For months, Sony insisted that Crash Bandicoot was NOT their new mascot. For months, Naughty Dog Software insisted that Crash Bandicoot isn't Sony's answer to Super Mario 64. For months they went so far as to say that the games are completely different and shouldn't be compared. But the comparison is irresistible. Crash may not offer the graphical smoothness or versatility of Mario's vast new world, but its brilliantly colorful and complex jungle environments boast true diversity of shape and texture - kind of a tiki room Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Look beyond the pretty pixels, however, and Crash weighs in at only slightly above average.
The graphics may be 3-D, but gameplay is flat as roadkill on a four-lane highway. Forget about plot: in most levels, Crash simply marches along a linear path, spinning into enemies and smashing crates filled with fruits. Collect 100 pieces of fruit and you get an extra life - a "tribute" to Mario? Several levels are side-view jump-fests, as seen on 16-bit machines dozens of times before. Rumor has it that the game's most interesting feature - hidden gems that are revealed by executing levels flawlessly - was added only at the behest of a Sony producer, not the Naughty Dog team. Naughty Dog also claims that Crash was originally a nonlinear game, but found that restricting gameplay to a tight path made it more exciting. (The pace of Crash IS more exciting than Super Mario 64 most of the time, simply because the action comes nonstop.)
Players may enjoy Crash Bandicoot purely as a test of jumping abilities. And make no mistake: jumping is key. Crash executes every type of jump ever seen in a platform game: short jumps, long jumps, short AND long jumps, quick jumps, jumps onto icy ledges, jumps onto tiny ledges, and so on. Players looking for an old-school platform game with uncanny visual effects will certainly find it here. However, for players who want a true nonlinear 3-D run-and-jump game, snag Sony's highly underrated (and now budget-priced) Jumping Flash! or Eidos Interactive's Tomb Raider.