Thumb Grips for Tactile Tenacity

 

Lookin’ a bit cooler, no? Wish the thumb grips were a darker blue, but, you know, first world problems…

Got some new thumb grips for my PS4 controller — and they work like a charm.

I love the PS4 controller design — as I have loved Sony’s PlayStation controller evolution all the way back starting at the original grey one that didn’t even have analog sticks! — but my main gripe I’ve always had with the new PS4 controllers is that the analog sticks have a little less tactile friction for your thumbs to grip and move across. You’ll be holding it in its upward position as per the scenario of 99% of games to move your character up, and slowly your thumb slides upwards before coming off completely. Not *terrible* but also not the best design either.

If any tactile-passionate PS4 gamers are after a better PS4 controller experience, I highly recommend them. Got them in Tesco for £3: pack of 2x pairs, conveniently a blue pair for my default player two blue controller (the one I use), and a black pair for the black controller for player two. They are from a company called ‘Gioteck’ — never heard of them, honestly, but we’ll see if their thumb grips keep their strength after a few crazy gaming sessions.

While, we’re on the subject of PlayStation controllers, here is a wonderful infographic. The bottom watermark states that it was either made, or is from http://psmania.net, but if it is, in fact, not there’s, and you know the artist, or are the artist, please contact me so I can credit you for it, as you’ve done a super-duper job:

 

~ Mike

Mr Black’s Game-O-Rama Corner #1: Crash Bandicoot Trilogy — Original & Remaster

Analysis and Overall Geekery Over the Original Crash Bandicoot Trilogy & N-Sane Trilogy Remaster

This is the very first in a series of blogs I intend to work on as frequently as I can that does everything from analyse a single game, a game series, game design techniques, game philosophy, art in games, other media, and/or a combination, or parts of all of the above! I shall be calling the series Mr Black’s Game-O-Rama Corner. I adore the medium of games, film, music, art, and art of all kinds, and am an avid reader and writer, and have planned on doing something like this for a long time. I hope to work on these articles/blogs/tomes whenever I have free time from not working on any of Aaron and I’s games. Future games and series I would love to delve into and do giant Game-O-Rama Corners on are the retro Sonic games: Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 3 & Knuckles — my favourite Sonic game of all time — Sonic CD, and the various Master System ports and unique games… and maybe Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Knuckles Chaotix… all wrapped around talking about and analysing the wonderful Sonic Mania that was released recently — with all its references and callbacks to the previous titles mentioned — and that I have just got around to completing (not 100%, but getting there!); talk about the mechanics of the games, what works, what doesn’t, the best levels of the games and the series as a whole, the worst, analysis of all the bosses and enemies, and generally just having a fun time writing about some the best games the early ’90s had to offer.

I would also love to do a Game-o-Rama Corner on the Oddworld games, particularly concentrating on Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, plus their (non-Oddworld Inhabitants developed) Game Boy and Game Boy Color ports respectively. Also briefly delving into Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee, and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, whilst also talking about the Abe’s Oddysee remake New ‘n’ Tasty, plus talking about the incredibly unique game company that is Oddworld Inhabitants. One final Game-O-Rama Corner idea I will reveal here is one specifically exploring the PlayStation 1 demo discs that were all the craze for ’90s PlayStation gamers and just how much they meant to so many people, including myself. I am a collector of PlayStation 1 demos, and have almost amassed a completed collection, missing only a few truly rare ones that are almost impossible to find, but I’ll talk more about that in the dedicated Game-O-Rama-Corner.

I hope to see Mr Black’s Game-O-rama Corner expand nicely and gain a nice following of fans that can discuss and debate along with me around the ideas and critiques I offer around the games I talk about. I adore discussing games and art in general, and am not afraid to write novellas on these games and subjects should I see fit for long and in-depth descriptions about the games being needed, so be warned! I am happy to include this side-project as an addition to my game company, Those Coded Lunatic’s own blog, which itself will intermittently post about anything game and art related, along with news and updates about our in-development games. I hope you enjoy this long read (11,000+ words at last count) and are not put off too much by obsessive geek talk.

 

Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy: a mighty set of games to stand on the shoulders of.

[Note#1 : there be spoilers ahead, me hearties. If you are in desperate need of experiencing the story and surprises firsthand, I recommend leaving… but please come back after. I’ll miss you.]

[Note #2: I had no intention of making this as long as it ended up being! It was just meant to be a little analysis of the new Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for PS4, released the week I originally wrote this. I subsequently mastered it 100%, getting all three Platinum Trophies, one for each remastered game of the trilogy; note, I am not a trophy-hunting gamer — never have been — but as I’m as massive original Crash Bandicoot trilogy fan, I felt it was an obligation. But, as you’ll come to read in this 11,000+ word novella, that was easier said than done. No, it’s more of a delving into the history of the series, and my own analysis of the trilogy, the remaster’s changes, the good, the bad, and all the in-betweens. Please, have a read, even if you’re not a lover of the old Crash trilogy. Maybe you’re into game design in general? Or maybe you’re wanting to go on a date with someone crazy enough to write this much on something of little importance to the majority of the populace? I’m free this Friday? You? Uh, anyways, tell me if you agree with my thoughts and style of analysing, or disagree. Ha! It’s the internet! You don’t need me to tell you to do that! Hell, some of you will want me dead for the contents of this text. Also note, this was originally something I posted on Facebook, but as most of my Facebook friends are friends and family that either have no interest in gaming, or if they do game, haven’t got the worryingly obsessive love that I happen to possess for it that most would find worthy of a lobotomy.. Oh, and because it isn’t a post about drinking copious amounts of alcohol, duck-faced selfies, or infantile “inspirational” quote images with either a stock photo sunset or one of those fucking Minions slapped in the corner with all the designer’s expertise with Photoshop’s magic wand tool (just lovin’ the white pixels you missed, and the blurry, incorrect interpolation transform mode, buddy). Hence why I have copy ‘n’ pasted it here, edited it, amended it, added tonnes of images both straight from Google, and composites edited myself, and just made it something that fellow gamers and Crash fans can read, enjoy and take something away from. It has a pretty Pulp Fiction-esque structure, in that it jumps around the place, but fuck it: I didn’t write it to be included in a magazine or academic journal. Go on and complain. I won’t listen. Well, I will, and then cry about it in the shower later, but I won’t tell you that, will I? 

[Note 3: I would have included Crash Team Racing in this analysis, but because it wasn’t featured in the remaster, I decided to purely focus on the original trilogy. I also love Crash Team Racing, so maybe I’ll write about it another time.]

[Anyway, onto my scrawling madness of appreciation and dissection of my love for the orange marsupial and all that inhabit his universe:]

 

Crash Bandicoot trilogy’s main cast of protagonists. From left to right, Coco Bandicoot — Crash’s sister; Polar — a friendly little polar cub that Crash speeds along ice levels with; Aku Aku — a supposed witch doctor in mask form, giving Crash protection from enemies, and, when three are collected, temporary invincibility; Tawna — Crash’s love interest and ‘princess stuck in the tower’ that he must rescue in the first game; and Pura — Coco’s cute little tiger that she gets to run across the Great Wall of China with in Crash 3.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy has, for once in a great many years, exceeded my expectations. I have had so much bloody fun playing through this beautifully remastered version of a trilogy of games I have held very dear to my heart, ever since playing the ‘Rolling Stones’ level from Crash 1 on my cousin’s PlayStation 1 demo back in 1997 — back before I even had a PlayStation 1, dear readers. The graphics, the colours, the “Doon-dun-den-dum” light percussion from the soundtrack. I grew up adoring platformers, and had a fondness for cartoon character designs in games like Sonic, Mario, Earthworm Jim, Alex Kidd, Ristar, etc. From then, I was hooked on the spinning orange bugger and his maniacal shouts, mannerisms, and I-got-a-gem “DA-DA-DAAAH!” dance moves.

Naughty Dog are known for their cinematic and graphical prowess nowadays — but I still prefer seeing this comical logo screen from Crash 1 over Nathan Drake’s 1 billion polygon sexy man-face any day of the week.

The games’ developers, Naughty Dog — who I still follow to this very day — are still one of the largest games companies in the industry, continuously releasing their award-winning cinematic-esque, big budget works of art that I’m rather fond of. However, I’ll still remember them as the small team of designers responsible for Crash 1, 2, 3, Crash Team Racing, and the Jak and Daxter trilogy that I, too, also adore tremendously, all developed by Naughty Dog’s Andy Gavin, Jason Rubin, and Mutato Muzika composer Josh Mancell under the supervision of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh — whose musical gifts for the world of gaming I still find myself humming to this very day.Crash’s original developers, sadly, no longer work at the current Naughty Dog studio, but still work in the fields of game design and music composition respectively.

God, I love this guy. And Aku Aku. “A-BOOGA-A-BAH!” “OH-A-MAN-EE-A-KRIN-EE-AH!” or something…

As a side note, Mothersbaugh also composed popular ’90s shows theme tunes, like RugratsPee Wee’s Playhouse, and also composes for tonnes of films, most notably working with Wes Anderson for his films Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou. If you’re after a piece of music that will change your mood into something akin to joyful nostalgia, just listen to the piece of music called “Sparkplug Minuet (Third Movement)” from The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack. It’s pretty hard to find, and isn’t even on the official soundtrack, which sucks. It’s the track that plays during the credits, and it never fails to cheer me up. As somebody prone to anxiety and low mood problems, Mark’s music is a godsend. Yeah, sorry, right! Crash!

 

Ah, the menu where it all started. Oh, and for the younger readers of this blog post, the options menu that says ‘Password’? That’s what us old fogeys used to do to keep our progress in games. We actually had to bloody write down a set of letters/numbers/icons/you name it. None of this heavenly auto-saving business that every game has nowadays. God I’m gettin’ old…
Crash 1’s three islands that act as the game’s map screen, giving you progressive access to the games 32 levels. Back when I was little playing this, I thought the game was gigantic.

Ah, the original Crash Bandicoot. Now, when I first got to to play and know Crash, he was just, you know, different: quirky, half-witted, luck-on-his-side crazy, no matter what the odds. Back in the early/mid ’90s, in a time where platforming heroes were basically monopolized by Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario, Crash sort of stood out. Story-wise, he’s a failed experiment by the series’ villains Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr N. Brio (heh heh, geddit? N. Brio? Ah, Naughty Dog…) before he escaped and then marched on a quest across three islands to save his girlfriend Tawna, a female, big-bosomed bandicoot soon to be experimented on herself (I’d like to do my own kind of experimenting on her, if you know what I mean); oh, and she’s about twice the size of Crash. So Crash goes about on his adventure by acting out on his love of smashing boxes and collecting peaches (yes, I thought they were peaches until Christmas 1998, when Santa brought me a treasure of all treasures: a PlayStation 1, complete with Tekken 2, Tomb Raider 1, Porsche Challenge, Cool Boarders 2, Final Fantasy VII, and Crash Bandicoot 1 and 2. Upon reading the beautiful Crash 1 and 2 instruction manuals, they were not, in fact, peaches, but… wumpa… fruit? Sweet.

Wumpa fruit… whatever the hell it is…

So, you make your way through the thirty-two increasingly difficult levels. You collect wumpa fruit, which acts as your collectibles — collect 100 and you earn an extra life: platforming collectible mechanics 101, right? Once you reach the end of the level, you will see an orange and yellow twirling portal atop a stone tablet. Jump on it to finish the level. The level results screen shows you if you’ve either perfected the level by smashing all the crates, or by punishing you by smashing the missed crates over your head. If Crash manages to smash all the crates in a level, he is rewarded a gem.

The “CHI-CHING!” cash register SFX when you collect a life is very satisfying — it also reminds me of the beginning section of Pink Floyd’s “Money”.

Along the way, Crash will have to collect lives, which appear as floating images of his maniacal grin. They’re not tremendously rare at all, and if you’re even just a decent enough platform gamer, you will amass quite a few of them in the beginning (that is, until you reach the later half of the second island and then onto the third). Because this was the first game of its kind made by Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, they struggled to keep the game balanced, and usually littered levels with either too few extra lives, or too many (a few levels, for example, right off the bat, have four extra life crates waiting for you to collect). The later games fixed this balancing issue, and lives lost and gained begin feeling fairer and better.

 

All the secret collectibles in Crash 1. 20x clear gems, a yellow gem, a purple gem, a red gem, a blue gem, an orange gem, a green gem, and 2x keys — of which unlock the two secret levels, ‘Whole Hog’ and ‘Fumbling in the Dark’. The gems are rewarded to you for smashing every crate in a level without dying. The coloured gems, once collected, unlock secret platforms in other levels, allowing you to reach areas with big rewards such as extra lives, or extra crates, allowing you to then achieve that level’s gem. These gems become a staple in the trilogy, although the keys and the orange gem are only featured Crash 1, as well as the means for collecting the special coloured gems.

 

Some levels cannot have all the crates smashed until later coloured gems are collected

Actually managed to get the gem in my very first play through of the first level N. Sanity Beach. Get dat gem, boi! Still got it.

allowing you to use that gem’s coloured platform to reach other unaccessible areas of levels, most of which have the remaining crates. In the original first Crash Bandicoot, not only did you have to smash all the crates, but you were not allowed to die… even once. The first island is pretty doable… but having to do this on most of the final third island’s levels… there are medieval torture devices that cause less harm…

Here’s an example of secret gem paths and the rewards available for getting coloured gems:

When first nearing the end of level ‘Native Fortress’ you’ll notice small red gems, that shrink when you go near them — you can’t jump on or interact with them at all, unfortunately. Once you get to the end of the level, it indicates that you’ve missed crates. But you’re *sure* you got them all! Come back here much later on in the game after acquiring the red gem (by getting all the crates and not dying on the level ‘Slippery Climb’ — not a task for the faint of heart), and what do you know? The previously untouchable red gem platforms have now grown to full size — and can be used as platforms!
Climb all the way up, jumping on the red platform gems (making sure not to fall off, or you’ll have to make the climb again, or accidentally fall down the pit below) and you’ll soon be in the clouds! Remind you of the old Super Mario secret areas?
Jump along and smash the precariously placed crates before reaching the end of the clouds, where a metal arrow crate will let you smash the remaining crates that were secretly above you this whole time. *Now* you can reach the end of the ‘Native Fortress’ level (provided you get all the other crates and don’t die) and add another clear gem to Crash’s collection!

 

All of the levels are artistically inspired by themes of nature, like beaches, jungles, native fortresses, upstream rivers; cinematic and fast-paced inspired set-piece levels, too, such as boulder chases, speedy hog-riding sequences, dark-deserted underground ruins, temples, and odd broken-bridges seemingly leading nowhere, where the mastery of jumping must come into hand as you precariously make terrifying jumps onto single planks that break after a mere second — and not to mention the immortal hogs that you can’t kill on the bridges and that can seemingly glide across the chasms that you so wish to stay above.

All Crash Crates from the trilogy. Top row, left to right: Basic Crate, ‘?’ Crate, Arrow Crate, Bounce Crate, Aku Aku Crate, Crash Extra Life Crate. Middle row, left to right: Checkpoint Crate, Locked Crate, Slot Crate, TNT Crate, Nitro Crate, Outline Crate Bottom row, left to right: Metal Crate, Metal Arrow Crate, Metal Checkpoint Crate, Switch Crate, Nitro Switch Crate, Time Trial Crates: 1, 2, and 3 second delay.

Along the way, you smash crates of varying types: normal ones that usually have one wumpa fruit inside; ‘?’ crates with around 8-10 wumpa fruit inside; Crash Crates, that give you can extra life (trust me, you’ll need them); arrow boxes, that let you bounce — but still need to be smashed to count towards the all-crate gem reward; striped boxes that let you continuously jump on them for up to 10 wumpa fruits before smashing; and TNT crates: jump on these, and the crate shows a 3 second counter counting down before it and anything around it explodes — yeah, don’t be in the proximity, ya dingus. There are also metal crates that can’t be broken, and some metal crates have “!” on them, meaning that when you spin them, they act like switches, changing parts of the levels, or turning outline boxes into actual breakable boxes.

The three bonus token types: top-left: Tawna’s sexy face; top-right: N. Brio doing his best Igor impression; and bottom: Cortex just looking as happy as ever.

Bonus stages in Crash 1 are accessed by collecting tokens. In most levels you can collect three tokens with Tawna’s face on it. Collect all three and it will open a portal

to the bonus level. Complete the bonus level — which usually features a great deal of crates, wumpa fruit, and extra lives, before reaching the end and meeting Tawna before she is swiftly taken by Cortex. In the original game, Tawna just stood and showcased your progress so far (which I always found weird because, you know, the whole point of the adventure is to save her). At the end of the stage, you can save your game, or get a password. In the Remaster, if you die on a bonus stage, you are simply transported back to outside the bonus stage teleporter where you can try it again. This is a great deal easier than the original game where if you died, you had to restart the level from scratch, collecting all the tokens. Another bonus stage type is N. Brio bonus stages. Like the

Phwoar, Tawna, at least give Crash a twerk. He did just jump over ten TNT crates, after all…

Tawna tokens, once three have been collected, you can step on the bonus stage pad taking you to an N. Brio bonus stage. These stages are far more difficult to complete than the ordinary one, and, like the original game, if you died, you had to start the level all over again. Neo Cortex tokens can also be found for special Cortex bonus stages which will be explained further down.

 

Crash 1’s boss roster. From left to right, Papu Papu — the first boss of the series, and arguably the easiest. An aboriginal tribe leader; Ripper Roo — a crazy blue kangaroo completely out of his fucking mind; Koala Kong — the staple heavy. Throws boulders. ’nuff said; Pinstripe Potoroo — a gangster pooch in charge of Neo Cortex’s power plants. Attacks with a tommy-gun; Dr. N. Brio — Cortex’s second-in-command, and master of chemcials; and finally Dr. Neo Cortex himself — complete with hoverboard and plasmaball gun.

Along the way of the first island, you fight Cortex’s minions in the form of incredibly fun boss battles: Papu Papu, the largely overweight Aboriginal tribesman leader who tries to hit you with his stick. A quick jump to the head and you knock off down his life. Another five times and he’s history. Interestingly, in the original game, he only had three health chunks. Here, they gave him five, presumably ’cause he really is ludicrously simple. Next, is Ripper Roo, a schizophrenic blue kangaroo with a straight jacket that you have to time activating big TNT boxes to hit

Boss health bars were always something I loved the design of. Their cartoon mug slapped on a 3-9 chunk gauge, with a two-colour gradient fill based on the boss’s main colour palette — each chunk representing a ‘hit’ of damage, which you inflict in various ways depending on the boss battle. Once all chunks are gone, the boss goes bye-bye!

him while he jumps around platforms. Three hits and he’s toast. Next, is Koala Kong, a muscled bear-type bugger. Difficulty steps up here a tad as you dodge his thrown boulders whilst avoiding TNT crates. Pretty easy if you know the tricks. Just wait for him to throw, then spin the boulder to break it (which I didn’t

know until much later in life; bloody jumped out of the way all the time before, which made it annoyingly hard). Soon enough, he throws a big one, and you have to spin it back at him to damage him. Rinse and repeat five times and the second island is DONE, baby (By the way, I have no idea how Crash gets to the other island. The map’s camera simply flies over to the other island, with Crash’s map model instantly transporting to the next island’s first level icon. Let’s just pretend he swims).

The third island, a.k.a. Cortex’s headquarters, is probably my favourite island of the three. You have to work through mechanically-influenced futuristic robotic levels of machinery, power stations, and eerily dark generator rooms, all the while avoiding moving security camera robots, hot and cold pipes, weird… uh, seal, robots… and jolting bolts of jumping electricity. The next level ‘Toxic Waste’ is an example of simplicity in level structure, but ingenuity in game design: the whole level is one straight path from start to finish — south to north — where you walk on thin grate catwalks surrounded by bright green toxic waste. The enemies are brutish dog gangsters that throw barrels of waste at you. You must time your jumps while running forward. When you reach the barrel-throwing bastard, you spin him. Then, jump the pit and walk up into the next section. Simple enough, right? Haha. Next section, the run to the gangster is a tad longer, so you must not only time jumps over the toxic waste, but also the oncoming barrels. You spin him and succeed again. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The first barrel thrown is a normal one, and then so is the second. The third? A motherfucking bouncing one… a.k.a. scariest fucking shit ever. It’s fast, it’s loud, and it’s too high to jump or cheekily jump around. You must precariously judge where the bouncing barrel will go over you before you proceed — and I can tell you with almost savant-like mathematical statistical expertise: this works around 7% of the time. Eventually you reach the gangster, spin him and and all is well… Now for the final stretch, and you guessed it: every thrown barrel is a bouncing one. You get the odd platform off to the left and right to take a breather, but eventually, you’ve gotta run for it. Chances are, you’ll get hit at least once as judging where they’ll land is incredibly difficult. Luckily, you’re given an Aku Aku mask — at the very start of the level — and you spin the bastard and reveal the exit just behind him, phew… and you only died six times! Well, guess what? To get the blue gem, you have to get all the crates and not die a single time on this level. I feel your pain, I do…

Good guy Naughty Dog… In fact, no, getting the green gem in the first place was a fucking nightmare. Bad, dog, BAD!

Speaking of coloured gems, if you manage to get the green gem from ‘The Lost City’ level back on the second island — tough challenge indeed — you will unlock a green gem platform in a later level on the third island that leads to probably the greatest reward entire trilogy has to offer: ‘Castle Machinery’ is a large level, and it taunts you by having the exit portal placed over a pit right as you enter the level. You can’t reach it and end up falling down and having to work your way through a particularly challenging level. However, having collected the green gem, you can jump on the platform to the left that brings you to a walkway at the top where you will soon discover a horde of extra lives for the taking — twenty-seven to be exact. TWENTY-SEVEN! Not only that, but once you reach the right of the walkway after collecting them all, another green gem platform awaits, taking you right down to the other side of the pit, and easy access to the exit. Bloody brilliant, I say!

Slippery Climb’s red gem. To get this you have to complete this bastard of a level with all crates smashed AND without dying… even once. A level where frustration and erratically-moving platforms mend together into devilish perfection. Seeing this gem appear for me to finally collect… :’-)

Next boss is another one of my favourites: Pinstripe Potoroo — a gangster dog in a pinstripe suit equipped with a prohibition-style tommy gun. Unique to this stage is that if Crash stands still behind the overturned chairs, he cowers and hides from the bullets, making you immune from the gangster’s constant stream of lead. Basically just time Pinstripe’s moves, reloads, gun jams, and it’s all good. Next few levels start getting real hard — as in the infamous ‘Slippery Climb’ level. Fast moving platforms, birds you have to time to bounce on, trap stairs, scientists that throw chemicals: as a 10 year old, this level was the epitome of hell. This level also holds the red gem — a gem that only the true masochists of gaming culture even attempt to get…

Other unique levels are the ‘Lights Out’ and ‘Fumbling in the Dark’ levels, where it’s complete darkness unless you have a unique white Aku Aku that lights the way slightly. Lose him, however, and all you can do is guess where the plethora of pits are. To make matters worse, his light lasts for around thirty seconds or so before dying out. Next boss is my second favourite: Cortex’s second-in-command: Dr. N. Brio. First thing you’ll notice is his absurd amount of health! That’s just for show. He chucks little gelatinous monster blobs at you that you have to jump on to squirt their innards at Brio to damage him (which is a difference from the original, where hitting it did nothing — Brio just lost his health, which I always found odd). Keep doing this, and dodging his explosive vials that he hurls at you, before the coolest of the cool happens so far: that shit N. Brio was busy mixing did have some use after all: he glugs it down and transforms into some sort of Hulk-esque beast that begins to hammer towards you! Fear not! Jump on the collapsed bricks that appear and jump on his head to damage him. Repeat another two times and he’s done!

Next level is ‘The Lab’ — another notoriously difficult level, but you get it after a while. Next is ‘The Great Hall’, an interesting level. You’ll notice the exit is straight ahead. If you haven’t got all the gems yet, just head there. If you happen to have got all the gems, use the gems as paths along the great enormous hall where you can skip the Neo Cortex boss battle and see the (albeit non-canon) secret ending!

So, years later, and after around a week of hammering through it, I’ve managed to get all three PlayStation Platinum Trophies — one each for Crash 1, 2, and 3. Patiently waiting to see what the Lost Treasures DLC update trophies will be, but hell, I’m sure I’ll be getting them, too! (At the time of writing, I didn’t know that the following would end up being true) Myself and fans think it will end up being a remake of the infamous and notoriously difficult ‘Stormy Ascent’ level, based on the ‘Slippery Climb’ level theme — the rainy castle wall level where you precariously jump from fast-moving platforms to birds to trap staircases. The level was so difficult, in fact, that it was removed from the original game before shortly before being shipped, but still remained within the game’s data. Gamers on YouTube have actually been able to hack into the original game and play it as it is still in the game’s data.

And ‘Stormy Ascent’, let me tell you: you thought ‘Slippery Climb’ was hard? This level is that on fucking steroids. Around double the length of Slippery Climb, too, with jumps and sections that look like Satan himself grabbed the mouse and keyboard to design it. Can’t wait to try the fucker! If you want to see it in action, I recommend searching for GarlandTheGreat’s Slippery Climb play-through on YouTube. You’ll need some diazepam at the ready.

Now onto a subject of discussion between fans, other gamers, and critics, which has been discussed relentlessly on the internet since the new Crash PS4’s release this week, and there is no question about it: the jumps are harder in the remaster. In 1 and 2, at least, as they are the ones that make use of Crash 3’s physics system. For me, personally, It took a bit of time, but I got used to it, and learned to jump that little bit later than usual from when I would usually jump on the original games. However, levels from Crash 1, like ‘Road to Nowhere’, ‘Fumbling in the Dark’, and Crash 2, like ‘Road to Ruin’, and the Space/Mechanics levels are noticeably more difficult to manoeuvre around in.

Yeah, fuck you, Cortex…

Played the games in order: completed all levels in Crash 1, getting all crates for the gems as I went along. Unlocked the coloured gems by getting every crate and not dying once on the levels that required them, going back and getting the extra crates that could only be reached by using the unlocked specific coloured gem platforms, and got all two Cortex keys for finishing his ultra-hard bonus stages (thank you, Vicarious Visions for letting us repeat them as many times as we wanted with the transporter right next to us as we came back from failing; us Crash 1 vets know the pain and suffering all too well of going through ‘Jaws of Darkness’, diligently collecting all Cortex tokens, entering the stage, and fucking up on the second goddamn jump… meaning you had to exit the level and start again from scratch. This meant I could go and get the remaining two gems from the secret levels ‘Whole Hog’ — easy/medium challenge, I’d say, and ‘Fumbling in the Dark’ — medium/hard (like I said above, getting the purple gem from this level in the original Crash 1 — all crates, including the eight sneaky crates sitting in platforms behind you as you enter the level, the bullshit swinging axes, and those spiders you had to bounce on and split-decision figure out if you had to hold jump to make it to the next platform… WITHOUT DYING ONCE! I’m telling you, this may just rival the ‘Jaws of Darkness’ Cortex key bonus stage).

New players to the N. Sanity trilogy have no idea how easier — in a good way — they’ve made Crash 1. Like I stated briefly above, in the original PS1 version, you fuck up a bonus stage, there’s no retries. You have to start the level ALL over from the start and get all the tokens. The Tawna bonus stages, bar a few: not too bad. But the N. Brio bonus stages — oy vey…. I’m still recovering from those younger-self experiences (I did, however, learn that the crates in these stages don’t count towards the level’s final crate tally; all that moaning for nothing. What a jerk-off I am, eh?)

Sapphire, Gold, and Platinum relics… Crash Bandicoot’s time trials, a.k.a. *the* ultimate challenges. They make ya or break ya.

So, the time trials. Originally introduced in Crash Bandicoot 3, Vicarious Visions, being the good guys they are, have crafted the time trial modes to feature in Crash 1 and 2 also, complete with best times for getting a relic. What’s a relic you ask? Time trials work like this: once you complete a level, you can replay it. Near the start of the level you’ll find a floating spinning clock. Touch this, and a clock’ll start clicking away. You must then dash as fast as you can through the level and get to the ending as fast as you can… oh, and without dying. Die, and you go right back to the start. An added gimmick in time trial mode is the inclusion of unique yellow boxes, each with either a ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ on it. Hit one of these, and the timer freezes for the allocated time of the crate, which helps tremendously. It goes without saying, but the ‘2’ and ‘3’ crates are usually harder to get to whilst you whizz through the levels. Once you reach the end, depending on your time, you’re rewarded

Getting the Gold Relic for Crash 3’s ‘Road Crash’ level was… not that pleasurable, to be honest. This is a screenshot after, what, my 30th attempt?

with either a Sapphire, Gold, or the coveted Platinum relic… or, if you’re shit, you get nothing. Sapphire times are usually pretty easy and doable. Gold relics range from pretty medium to ludicrous in some levels… especially levels from Crash 1 and 2 (‘Native Fortress’, ‘Sunset Vista’, ‘The High Road’ and ‘The Lab’ come to mind — although, to be honest, the time requirements are pretty lenient on these longer levels, as it’s mostly the challenge of surviving through the gigantic levels). In order to get progress towards getting the PlayStation trophy for completing all the time trials, you need to acquire at least a Gold relic in each level’s time trial. This is a kind gesture as the next level up from Gold relics — the Platinum relics — are almost impossible to get. Like I said above, I have 100%’d all three games, meaning I have gotten at least all Gold relics for every Crash level, but maybe have been lucky enough to acquire only around 8 Platinum relics. I’m not exaggerating; some of the times you need to reach to get a Platinum relic is insane — and I generally think that I’m a really good Crash player. I was happy with at least the Golds… There’s only so much pain a man can endure… ARGH.

 

Now, onto Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back!

The main task in Crash 2, and subsequently Crash 3, is to find and collect these crystals, one in each level, making for 25 in total. They’re not hard to miss, but if you don’t collect it, but otherwise still complete the level, you will have to get your stupid ass back in that warp hole and get the damn thing. Capiche?

Managed to 100% this back in the day as an 8/9 year old PlayStation geek, so had no worries about doing the same — but, man, oh, man, do you not think some gaming aspects were easier when you were younger? Maybe because you had more patience? Less worries? Fewer angry emails to ponder on? Therapy session aside, I still had a hell of a lot of fun with this one. Crash 2 is actually arguably my favourite of the trilogy, but I still can’t decide, truthfully. All crystals, gems, and coloured gems — some of which must be found by some of the most original secret transport entrances ever, usually bringing you to an alternative starting area from a previous level that, at the end, nets you the coloured gem — most of which you can see in the original level’s path, usually out of reach to taunt you. Yup, to fucking taunt you. Arguably, getting all Gold relics (or the bloody Platinums if you’re after a death wish) was *waaay* tougher than Crash 1, especially the levels ‘Hangin’ Out’, the last space level, and the secret bear run level ‘Totally Bear’ that’s set in the dark (thought the older levels were hard, try this one. I fucking dare you.) You have to be PERFECT in those mentioned levels runs; no stuttering, breaking all yellow time delay boxes — missing NONE — and just basically being an orange blur of sonic speed (may have actually, uh, shed manly tears upon seeing a gold relic appear under the completion time from successfully time-trialling those monstrous levels) But, in the end, all crystals, gems, coloured gems, relics, and secret trophies, that’s another Platinum Trophy for me to gloat about to friends.

 

Crash is shocked at the amount of polygons Cortex has managed to add to his face in the two years since meeting him last.

Crash 2, if you’re new to the game, is probably tied with 3 as the best of the trilogy. It’s one of those aspects-from-one-I-like-better-than-the-other-but-vice-versa-for-other-parts, you know? Completely different gameplay mechanic, Crash is contacted by Cortex via stuttering hologram after being transported to a strange warp-room tower and told to warp to different levels to collect these mysterious purple crystals that supposedly — as is the trope in many games, comics, and films — contain immense levels of harnessable energy. So, in each warp room, there are five levels to choose from: you can choose which one to play first, so there’s the addition of choice. Crash has some new moves ups his sleeves, too: he can belly flop to kill enemies from above, and he can also slide along the ground quickly — probably the greatest addition to the game as it lets you get around much quicker.; holding the slide button also keeps him in a crawling position allowing you to crawl through certain low areas, although it’s rarely used, and his crawling animation is unbearably slow (geddit? There’s a level called Un-Bearable in

Crash’s face after realising he doesn’t have to deal with a bloody password system anymore…

Crash 2. I just made a reference to it. I’m just so goddamn clever and witty). Holding crawl to lower Crash down, you can also jump to make Crash do an extended jump where he jumps a tad higher and splits his legs in the air — INCREDIBLY handy in tonnes of situations later on the game. But, but far the best combination of these moves is the slide-high-jump combo. Simply slide and jump and Crash will quickly cover tonnes of ground and then leap high into the air with the splits. This move alone has saved me in so many predicaments in Crash 2, it deserves some sort of acclaimed mention of worth.

 

I *love* the bubbling sound effects that they designed for these Nitro crates, and how they jump around crazily. Perfectly illustrates their volatile and hyper-dangerous potential.

Crash 2 has some of the neatest thematic level designs I’ve always been inspired by. There’s the usual jungle theme, with rainy, dusk, and night time variations; snow levels, that some fans consider the most infuriating levels due to the dreaded ice physics that platformers seem inclined to have (you know the physics I’m on about: take ages to gain momentum, but when you do, it’s impossible to slow down); polar cub levels, where Crash rides a polar cub through crazy fast ice levels (a reference to the famous Hog-ride levels from the previous game), avoiding an assortment of artic-themed traps: pygmy statues, jumping orca whales boulder chases, which are a tad more difficult that the prequel’s boulder chases — oh, and there’s a frightening surprise for players that progress onto the third world thinking they’re being chased by yet another boulder — think again; let’s just say the mama polar bears don’t appear to be too happy that you were using their pups as makeshift vehicles… River levels are here again, but with a surfer dude instrumental track rocking throughout, which I love, complete with a little less leaf-to-leaf jumping from Crash 1 and more jumping across angry hippos, spinning piranha plants, and even riding rocket surfboards, where Crash must avoid whirlpools, mines, and Nitro boxes — a new type of box; acts like TNT, but one little touch, and it’s Crash’s entrails within a twenty metre radius… Speaking of new crate types, might as well mention the metal-encased ones. These can only be broken by Crash’s new belly flop move. A tad boring, quite honestly, but, hey, at least it’s something new.

’90s gaming promotions were… interesting. If you’re allergic to cringe, please avoid watching 🙂

Other level themes have Crash wading through sewer systems, avoiding blow-torch wielding scientists, scrub-a-bots, water that electrifies every few seconds thanks to an invincible electric eel, spinning toxic waste barrels, and another new gameplay mechanic taking inspiration from Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft: monkey-bar climbing. Avoid the spiky bots or risk falling onto the red-hot pipes below. You can spin whilst hanging, too, so get those crates — those gems need collectin’, fool! A ruins-type stage, which is one of my favourites, is where you jump across crumbling rocks and old ancient temple buildings, avoiding possums, and lizards with flaming neck appendages that only a swift slide can kill. These levels are notoriously difficult when you come back to attempt the time trial relics to get the gold or — if you’re fuckin’ mad — the platinum. Next new level type is a mountain-themed level where you avoid lumberjack scientists with mallets, piranha-plant bomb spitting bastards, and bees. Yes, BEES! Run as fast as you

can past the honeycomb to escape them, or be brave and try to spin them. These levels are also cool in that some ground parts are, like — I don’t… actually… know… — pink jelly? Crash can spin under it and be safe from bees and also spin enemies from below. While on the subject of these levels, I have to give a shout out to my main man Josh Mancell for composing the catchy-as-all-hell theme for not only these levels, but every level in this game. Once again, Mancell and his colleagues at Mutato Muzika managed to add a level of artistic merit to the already interesting level designs. My stand out favourite tracks are the Stream levels, the Chase levels, the Polar Cub Run Chases, and pretty much all the bosses. Crash 2 features bonus rounds and death route variations of each level, and Mancell has managed to keep the tracks sounding the same, but with added levels of theme and change — the bonus levels mix the levels to sound more fun and jovial, whereas the death routes quicken the tempo and mix up the percussion and bass lines to make them sound more chaotic and dangerous. Now, the final levels in the last warp room are what you’d expect from Crash. Factory-themed machinery levels with robots and that. There’s also a cool firefly jungle at night level where you have to quickly fun as fast as you can through the level before the firefly disappears. Then, the most impressive levels of Crash 2 by far are the jetpack levels. Crash enter zero-gravity and must navigate — albeit,  with slightly outdated and cumbersome controls — through burning pipes, bombs, broken electrical cables, a weird floating scientist with electric-metal hands that you have to time to blast into the flaming forcefield, and that’s about it! Mancell’s music for this level, as I heard from him in an interview, was heavily inspired by the musical sequences from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey — just kick-ass, dude.

Crash 2’s cast of boisterous baddies. From left to right: Ripper Roo (in his second appearance) — just as crazy as ever, but using Nitro crates as his means to blow Crash to bits; The Komodo Bros. (Komodo Joe & Komodo Moe) — sword juggling buggers that think they can spin attack better than Crash; Tiny Tiger — a monstrous, steroid-juiced, muscle-bound tiger, hellbent on crushing Crash into a splatted mess; Dr. N. Gin — Cortex’s new second-in-command, and piloting a pretty kickass mech… that’s apparently weak against fruit being thrown at it…; and the trilogy’s main antagonist Dr. Neo Cortex — in what can only be described as a rather anti-climatic final boss battle. Sorry for ruining the flow… It just is, okay?!

Boss time, baby. First boss is Ripper Roo. Crash 2 is set a year after Crash 1, so Roo has spent that time earning his PhD and is now a super-intelligent, well-read marsupial. However, he still has a grudge against Crash. You must avoid him as he jumps around placing TNT crates everywhere before blowing himself up and temporarily reforming back to his crazy side where he will now place Nitro crates. Once he breaks them, avoid the onslaught on explosions and spin him to hurt him. Repeat twice and boom, he’s gone for good. Sadly, this is the last you see of Ripper Roo for the rest of the ‘good’ Crash games. Next boss is awesome: The Komodo Bros., basically, Joe — the fat one — spins his brother Moe around the arena. Simply avoid him and spin him once he stops to hit Joe, who immediately retaliates by throwing scimitar swords around the arena, before spinning Joe again. Like Roo, repeat another two times and boom, they’re gone. NOW! My favourite boss of Crash 2: Tiny Tiger. His arena is set up as nine green platforms. Tiny jumps from platform to platform to try and crush Crash. After a while, random green platforms begin flashing red, try to trick Tiny into jumping here by jumping on it yourself. He’ll fall and and lost health. Again repeat this two times to defeat him. Warning though, it does get progressively difficult, as he will diagonal jump sometimes to trick you, and the green-red changes get quicker and more happen at the same time. If you can, try and make the last Tiny fall happen at the top and you jump to the bottom of the screen. This means the camera is in the perfect position to see him knocked out on the raising platform before sliding off and falling. Serves the oversized fucker right.

The most unique boss by far up to this point in the trilogy. Crash must throw wumpa fruit at the different sections of N. Gin’s mech as they open up. When a section is destroyed, a chunk of his life cuts away. Very cool, if a tad, uh, far-fetched.

Next boss in N. Gin, Neo Cortex’s new second-hand man. The gimmick with this fight is that you throw wumpa fruit at his mech. What I like about what they’ve done here is that Crash actually throws the fruit. In the original PS1 game, it just flew off him — always annoyed me. Anyways, simply enough, he has four parts: two arms, and two missile bits. Throw the wumpa fruit as the parts when they’re open to destroy them. Once they’re all destroyed, he begins firing a laser at the platforms you’re standing on, causing it to fall down. You have a split second to throw as many wumpa fruits at the laser before the blasts it. Soon enough, he’s destroyed. The final Neo Cortex battle is actually a tad disappointing. You simply chase him in a jetpack and spin him when close enough. Do this three times and you get the normal ending.

Like Crash 1, breaking all the crates successfully in a level earns you a gem. However, unlike Crash 1, some levels have more than one gem, that must be earned by a myriad different ways, be it doing certain tasks, finding secret warp floors, or successfully getting to and jumping on Death Route platforms — platforms that only appear if you reach that part of the stage without dying once. I you die, the Death Route platform

After thwarting all that Crash 2’s ultimate challenges can throw at you, and you succeed in collecting all 42 gems (37 clear, 5 coloured), Dr N. Brio, now on your side, lets you do the honours by hitting a button that slices Cortex’s space station in half with a high-powered (gem?) laser. Ah, the best ending. A youngish me actually achieving this way back when was truly a glorious moment.

becomes wire-framed and there’s fuck all you can do about it I’m ‘fraid! Crash 2 goes have some really, really neat little secrets for other gems that I won’t spoil all apart from the first level one: Say you smash 15 crates in the level. You’ll notice that the crate counter at the end of the level says “15 / 0”. This gives you a clue that to get the elusive bleu gem, you have to complete ‘Turtle Woods’ — the first level — without breaking a SINGLE crate. Other gem and coloured gem secrets include false walls, fake nitro crates, suspiciously placed platforms that can be reached by carefully bouncing on crates… TOUGH! Figure it out yourself. Oh, wait, it’ 2017 — go on then, just Google it… GAWD.

 

If you manage to collect all gems, you side with N. Brio from Crash 1 and use the power of the gems to destroy Cortex’s space station. Mwuahaha! Love Crash 2 s much. I remember 100% this game back before game guides and the internet was a big thing, so I *actually* figured all this shit out myself! While, you know, everyone was out socialising….

 

Then, finally onto Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. First thing to note is the jumping mechanics that were made especially for this game: after practicing and mastering the jump mechanics from 1 and 2 — learning to overshoot or jump later or earlier than usual depending on the pit or hazard — I even found myself jumping too far sometimes, and falling off the platforms other edge! Story is simple enough: the station crashing onto a temple has unleashed Uka Uka, Aku Aku’s evil twin (spelt backwards, ah… ah…) Since Crash got all the crystals in Crash 2, Uka Uka employs Dr N. Tropy (another devilishly punned name) to create time-twister device that lets them go throughout time to get crystals. So, Crash and Coco go there — why they were allowed access is beyond me, but fuck it, it was the late ’90s. Crash 3 has my favourite themed levels, by far. To start off with there’s Medieval highland crossroads, with chivalrous knights that are having trouble

Uka Uka — Aku Aku’s evil twin brother, and ultimate antagonist of Crash 3, the final game of the beloved original trilogy. Fun fact: Uka Uka, and Dr. Neo Cortex for that matter, were voiced by Clancy Brown, known by film fans as The Kurgan in Highlander, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, and as the voice of Mr Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants! Try and unhear Krabs every time Cortex speaks now!

swinging their greatswords, goats, harmless chickens, and Merlin-inspired wizards, with giant frogs that kiss you and turn themselves back into a prince if you’re not too careful (a trophy in there for that, too). Later levels of this theme include wizards that turn you into toads, and giant two-head roasted leg-of-hog swinging giants.

Then, there’s underwater levels set in 2.5D, where you control Crash in scuba gear as you traverse the dangers of the deep ocean — sharks, blowfish, moray eels, homing mines, turbines, and electric-spinning… uh, things. You also get access to a weird James Pond-esque underwater torpedo launcher thing that lets you literally decimate all life under the ocean as we know it. Press R1 to even rocket along at a tremendous speed (invaluable when trying to get that bastardin’ Gold Relic…). Funny, I remember really, really lovign these levels as a kid. Now that I’m older, there just a bit, meh…; next are the Crash-patented chase levels, this time with you in control of Coco, Crash’s sister. She rides a baby tiger on the great wall of China. Jump, avoid China-themed enemies, dragons, shite like that. Next set of levels are the prehistoric dinosaur levels were Crash must wade through swamps, lava, creepy underwater scientist dudes that want to capture specimens, and ride friendly baby T-rexes; and what would a Crash game be without the obligatory chase sequences, this time from a raging giant triceratops. One cool enemy in a later prehistoric level is a pre-evolved Crash from millions of years ago in the from of a spinning orange fish thing. Thought that was pretty funny. Coco also has access to really fun jet-ski levels set in tropical pirate-type levels where you ride along waves avoiding pirate bombs, boats, sharks, and the like. The time trials for these levels are… fucking… arse-pain inducing, lemme tell you.

Tomb levels are really cool. Basically just Crash running through tombs activating buttons to open doors, avoiding mummies, those ol’ Indiana Jones-style light shoots arrow traps, oil, crushing blocks, cobras, and giant spike spits. A really cool gimmick-style level later on is one, smartly named ‘Tomb Wader’ where you have to time water traps that constantly raise and lower, meaning you have to jump on platforms to avoid drowning. Hard, but fun.

You either love or hate these levels. When I was younger, I didn’t mind them. I thought that the minuscule margin of error allowed to still win first place was a bit mean, especially considering how hard the levels actually play out. I actually had friends that never completed Crash 3 due to never being able to progress passed these levels.

Now, these next levels I’m about to explain are the bane of a lot of childhood traumas. The bike race levels. Crash rides a bike against seven other racers in giant heavy cars. To get the crystal you MUST get first place. Sounds easy, eh? FUCK YOU! You have to be be *perfect* and basically make no mistake whatsoever to just pass the guy in second by inches to win. The roads are filled with pits that if you fall down don’t kill you, they just do the Super Mario Kart thing and slowly lift you out where you begin at slow speed again — at which point there is no point… You must hit certain ramps to get over full road pits, and the amount of times I’ve dragged with a driver, given him enough space to jump so I can jump at the edge, only for him to decide to use the very left part of the ramp. I swear I wanted to hunt that driver’s family down. You also get boost ramps, but they cause your control to become non-existent, so you have to memorise when to stop and skid or you’ll just go off road and fuck up the race yet again. Hahaha, and know what’s funny? That’s just the first level! There’s two other ones, each harder and longer than the other. Good fucking luck. Oh, and — as I’ll mention more below — there’s a secret warp room where you can unlock and play secret levels after gaining time trial relics. Get at least 25 and you unlock a level called ‘Area 51?’ which is another hog-bike race — but listen to this fucking bullshit: it’s in complete darkness, meaning you literally do not see obstacles still the last second, police cars come zooming TOWARDS you on their lanes this time AND — if you haven’t guessed by the level’s title — you’re racing bloody UFOS: Ultimate Fucking Obstacle Smashers. They literally change lanes in the blink of an eye smashing you off course. I cannot believe I even managed to get the gem and gold relic for this level. Still in disbelief. Attempt it at your own risk of sanity.

Other level types are Arabian Town levels that I really love. They’re probably the closest to Crash 1 and 2 platforming levels. You avoid scimitar-slashing Arabian rogues, flying carpet mystics, monkeys carrying pots, ninja (I think?) guys throwing fiery pots to impede your way, scorpions on monkey-bar sections, and just generally really run jumping and running sections over spinning carpets, bouncy platforms and shit — like how platformers should be.

There’s future levels, that are just pretty much like the machinery levels from Crash 2. Cool little sideview camera sections where you have to avoid tonnes of TNT and Nitro. Final level types are the plane-battle levels — three of which exist. The first involves you piloting Coco as she takes down Neo’s blimps. Hit Medical balloons to increase health from enemy planes. Second level is the sam, but Crash is piloting and must take down an increasingly difficult set of planes, as both of their engines must be destroyed, all while staying alive with the medical balloons. The third plane level is actually the last level 30 of the secret warp room, accessed after getting 25 relics (sapphire, gold, or relic, as it doesn’t mater). This isn’t a battle but a race where you must spin your plane as you enter hoops to gain massive speed whilst still controlling it to hit all hoops — I will say: this level is bloody difficult. The control of the plane once you’ve boosted after spinning is like trying to slowly turn your head after hearing a shit-scary noise in the middle of the night.

 

The diabolical halfwits you’ll be encountering at the end of each warp zone in Crash 3. From left to right: Tiny Tiger — returning from Crash 2, and still wanting to crush you underfoot; Dingodile — as the name suggests, half dingo, half crocodile, but with a flame-thrower. Yup! Dr Neo Cortex — yet again trying to take over the world; Dr N. Tropy — the inventor of the Time-Twister machine that Crash and co. use to travel to different time periods and levels; Dr. N. Gin — back from Crash 2, and with a bigger mech to fight; and finally Uka Uka, the mastermind behind it all.

 

Now, the fun part! The bosses! First boss is Tiny Tiger, making a return from Crash 2, this time in a gladiator arena. He attempts to do his usual crushing before fucking up like the tool he is. Spin him and he’ll unleash his lions. Fun fact: in the original PS1 version, you can cheese this cit by simply jumping into the top left of the arena and no lion will get you… ever. The remaster, however, are privy to this and, the beautifully orgasmic genius-bastards that they are have made it that if you try to do this, the coliseum crowd will throw rotten fruit at you to show how much of a cheating, ballsack you really are.

“Break out th’ butta’… we’re gonna make toast!”

Second boss is my favourite boss of the entire trilogy. Dingodile, the flamethrower-wielding dingo-crocodile hybird (don’t ask). You can’t help fall in love with his Aussie sass — “Break out th’ butta’… we’re gonna make toast!” His battle is really cool. Basically, avoid the aerial shots of fire and then get him to shoot the ice crystals around him. Make enough room, run in, spin, and get the fuck out before his backpack explores. Do this another two times and: “Ya thrashed me, mate. No worries. But you’ll soon be up against much worse…” Sadly, for some unknown reason, in the remaster, he doesn’t say that last line, which is a bit of a bummer.

Dr. N. Tropy next. “Now your on my time, you little skunks! Give me the crystals!” Pretty easy again. Just avoid his time-warpy orb shite, his horizontal and vertical lasers and then wait for him to make some platforms. Make your way across quickly and spin him. The camera twists, and what I thought was always cool was how the surrounding environment would change, too, much like you’re sort of fucking up his time-twister machine. Again, repeat two times and he’s dead. Next boss, you control Coco in a spaceship against Dr. N. Brio from Crash 2. Same deal: just shoot the different parts and they’ll explode depleting his health. Cool thing is, he then has a second form, where the baby tiger has come with a new ship upgrade that locks onto Coco’s ship (I don’t actually think it does anything knew, but whatever…).

May just be me, but the final Cortex battles always seemed underwhelming to me, especially compared to the likes of Pinstripe Potaroo, Tiny Tiger, and Dingodile. Ah, well. Aku Aku and Uka Uka battling it out while you whip Cortex’s ass is a plus, however.

It’s now onto the final battle with Neo Cortex and Uka Uka — a battle FAR more improved than Crash 2’s lacklustre final boss. Here, you must not only avoid Cortex’s laser blast from his gun, but Uka Uka and Aku Aku are also fighting on the stage, too, meaning you have to avoid them, too! First form is battle of attrition each other with lasers that you must periodically jump over. Once Cortex fires enough plasma orbs, he’ll throw a few mines. Avoid these, and his forcefield will malfunction. Quickly spin him and he’ll fall off. CAREFULLY, spin him in the correct directions towards the centre hole. Think it’s over? Nope, Uka Uka flies in and saves him gain. Next is phase two where Aku Aku and Uka Uka constantly spin and tornado around the arena, which is a tad harder to dodge. Same deal, with Cortex, though. Wait till his forcefield is down, spin him into the hole and then begin the final phase. Uka Uka and Aku Aku do their most dangerous attack pattern, they crash into each other almsot always near your position before exploding into power, killing you if you’re too near. Same deal. Get Cortex into that hole and it’s bye-bye Cortex and Uka Uka…

… Or is it? As Uka Uka explains, they still have access to the gems! So, what are you

Well, time travel *is* the theme of Crash 3. Christ, Cortex was always an ugly wee shit, eh?

waiting for?! Go and get all the gems — which, in term, also requires you to get at least a gold relic on all 32 levels, where Coco will give you the final gem. Then, go and fight Cortex and Uka Uka again for the final time — this time with a special ending. Now, now, it would be a bit of a dick-move to tell you it here now, wouldn’t it? What’s that? There was already a spoiler warning? But, I’ve already typed up a fuckin’ novella… Oh, okay: but I ain’t writin’ shit. All you get is the image to the right. Plus, it’s 2017. Just go and YouTube it. Fucking hell…

Crash 3 can collect permanent super powers! YAS. In order of when you get them: Super-Charged Body-Slam — gives Crash’s belly-flop a bigger damage radius; Double Jump — let’s you… jump in a double fashion; Death Tornado Spin — one of my favourite of the powers: lets you extend Crash’s spin by continuously pressing the spin button. It even has the added bonus of letting you glide whilst in the air. Combine this will his slide jump -> double jump -> tornado jump and you can clear massive gaps with ease; Fruit Bazooka — can I say anything else? Let’s you aim and shoot a wumpa projectile at anything in front of you, essentially making Nitro crates no longer a threat; finally after defeating Cortex and Uka Uka, you get the Crash Dash super power, which lets Crash dash faster than normal. *essential* for going for those Gold and Platinum relics.

OH! Almost forgot! After each boss battle in Crash 3, you get a power-up. After Tiny, you get a ‘Super Belly-Flop’ that destroys tonnes of boxes in proximity. After Dingodile you get a motherfuckin’ ‘Double Jump’ — this makes this game, especially the platforming sections feel soooo much better. But just wait! After N. Tropy, you get ‘Super Spin’ which means that Crash can spin really fast and for a long time as long as he taps the spin button really fast. Couple this with slide-jump -> double jump -> gliding super-spinning. You’re a platforming Hercules, my friend. Defeat N. Gin and you get a… ‘Wumpa Friut Bazooka’. Now… here’s the thing: when I was younger, this was the coolest thing ever. Like, I couldn’t fucking believe it. Now that I’m older, it’s actually pretty useless, bar a few areas, and if Nitro boxes look a tad too risky to jump over. And why didn’t they make it use up one of your wumpa fruits when you shoot it? That would make so such sense! Like, why?! And last, but not least, defeating Cortex and Uka Uka gets you the ‘Sprint Shoes’. Holding R2 makes you run around 50% faster than normal. Couple this with the jumping technique above and boom! Love it. Also, the sprint shoes power-up is pretty a necessity when going for the gold relics.

So, for me, again, all crystals, gems, coloured gems (which, in my opinion, aren’t as hidden in as creative of places, or in as super-secret of areas as Crash 2, but hey ho), and then all Gold or above relics from all levels, which I found the easiest from the trilogy as a whole. Stand-out pain the arsers were the second hog bike race level (those damn racers knocking you out of the upcoming ramps and sharp-turns), the second underwater level (those fucking mini whirlpool turbines that I SWEAR weren’t as nightmarish in the original), and ‘Hot Coco’, one of Coco’s jet-ski levels, aka., arguably the hardest Gold relic in the game by far. How some players manage to get the Platinum relic on that one just blows my mind. ‘Hot Coco’ is the first of the super-secret levels that you get into by purposely hitting the UFO sign on the second hog bike race level.

The secret thirty-second level of Crash 3 that I guarantee 90% of gamers that played Crash 3 will never have heard of — mostly due to the incredibly obscure way of finding the level. It’s actually a very fun level, taking obvious inspiration from early ’90s side-scrolling platformers like Super Mario World (Yoshi, if you’re wondering why I singled out that Mario game).

Then, the super secret level 32, ‘Eggipus Rex’ is a bit more complex: you need the yellow gem by using the second transpoter button in the secret warp room found by standing on the platform in the middle of the room of the time-twister HUB. Think you need at least 1 relic (sapphire, gold, or platinum)to access it. Accessing the alternative entrance of ‘Hang ’em High’ (unlocked by getting at least ten relics of any kind) allows you to play through a different area of the same ‘Hang ’em High’ level from before, but this time you get the coveted yellow gem. Then, enter the second prehistoric level on N. Tropy’s warp room (the first level). Play through it and jump on the now usable yellow platform. Play through this next section until you get to a Triceratops chase — warning: this one’s tougher than usual. Pay attention to the pterodactyl enemies. Skip the first on you see, BUT once you see the second one, run into it, and it’ll fly away with you and take you away to the game’s final super-secret level, ‘Eggipus Rex’, which is, imo, one the of the most fun levels in the game. Not to mention a great place to farm lives due to the hundreds of wumpa fruits to collect. One thing I think that Vicarious Visions should have done regarding the two secret levels, ‘Hot Coco’ and ‘Eggipus Rex’ is once you’ve found the level through their respective secret means, a level button should then appear in the sixth warp room, where all the other extra levels are. I mean, there are even two raised platforms on each side of the warp room that would have been perfect for it. I just disliked having to spend time doing what had to be done to get into the secret levels, especially if you lose all your lives and have to continue, or accidentally quit the level.

Now, as a young kid trying to master this on my ol’ PS1 back in the day, I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out where the remaining gems were. So, like any youngster, I gave and went and played Tomb Raider or something. Make your way through the level (you’re on the baby dinosaur to make the big jumps) avoiding all obstacles. Once you reach the end and collect the gem, I advise dying before going to the exit. Don’t worry, you keep the gem, just means you can go back to the start and activate time trial mode. 6/10 difficulty I’d give it for getting the Gold relic.

So, like before, got all crystals, gems, coloured gems, Gold or Platinum relics

Aku Aku photobomb. The cheeky bugger…

— interestingly, as Crash 3 was built for time trial modes in mind, I found that around 30% of my relics were Platinums, which I was pretty gosh-darn proud of myself for culminating in the Crash 3 105% completion badassery (yes, that’s right: all crystals, gems, and relics add up to 105%, much like Naughty Dog’s oddly calculated full-completion record). As per newer genetation games, I also still had to oddjob trophy hunting tasks involving wee random bits and pieces ranging from piece o’piss, to infuriating piles of gorilla crap (like letting the Tomb level jar monkey die in the jars after missing hitting you for so long. Spin the last jar, and out comes a monkey angel, haha, giving you a trophy) and the third and final PlayStation Platinum trophy was mine.

Yup. Vicarious Visions still added ‘Fake Crash’ as an easter egg to view strutting his stuff in the non-reachable backgrounds of levels. In addition, once you’ve fully completed Crash 3, he *also* makes secret appearances in Crash 1 and 2! Aw, Vicarious Visions… you guys…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this remaster. Graphics are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen on the PS4; the added little features like giving bosses extra little additional bits and actions for their death animations compared to originals is awesome; the inclusion of time trial for all the games adds a literal new game of challenge to the already three-in-one-game; getting to play as Coco in mostly all the other Crash levels was a cool little inclusion that added variety to alternate playing through levels; all, and I mean ALL of the original and quirky death animations are still here (believe me, I went through and tortured Crash by testing them all!), with little changes here and there that make most better, and some not as good as the originals; and, after fully completing the games, the odd appearances of the mysterious fake Crash dancing around in inaccessible parts of the levels are another reason to play through all the levels one last time 🙂

Let’s hope the rumours are true and that because sales were so good, Vicarious Visions will be able to make a brand new all-original Crash Bandicoot game in the same vein as the original trilogy (because fuck Wrath of Cortex; sorry, but me having it on PS2, and the long loading times just gives me a bad taste in the mouth, although I heard that the Gamecube version has fast load times, so I may give it another go in the future. But, meh, I dunno. Didn’t like the boss battles; the Super Monkey Ball roller levels had already been done before; all my favourite bosses were reduced to level obstacles for said levels *sigh*. I dunno what does through developer’s heads some times… and yes, I know it wasn’t made by Naughty Dog, but Universal Studios, the owners of Crash. But still — blah!).

So, that’s it, really, you know? Not much else to say. Um… how was your day? Good, yeah? Get that thing sorted out? Ah, good, good. That was bothering you for a while, wasn’t it? Good, good. Wow, is that the time? Well, sorry to cut this short, but I gotta go, buddy. See you around…

*waits*

…and as Aku Aku would say: “AH-BOOGAH-AH-BAH” and “OH-AH-MONAY AH-CRINEE-AH!

 

Mike

~ Original Crash Bandicoot trilogy lover for life.

 

References and Special Thanks:
Further Reading, Watching, and Gaming:

Star System Sabotage Greenlight Rundown.

 

I know what you’re thinking, Why write a post about a service which is no longer available. Well because our game Star System Sabotage was on greenlight for a total of 9 months and 7 days. The aim of this post is to demonstrate that even when you’ve given up hope, things can still miraculously come about and some helpful advice for your games in the future from what we learned.

The main reason we think Star System Sabotage was greenlit was due to greenlight closing down. We didn’t campaign very well during the time S3 was on the site, we only amassed a total of 151 yes votes compared to 386 no votes in 9 months.

Our biggest problem was also our biggest lesson, Marketing is your friend. Don’t be like us and create what you regard as the best game, that you think everyone will love, and think what’s the point in marketing?

 

It’s hard to think that when your baby flies the nest, it won’t be super successful when you eventually show it off. I think that’s what it’s all about though, showing it off to the world and getting feedback. The most negative feedback we received was in in regards to the jump mechanic of the player. Everyone regarded it as “too floaty” but we didn’t see it. We thought “Nah, it’s fine, the premise of the game is set in a hacker’s program, so we can do whatever we want with the gravity!” – first mistake.

Flash forward to 4 moths having been on greenlight and added to the Greenlight group: Greenlight Limbo.

There wasn’t much we could do to increase the votes, other than try to gather a following. The natural votes disappeared and well what else could we do? We decided to look at the mechanics and try and change them to make it more fun and guess what, we changed the gravity and of course, to our amazement, it made it more fun. Where am I going with this you’ll be thinking, well, listen to the feedback you get. I know your game is this beautiful creation and it can do no wrong but really it can do so much wrong, but you’ll never see those flaws because you avoid them.

S3’s campaign was never perfect, I personally wouldn’t even regard it as good. As game developers we’re not marketers, There are entire 4+ year degrees on marketing so what makes us the expert?

We felt we changed those mechanics too late, there was nothing we could do because what’s the point. So what did we do? We put S3 on the back burner and worked on other stuff. We participated in the Global Game Jam of 2017 and we started to get our mojo back for game development.

We began to work on a game called Here They Come, which is a side-scrolling brawler in the style of Streets of Rage. We’ve done this game a bit differently, some of you might have seen it on some Screenshot Saturdays and we’ve kept updating our twitter account with gifs and posts about it. Shameless Plug Here….

We’re getting feedback and we’re implementing the feedback, even if we don’t agree with it. We’re trying it because before we properly show it off to the world we want to get it right. Our biggest fear is failure. So when you realize showing it off isn’t as bad as you think is, I think that is the key to creating successful games.

 

Circuity Blocks! You won’t believe what they do…

Now that I lured you in with a fantastic click-bait title, you’ll probably be feeling disappointed, perhaps a little relieved?

Well, I’m writing a fantastic little blog which will sum up some cool features and design concepts to do with our awesome game (which you should totally check out here).

http://imgur.com/GGfEFFQ

As you can see in the image above, the circuitry changes color as well as the type of circuitry block. This is used to achieve a different look on each level (which there is potentially thousands of)

Some background on the level system: Each level is split up into modules, each module is predefined by us (the designers) and allows us to create puzzles and areas with enemies. The level system loads in random modules and creates a level procedurally, choosing from a defined list of easy/medium/hard modules.

So behind that, some players may (probably will) come across the same module more than once, and if it were to look the same they may lose some immersion inside the game. Having it varied ever so slightly won’t bring about the feeling of deja-vu and instead, hopefully, keep the immersion whilst allowing us (the fabricators) to use the same modules multiple times.

So how is the effect achieved?

short answer? shaders and noise (not the sound)

detailed answer?

There are two specific images we use (a single block image which is on the left) and a circuitry block which is on the right. When these images are combined we get a familiar looking block:

Although the background isn’t colored and the circuitry isn’t pulsating (it’s only an image) this is what it looks like when the circuitry is overlayed on top of a block.

So how do I go about coloring the block?  Well that’s easy, using a default pixel/fragment shader we color the base image using our default (and very basic) shader:

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#ifdef GL_ES
#define LOWP lowp
precision mediump float;
#else
#define LOWP 
#endif
varying LOWP vec4 v_color;
varying vec2 v_texCoords;
uniform sampler2D u_texture;

void main()
{
gl_FragColor = v_color * texture2D(u_texture, v_texCoords);
}

So as you can see there’s a variable in the shader code above which is called v_color, this is the color we send to the shader that we want the background color to be, this is multiplied by the base blocks texture color so that it becomes a different color. This variable is defined on the level start up, using a random generator, so we get a color for that level which will hopefully be different that the last few that was selected.

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#ifdef GL_ES
    precision mediump float;
#endif

varying vec4 v_color;
varying vec2 v_texCoords;

uniform vec3 u_neon_color;

uniform sampler2D u_texture;
uniform mat4 u_projTrans;

void main() {
    vec4 color = texture2D(u_texture, v_texCoords);
    color.rgb = mix(v_color.rgb,color.rgb,0.25);
    float alpha = 0.0;
    if(color.a > 0.1){
	alpha = 0.75;
    }
    gl_FragColor = vec4(color.rgb, alpha) ;
}

This is applied to our circuitry, the mix function is used with a 99% to be taken from the u_neon_color that we pass in and the 1% from the circuitry texture. this gives the circuitry the color which has the shading from the original image (so it’s not a solid color).

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float alpha = 0.0;
if(color.a > 0.1){
    alpha = 0.75;
}

This if statement ensures that the entire block is not colored in when all we want is the circuitry to be the color that we define. Similar to the base block the color is defined at the start of the level creation. Inside the update function, the block color pulsates by multiplying the update delta time by the direction if the pulsate is above a certain value it pulsates back down until it is below a certain value, an example would be the code below:

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...
for(int x1 = 0; x1<3; x1++){
		neon_pulse[x1] += Gdx.graphics.getDeltaTime()*direction;
	}
	count += Gdx.graphics.getDeltaTime();
	if(prev != neon_pulse[0]){
		prev = neon_pulse[0];
	}
	if(count > 1.0){
		direction = -direction;
		count = 0;
	}
}
...

The base block is drawn first and then the circuitry block is drawn after all the base blocks are drawn on the screen (so we’re not swapping shaders all the time)

The circuits are chosen at random using a simplex noise generation. This function receives the x and y location of the block being drawn. The circuits are chosen by this code:

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int randomX = (int) (Math.abs((ImprovedNoise.noise(x*rand_val.x, y*rand_val.y, x*rand_val.z)*1.5f))*15);
int randomY = (int) (Math.abs((ImprovedNoise.noise(x*rand_val.x, y*rand_val.y, y*rand_val.z)*1.5f))*7);

This chooses a number between 0 and 7 for x, and 0 and 6 for y and draws the corresponding circuitry multiplying the x and y, the UV coordinates of the texture is worked out and then drawn on the screen. Simplex noise is used as it allows us to randomly get circuit types but they remain constant throughout the level and does not change randomly as the player goes through the level.

You may have noticed RandomX generates between 0 and 7, and y is between 0 and 6, well if 7 is chosen the smaller circuit blocks are drawn (if we look back to the gif you may see what I mean) this is drawn in exactly the same principle as the normal blocks.

The larger blocks are hand placed separately, but it would be pretty easy to make it so it is generated if there are 2×2 normal blocks in an area. An argument is that we may want to hand place larger blocks and there may be parts we do not want larger blocks to appear.

And that’s basically how Algorithm S3: Star System Sabotage makes use of simplex noise and shaders to draw our cool circuitry blocks, thanks for reading! Any questions feel free to leave some comments and I’ll reply!

Technical Introduction

So I thought I would have a little dabble into posting to this, not because I want to make it seem like I actively post all the time or that. *insert winking face here*

Anyway, Hi I’m Aaron the programmer. I’ve never really tried doing this whole blog posting thing but I’ll give it a shot. I’ll be keeping you all up to date with things that I’m programming, so imagine I use a genetic algorithm to create an enemy which will  get increasingly harder and harder and react to the way that you play, well you will hear about it first on this official blog – Hmmm, I’m giving myself ideas, I think I quite like this blog posting thing.

To make it seem like I have written more than I have, I shall tell you two truths and a lie about myself, see if you can guess which one is the lie:

  • I am a phenomenal chef.
  • I have been to university.
  • The first video game console I owned was a Gameboy Colour/Color (whatever, I’m from Scotland).

That Mansion

Now I’m going to attach an image above this text to test with our RSS feed to see if an image is displayed, thanks for playing nice and reading all the way through this most likely boring blog post about me.

 

 

Our website is now up and running!

Pretty snazzy stuff, having this website finally up. Interestingly, this blog post is mostly just to test out the RSS feed capabilities of the — very limited — HTML code I scooped from one corner of the internet.

Alas, my web design skills are incredibly rusty. Embarrassingly rusty. Why can’t procured knowledge just stay in the mind like a good boy? The theme tune to popular ’90s gameshow Catchphrase won’t budge — and rightly so: it’s awesome.

Cool, see you all in a bit.

Peace,

Mike