Saturday, February 1, 2020

Crash Bandicoot The Huge Adventure

By: Patrick "TheLaw" Morris

We live in an age of remakes and remasters. It seems as though every few months we're hearing about another remake of a classic game coming to modern consoles. As someone who has yet to find a limit to the sheer quantity of nostalgia they are willing to tolerate I personally cant get enough of these games. Halo, Fable, Shadow of the Colossus, it was really just a matter of time until the Original PlayStation's two biggest Mascots got their fifteen minutes in the spotlight. In 2017 a ground up remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games was released and it was developed by a studio that was more familiar with Crash than most people realized. When we look back on the Crash Bandicoot games the original four that were made by Naughty Dog are the ones that spring to everyone's mind, after that it all becomes a blur of indistinguishable shovelware on a downward trajectory; but if we sift through that shovelware there are a few gems that prove that Vicarious Visions has been the true Naughty Dog successor for nearly two decades.

Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. Having been born in 1990 I was the perfect age to dive deep into the original Crash Bandicoot trilogy and having always been big into handhelds I was eagerly awaiting the day when Crash would make his big debut on the Game Boy Advance. This week I played through Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure again for the first time since it was originally released in February of 2002. So it's time to talk about Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure.

When Sony was making their first foray into the video game industry and attempting to go toe to toe with their own countrymen who had stabbed them in the back just a few years earlier it was clear that they would need a mascot to unite behind. Cue Naughty Dog and the jean short wearing orange bandicoot. The first three Crash games were honestly fantastic and in my opinion have held up better than games starring a certain mustached plumber. Platforming was precise and very difficult at times, music was extremely memorable, the art style was so perfectly nineties but still holds just oozes cool today, and the character design was unique. The original crash games offered a perfect level of cool that was clearly meant for an older crowd than Mario without feeling to try hard like Sonic. They were a technical marvel at the time and proved to be one of the many silver bullets Sony would need to take on Nintendo.

 Vicarious Visions remade the games from the ground up and released all three on one disc in 2017. While the art style feels a bit more on the family friendly side than the originals edge it still captures the essence of what Crash was supposed to look like. If the remakes prove anything it's that while they are a bit simplistic by modern standards they absolutely hold up as timeless platformers. And those first three games plus the 1999 cart racer Crash Team Racing are the ones that everyone thinks of when they think back on the golden years of Crash Bandicoot. But Vicarious Visions' Huge Adventure should absolutely be held in the same regard.

Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure is a shockingly accurate approximation of its home console counterparts. As it turns out 2017 wasn’t the first time Vicarious Visions had demonstrated that they were capable of nearly perfectly capturing the essence of Crash. The studio took everything that was essential in making a Crash game and scaled it all down to fit on a Game Boy Advance. The sprite art looks so good that it could be a passable lie to tell someone that the sprites came first and were later converted to polygons for the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation 1. Environments look incredible, animations are spot on and the music is pitch perfect. But where The Huge Adventure really nails the Crash Bandicoot brand is in how it feels. Movement feels weighty and significant while not feeling to fast. All of Crash's go to powerup moves earned throughout each game are present and effectively implemented into levels. The game does a fantastic job of emulating the feeling of momentum carrying through from a running jump into the landing. When combined with the stellar visuals adapted for the less powerful hardware and the feeling of the gameplay The Huge Adventure could easily pass as the original Crash game that was released on some non existent 16bit generation of PlayStation that preceded the PlayStation 1.

While all the elements of an excellent Crash game are present there are some points where Vicarious Visions had to make some obvious concessions to pack the game onto a 32 megabyte cartridge. Crash games have never shyed away from recycling environments to save space and development time but The Huge Adventure is easily the worst offender of the actually good Crash games. I felt as though I was seeing the same space station, ice cavern, and jungle landscape on repeat throughout the entire game. Another place where The Huge Adventure struggles to keep pace with its console counterparts is in level variation. Despite Vicarious Visions doing an excellent job in scaling everything down there are some level types that simply don’t work on the Game Boy Advance. Crash started off code named "Sonic's ass" as a reference to the perspective Naughty Dog was pursuing, and that "Sonic's ass" perspective became a major differentiator for the series. But that iconic perspective is almost entirely absent in The Huge Adventure. The limitations forced upon Vicarious Visions by the hardware they were developing for meant that almost every level is either side scrolling while running, side scrolling while swimming, or running toward the camera (a perspective that is unanimously praised by players everywhere.) From time to time there would be a bullet hell plane based level but those were more frustrating than they were relieving. The Huge Adventure was Vicarious Visions proving that the cracks in the armor were a product of the hardware not the creators.

After Naughty Dog and Universal parted ways the Crash Bandicoot IP stayed with Universal and was later acquired by Activision. In the years since that departure there have been many developers that have taken a crack at recreating the magic of those first four Naughty Dog games. Traveller's Tales had their chance in the early 2000's, Radical took over in the late 2000's, Eurocom and Dimps were both responsible for some spin off party games, and even Toys for Bob had a chance at implementing crash into their popular toys to life Skylanders series. But of everyone who has tried nobody but Vicarious Visions has been able to even come close to the high water mark set by Naughty Dog. Not only were they responsible for the GBA games but they were the ones that brought Crash back from the dead with the N-Sane trilogy AND they added to that with their own original level via a free update that if you didn’t know was original you would have thought was just one you didn’t remember as well as others. Vicarious Visions is obviously the single developer that has the best understanding of what Crash should be in the 2020's and the most capable of making a good crash game. So please Activision, please! Just put Vicarious Visions on an all new Crash game and call it Crash Bandicoot 4!

So while the vast majority of people remember there being four really great Crash games there's a small group of us that loved that damn Bandicoot on the little purple portable as well. And while those games were excellent they're more relevant than ever as the case for Vicarious Visions to take over and revive the mainline Crash Bandicoot series. Vicarious didn’t invent Crash but 18 years ago they proved to us all that they really understand Crash.

So what do you think? Are you in favor of a Crash Bandicoot 4 or am I just shouting into the void? Let me know in the comments down below. And while you're down there don’t forget to subscribe for a new video every week! You can see everything we do including both of our podcasts all in one spot over at I'll be back next week talking about something else entirely I havent really decided yet so until then just go play some games.

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