struggling to survive, but not all bandicoots face the same fate. There is one bandicoot who fights different foes - the giant leapy frogs and half-naked wizards of Run In A Straight Line And Avoid All Obstacles Land.
Crash Bandicoot and its sequel, the imaginatively titled ''Crash Bandicoot 2'', were rather generic in concept, being as they were standard platform fare (albeit excellent to the point of being standard-setting and with a minimum of the bland repetition that so often plagues this genre). Whilst the original Crash did little to stray from the usual run forwards and jump concept, Crash 2 did make forays away from this by introducing a few sporadic levels which challenged the player in different ways, the level involving riding a baby polar bear being perhaps the most memorable of these. Crash 3 takes this ingenuity and adds to it by incorporating a wide series of differently structured levels into the game. Yes, there are some traditional style platform game levels - these were the origin of this series of games after all, and Crash 3 remains faithful to that fact - but as you progress through the game you will find that ''typical'' is not a word which can be used to describe this game at all, since the traditional levels are heavily out-numbered by the conceptual ones.
Indeed, while playing Crash 3, you will find yourself flying a plane while shooting down blimps and avoiding enemy fire, riding a jet-ski over ramps and past pirate ships, riding a tiger cub at night across what looks like the Great Wall Of China, racing a motorbike alongside alien spaceships on a highway late at night, being chased through a pterodactyl-infested firy cave by a huge snarling triceratops, and chain-smoking like a trooper whilst swearing loudly and exclaiming ''just one more try - I can get this!'' in a smoke-filled room full of empty beer bottles at 4am. And those are just for starters. See, Crash 3 is a huge game (by platform standards at least) and brings every genre-defining rule crashing down at its feet by repeatedly giving the player an experience which they most certainly were not expecting. Crash 3 is rebelling, and has not only broken the rules, but expelled them.
The image of Crash is becoming synonymous with good quality and is recognizable by most Playstation owners, since Crash was something of a mascot for Sony at the time of the Playstation's launch. Setbacks prevented this original game from being a launch title, but it was still a staple for most Playstation owners. In case you do not remember this, Crash Bandicoot is a... well, he's a bandicoot. He has an apish gait and thick eyebrows, and sports a somewhat startled expression on his face. Wearing his ever-faithful and disturbingly seldom washed blue shorts, he canters elegantly through each level, using his spin attack to break crates and retrieve the apples found therein. Through some clever sorcery or other, these apples add up to award Crash an extra life when he collects one hundred of them. These, alongside the floating mask things which are scattered through the levels, combine to give Crash a second chance at life should he get hit without forfeiting a life completely. Collect three masks, and invulnerability is yours - for a while, at least.
These staples of the game - the apples, the masks, the spin attacks, the familiar appearance of the title character - have remained the same throughout the series and Crash 3 is no exception. These are the game basics after all and it simply would not be the same without them. There are a few differences to the skeleton structure of the game, naturally, but not as many as would first appear (although most of the levels are completely different in layout than the earlier games). Each level must be replayed a number of times after initially clearing it, as those who have played the earlier titles will remember, and which will come as an oddity to those who have not played a Crash game before. Each level must be completed initially to win a crystal, which you must collect to open up the boss fight for that series of levels and ultimately the next set of levels. After winning the crystal, you will be able to play through the level again to win a gem by collecting all the boxes contained in that level (which can often be tremendously frustrating as many boxes are hidden). With certain levels you will need to play through again to access a hidden area or fulfil some other goal to win a second gem. Finally, there are time trials - each level must be completed within a certain, sometimes insanely short, period of time in order to win a ''key'' (which looks more like an ankh to me but hey). These keys become progressively shinier the faster you complete the level. Initially they are ''sapphire'', then ''gold'', then the target times will disappear altogether and if you're either fantastically good at that level or completely insane and have a lot of time on your hands, you will discover that by completing the level in an amazingly short timespan you will gain a platinum key.
Whilst it may sound irritating and overly repetitive to have to complete levels so many times, the reality is that the levels are so fun to play that it rarely feels repetitive. With such a wide variety of styles though, everyone is sure to have their individual likes and dislikes with regards to the types of levels they are playing, and this is when one can start to feel the strain. However, it is worth pointing out that you do not actually need to complete any level more than once to finish the game in its most basic form - you can simply play through each level in turn and defeat all the bosses and finish the game with a small completion percentage. However, since the percentage complete is displayed provocatively whenever you pause the game or save it along with a total of how many gems you have won so far, so it is extraordinarily tempting to just keep on playing aiming for that ever-elusive 100%.
In fact, due to some hidden extra levels, the game is not complete at 100%. It actually goes to 104%. The constant stream of masochism required to attain this though, factoring in the mind-blastingly difficult platinum key time trials, means that this total is saved for only for those players who are remarkably adept, and for perfectionists. In fact, because of these frankly addictive time trails, this game is a perfectionist's wet dream.
The mechanics of game play are superb, with perfectly responsive controls and no drunken cameraman moments at all. Since most of the levels follow a set path, the cameras seem to track Crash through the level by using this linearity to their advantage. Bonus stages, played by accessing the relevant platform within each stage where there are boxes to be collected, are side-scrolling and therefore cameras are never an issue in those anyway. The game overall plays in a way which provides so much variety and freedom that it is a joy to complete. Controls are initially very simple, but as new movement types are unlocked at each point where a boss is defeated, the range of controls increases gradually. The learning curve for these is very easy though, with only one new move being added at a time and with the controls for each move utilizing a different part of the controller. The difficulty level starts out very easy - this is a game which is very much playable without knowing anything about it at all, and would make an excellent first game due to this ease. However, as you progress and come to replay through the stages you will find that by the time your game is 70% complete, the challenge level is very high. The fact that you can complete the game without getting so far though makes it suitable for a very broad audience, as the difficulty is essentially chosen by the player - the farther you go, the harder it is!
With beautifully crafted and detailed level layouts, Crash 3 is pleasing on the eye too. The small things are the most pleasing, contributing to the overall atmosphere and making the game so fun to play. From chickens which serve no real purpose to different animated short sequences when you lose a life that are tailored to the way you died - being kissed by a giant frog, for example - there is plenty of entertainment in this game that is just added as a bonus and was not at all necessary. This game would be great without all these extras but the fact is that Naughty Dog (the developers) thought to add them, and that makes it all the more special - unnecessary they may be, but they are exquisite touches which give this game a real polished feel. The jetski levels are really where the animation quality stands out though - not only are the levels littered with the kinds of extraordinary details which are so often prevalent in a game of such a phenomenally high standard, but the water itself is truly something to behold. Although clearly animated in appearance as befits a cartoon game like this, the water actually moves realistically, responds to anything which may be lurking within it naturally and breaks around any larger objects in exactly the same way as the sea would. I have never seen anything like the level of quality and work which must have gone into this for what is, in essence, a small detail which could easily have been skimmed over, in any game before or since. I am aware that I am gushing embarrassingly here, but Naughty Dog really do deserve every puckered up reviewer they've felt planting a firm kiss on their smooth, genius bottoms.
That last sentence just about sums up this game. A work of genius. Naughty Dog, I salute you and would gladly bear your children. Now, if only someone would pay attention to what made this game so damn good and used those lessons when making their own games...
Community review by lisanne (August 22, 2007)
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