(Pocket-lint) - The N. Sane Collection is exactly how you should do a remaster: it's three full Crash Bandicoot games, all lovingly redone, with no corners cut.
This isn't a dodgy port of some 20-year-old games to a new PlayStation system, either. This isn't the same janky controls given some HD texturing and set off into the wild. No, this is a passion project from Vicarious Visions; it's a proper love-letter to Crash Bandicoot and Naughty Dog, and, well, it's insanely good.
If you're a platformer fan then here's why The N. Sane Collection is a must-buy on the PS4.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy review: The PS4's best remake?
It would have been so easy for Vicarious Visions to simply copy and paste the design from the collected games - Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot: Warped - but, instead, the remasterers chose to build the whole game again, from scratch, with side-by-side screens making sure everything was to scale.
Being a platformer, one of the most important things about Crash was always spacing - knowing exactly what you could get away with from jump to jump. The remake has nailed that feeling perfectly. Not just once but three times: every Crash game handled slightly differently, and it's a huge achievement for the development team here that they've managed to make the original Crash feel seriously cumbersome and heavy compared to his more lithe iteration in Warped - just like the original trilogy.
We will say some of the more inventive levels (mostly from the third game) have changed quite a lot: the motorbike sections in Warped feel less rigid than they did originally, and the Jet Ski levels (including the horrendous, hidden Hot Coco level) have become a bit of a nightmare with the floatier control scheme. This isn't bad, per se, but unlike the rest of the game you can really feel how different the remasters are compared to their predecessors here.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy review: A visual remaster
The visuals are consistently impressive: in the first game you get to recreate Crash's original journey through the jungles, up the rivers to the mountains and into Cortex's Castle, and all the environments hum with the nostalgia of the original games, but with re-made, re-animated and re-thought assets. Most of what you see is kind-of the same as before, but a few little updates and tweaks here and there really add to the experience.
The cutscenes make the scant story a lot easier to follow than before, while the option to play as Crash's sister Coco on roughly 80 per cent of levels in every game is a nice bonus, too (shame it's not 100 per cent, really). Coco is animated as well as Crash, and Vicarious Visions has really managed to capture the cheeky bandicoots' twin personalities with a slew of idle animations and an impressive response SFX soundboard, too.
You'll also notice Vicarious Visions took liberties with adding in new gem paths - parts of levels that require you to come back later to fully finish off - which is another wonderful touch that makes the game attractive to those who think they really know the original games.
All the secrets of the original games are recreated perfectly, too: hidden warp spots, death routes... even repeatedly jumping on the polar bear's head in World 2 of Cortex Strikes Back will proffer the 10 bonus lives, just like in the original. The attention to detail is superb.
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy review: Better than the original games?
Here's a fun fact: this reviewer used to mess around with speedrun times in Crash Bandicoot: Warped thanks to the in-built Time Trial mode that really came into its own in the post-game. Vicarious Visions has added this mode to all the games, meaning that even once you've smashed all the crates, collected all the secret gems (they're still there!) and defeated all the bosses, you've still got work to do.
You're rewarded relics for doing this, with Platinum being the best, Gold being middle and Sapphire being worst. Platinum relics - even on legacy levels - still require you to know levels inside out, find secret routes and shave off time wherever you can. It's addictive and the kind of challenge that a platformer aficionado is going to revel in.
Fans of any of the first three Crash Bandicoot games will absolutely feel at home in N. Sane Trilogy. Everything you remember from the originals is here, alongside some wonderful new features to boot, all achieved with incredible visuals and a clear love for the source material.
And if you've never played before, or you're thinking of buying a fun game to play on PS4 with your kids, then N. Sane Trilogy definitely fits the bill.
On a cosmetic level Crash is fun to play and to beat, which makes it accessible to all. But for completionists or those really keen to extract as much value from their games as possible, N. Sane Trilogy is a real treat. The replayability value is incredible - you're not going to 100 per cent all three games in less than 100 hours.
Vicarious Visions has modified Crash Bandicoot in an exemplary way and it proves there's still a place for the 3D platformer genre on today's consoles. N. Sane Trilogy is exactly the homecoming that everyone's favourite PlayStation mascot deserves.