Video Game Review: Crash Bandicoot: It’s About Time

I grew up in a house in the 90s with a Playstation: the first one, back before they were called PS Ones. It was a chunky, funky boy which was tragically given away by my mother, leading me to fight the constant temptation in adulthood to buy another one. (I did buy a Playstation 2 a couple of years ago to scratch the itch.) The game I loved the most as a kid was definitely Crash Bandicoot 2.

Some kids had Nintendo and Mario, but for me, Crash was the introduction to playing video games. (Well, that and the frankly awesome Alien Trilogy game which was definitely not suitable for kids but which I played anyway.)

Pew pew!

Anyway. I was extremely excited for the new Crash game, although to be fully honest I still haven’t finished the original trilogy remasters on account of them being absolutely, horrifically difficult. That said, the new game offered an option where dying in the level would always take you back to last checkpoint, rather than making you return to the start of the level. I am not exaggerating when I say that, on some levels, I died almost 300 times.

The grind is still there. I don’t play many platformers these days- I incline more towards narrative-heavy games, often RPGs, or simulation games. I had almost forgotten the crushing lows of being stuck at a tricky bit on a level. With them, of course, comes the dizzying highs when you succeed. Amazing.

The game is good. I enjoyed it immensely, despite a couple of rage quits. It looks gorgeous and it’s got that 90s nostalgia by the bucket. It has all of the box-smashing, wildly-spinning goodness you remember, but manages to change up the formula with the addition of new masks, who each grant you a weird power like slowing time or turning off gravity.

The story is more engaging than you’d expect and the whole thing is charming, comforting and a whole lot of fun if this sort of game is your thing. If not, you might find it far too stressful for words. It’s definitely the sort of game where you need to play a level several times, and it encourages you then to complete time trials and ‘inverted’ versions of each level (which I didn’t do, because we don’t aim for 100% in this house).

I really like the characters- Crash Bandicoot is largely a brainless, box-kicking lad who doesn’t really seem to grasp what is happening around him, and his sister Coco is the brains of the operation. I always loved Coco as a kid, and being able to play as her instead is cool. Tawna Bandicoot, who in the earlier games is Crash’s slightly dull girlfriend, appears in this as an absolute badass. I love Cortex, and his whole arc in this game was fun, if predictable.

I would absolutely recommend this game. Lighthearted, often frustrating fun.

Video Game Review: Until Dawn

If you play a lot of games and own a PS4, PS Now is a great investment. There are loads of interesting games on there that I probably wouldn’t otherwise pay for, but get to try as part of my subscription to the service.

Until Dawn was one such game. I love horror films- I collect B movies and consider myself a huge fan of the genre- but I cannot cope with horror games. They freak me out too much. I managed to painstakingly limp my way through the Resident Evil REMake and Resident Evil Zero a few years back, but beyond that, anything even vaguely scary is beyond my ability to deal with.

I had been aware of Until Dawn for some time; I love a choice-based, heavy narrative game. Until Dawn is a wonderful homage to a genre I adore. However, my intense fear of horror games put me off paying for it.

The game itself has multiple protagonists: various teenage stereotypes who have that occasionally clunky feel of having been written by adults who don’t really get teenagers. They are also all terrible and I despised them all at the beginning. I couldn’t wait for them to start dying. After a couple of hours of trying to steer the dafties away from danger, however, I was rooting for their survival.

Keeping them alive is easier said than done- they can all die, and seemingly arbitrary choices can mean the difference between life and death for these pixelated cliches. (I kept all of them alive, miraculously, and there was a real satisfaction in that.)

The story itself is sort of predictable, but pleasantly twisty and interesting. It moves along at a steady pace and changes things up often enough to stave off boredom. It’s a relatively short game, too.

Is it terrifying? Yes, it is. There are millions of jump scares in it. (Slight hyperbole.) If you have been avoiding it because it seems frightening, then probably keep avoiding it. For me, it was charming and funny enough to get me through the absolute horror of some (frankly very cheap) jump scares.

The game feels very “Telltale”- it’s that narrative based adventure style where you “do” relatively little. There are a whole bunch of quick time events here. I don’t hate them, but I know a lot of people do. The choices feel meaningful and there are a bunch of interesting clues to collect about the lore and history of the spooky mountain setting.

I’d recommend this one, especially if you play it with company.