Crash Bandicoot Should’ve Had An Easy Mode

Crash Bandicoot is 1) infamously difficult, although as with all infamously difficult games, its difficulty is exaggerated, and 2) it doesn’t suit the action cartoon aesthetic very well. Since it is an action cartoon, you want there to be some challenge, but when people are photoshopping Dark Souls UI onto your game, you’ve probably gone too far. Naughty Dog themselves realized this, and have said they didn’t understand difficulty curves very well in the first game. By the third game, the main levels are relatively straightforward and it’s in secret levels and optional collectibles that the Crash-brand challenge is found. Funny enough, one of those Dark Souls comparisons photoshopped the Firelink Shrine title onto the first level of Crash 3 anyway. Crash 1 is a gauntlet, especially in the second half of its final island, but Crash 3’s not that hard.

Anyway, the difficulty of Crash Bandicoot is an accident and it’s pretty easy to fix it with two edits, one of which is very easy. Number one, have an infinite lives toggle. When you toggle infinite lives back off, you are reset to 4, so no cheating by using infinite lives to get past one tricky level and then holding onto your reserve of 30+ extra lives afterwards, and also it’s impossible to get gems (the optional collectible). Even if you fulfill the prerequisites, the gem won’t appear if you have infinite lives toggled on. In Crash, losing a life sends you back to the nearest checkpoint, but losing your last life sends you back to the start of the level. On the harder levels, having to redo the tricky beginning to reach the trickier middle/end can be annoying. Infinite lives solves this problem.

Second, make Aku Aku bounce you out of pits you fall into. Aku Aku is a friendly tiki mask who gives you one (two in golden form) extra hit points, making it possible to facetank enemies and hazards, but he doesn’t help with pits. You can find Aku Aku occasionally in a breakable crate, but he also spawns for you automatically if you die enough times in a row without reaching the next checkpoint as an anti-frustration feature. The inability to save you from pits is a pretty annoying gap in this feature. The N. Sane Trilogy is a platform-for-platform remake, but it was rebuilt from scratch, without using any of the original code or assets, so this was the perfect time to add in something that might’ve been difficult to code into the original games if, for example, Aku Aku was added to the game long after the falling mechanics were, and the falling mechanics were coded in such a way that they’d have to be rebuilt from scratch to let Aku Aku bounce Crash out of them, in the same direction he was originally headed so that you can use Aku Aku to facetank pits just like enemies or hazards (like fire, barrels of toxic waste, spiked logs, etc.).

These changes wouldn’t have affected the game for people who don’t need them. Infinite lives is something you have to choose to toggle on and you can’t get gems or other optional collectibles while it’s active, so if you want 100% completion you will at some point have to turn it off. Plus, infinite lives isn’t infinite health. You get to try again from the nearest checkpoint an unlimited number of times, but you still have to overcome the obstacle to succeed. And bouncing Aku Aku only helps you if you have Aku Aku, who doesn’t show up very often from crates so players who aren’t dying often enough to get him automatically won’t see him very often, and who cannot be stockpiled (your third Aku Aku mask gives you temporary invincibility and then goes back down to two) so the relative generosity of the early levels won’t let you facetank entire levels later in the game. It might have some implications for time trials and you’d want to do some playtesting to figure out if that makes the time trials more interesting or less before you shipped it, but at a glance it doesn’t seem like it would make a huge difference if the optimal strategy for certain levels is to pick up Aku Aku from a crate and then fling yourself into a specific pit so you can save a second or two waiting for the platform.

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