Crash Bandicoot XS. Vicarious Visions (2002) GameBoy Advance

I am not sure which name is worse, Crash Bandicoot XS or it’s non PAL name Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure. There would be a good argument the XS stands for excessive if you’re dyslexic, but “Huge” is certainly a stretch.

Gameplay

Crash XS is one of those late 90s platforming collect-athons just released a little late. Think Donkey Kong 64, or Banjo Kazooie, but now remove the charm and interesting mechanics.

Now, back to the “huge”. Errrm, yeah, it isn’t as there are only 20 levels and 4 boss fights. But what Crash XS does to make itself a little bigger is it forces you to replay levels. When you beat a boss, you unlock a new skill, these allow attacks like; longer spins, a double jump and a splash attack. These are not cool moves that encourage you to explore the linear levels, they are mind numbing moves to reach a single box.

Since the levels are linear when you spot a crate you can’t break you can usually look at it and say “I need “X” skill to get that”.

These are easily the best sections in the game, but are more than a little over done.

Each level has a purple crystal that is almost impossible to miss. I say almost as you can run passed them or jump over them, but doing so is pure idiocy as you can’t unlock that zones boss without them.

After that, it is the standard Crash thing of breaking all the boxes to get each Chaos Emerald diamond thing. Normally I’d say this is the biggest chore in the game, but where Crash XS really piles on the grind is timetrials. Beat a level in a certain time and you get a bronze/silver/gold relic. Well, it actually isn’t bronze/silver/gold it is inexplicably Sapphire/Gold/Platinum. I can just scrape the Sapphire medals on a couple of levels, but gold is ridiculous and Platinum feels like a pipe dream. Level 1 has a time of 35 seconds to get Saphire, and then 27 for Gold. I can get 33 seconds at best… So fuck that for a packet of magic beans.

Now, I was obviously being a little flippant early as as it turns out as Crash XS is actually quite large. It’ll probably take you two hours to beat the 20 levels, but then you’ll have a 5-10 hour slog grinding out relics and crystals. It means there is some length to the game but depending on your interest in 100%-ing the game the game is either short or long.

You can theoretically miss the crystals…

Story

Fuck me… Cortex shrinks the earth and it is up to Crash to get gems that’ll destroy the laser and somehow reversing the shrink ray.

It is no more pants-on-head-retarded as a Sonic game, but that is the story.

Difficulty

Crash XS is both easy and GameBoy smashing hard. Some levels are infuriating in the pixel precision needed to make a jump, but the fact that you’ll collect 5+ lives a level means you’ll very rarely drop below 20 lives.

On the rare occasion you die 7 times between a checkpoint, the game will give you a new checkpoint and a free Aku mask to allow you to cheese the difficult section. It is like they realised having a pixel perfect jump was a terrible idea, but rather than fixing the jump they brought in a mechanic to account for poor game design. This puts me in a quandary. Do I be thankful for a strange gimmick, or is it shit game design. (Spoiler: It is shit design).

This is just as thrilling as it looks.

Variety

If you play the first 6 levels you’d be forgiven for thinking there is a lot of level variety, but you’ll quickly learn the levels repeat. Temple Ruins, Running from boulder yeti, underwater, running through pipes, and Space Harrier style air combat.

The underwater levels are slow, dull, impossible to die on, and as fun as any underwater level. The Temple and pipe levels are the standard 2d platforming. Running from a yeti are thrown in randomly on the regular 2d levels, and then the air combat levels exist. For some reason. It breaks the monotony up, but if you’re a sensible person you’ll find the Air Combat levels boring and hate that they keep reappearing, but also… water levels. NOBODY likes water levels.

51 lives…

Conclusion

I really don’t like Crash XS. 2002 was 3 years too late for a generic mascot platformer, but this isn’t to say you won’t enjoy it. I hate Crash as a character, and it is so obviously derivative of early Sonic games it makes me sad Sega became so bad at making Sonic games, but what we have here is a platformer where the core mechanics work (ignoring the fucking double jumps crapping out), the story is whack but it is generic platformer whack, and there is enough to sink your teeth into if you want to 100% a platformer collect-athon.

No, Crash XS isn’t my bag but you might like it.

Pros: Some meat to the bones

Cons: Double jumps crap out, derivitive

67%

Back in the Day:

Crash XS scored anywhere between 58% and 92% at release so somebody somewhere was paid too much to give it a high score. It currently holds a 78% with Metacritic.

 

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