Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure - Big Things DO Come in Small Packages!
While the game in question doesn’t quite fit the definition of ‘demake’, Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure presents an interesting scenario. In today’s gaming landscape, we’re constantly pushing higher and higher; with how homogeneous game development tools are, everything is made either for just one console, or all of them. XCOM 2, for an example, might run like slow butter on the Switch, but it’s the same game as on Xbox, Playstation, and PC. Back in the era of the Game Boy Advance, everyone was trying to cash in on getting their properties on as many platforms as better - and that raised an interesting problem, considering how much weaker handhelds were then their console counterparts. And whilst we got some utter shovelware versions of games, like Finding Nemo, other titles - like the subject of today’s expedition into the Game Boy Abyss - somehow fully capture the essence of their parent title, whilst making way for the reality of actually playing on the Game Boy Advance. Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure might not be a total success… but I was genuinely caught off guard by how well Crash translates to the 2D space.
It’s as simple as that; this game, for all intents and purposes, it as close to anything as we’ve got to the ‘pure’ Crash Bandicoot experience on a handheld platform. The bulk of the game is the side-scrolling jumping, bouncing, enemy spinning adventure Crash Bandicoot is known for. Due to the fact that this is a GBA game, and I assume Vicarious Visions felt they couldn’t pull it off, the game only does the side-scrolling style of platforming, without the more iconic vertical scrolling levels.
But guess what - everything is here! I was genuinely floored by how well the ‘scrolling’ 3D platforming of the parent Crash Bandicoot series turned out in The Huge Adventure. It’s not one-to-one, as you’d expect, but pretty much all the facets that were present in Crash Bandicoot: Warped are here. Multiple, unlockable moves. Relics to hunt, gems to collect, and even entirely alternate modes of play. One level you’re doing the basic platforming, the next you’re doing a forward-scrolling version of the plane battles from Crash 3.
In fact, the latter was the most surprising part of the game; the fact that this game has a whole bunch of the different level playstyles featured in Warped. You’ve got the diving levels, which somehow actually feel better then their counterparts in Warped (I really dislike the diving levels in Warped); the plane sections becoming forward scrolling stages, akin to an old arcade game, basically just trying to survive against enemy fighters and blimps coming at you; and even when you’re doing the normal platforming stages, sometimes they’ll mix together the classic Polar Bear riding sections with a backwards scrolling chase sequence. I was genuinely floored by the variety in levels, and the fact all of these alternate elements somehow even better then then basic, ‘classic’ brand of gameplay Crash Bandicoot is most well known for. I never, ever get tired of chase sequences, and whilst the ones in these weren’t perfect, they were genuinely some of the most fun I had in the game overall.
Seriously, the polar bear is kind of terrifying, and since the bloody thing actually speeds up in it’s pursuit of you, I had that wonderfully thrilling sense of panic as I had to get as much distance between me and the bandicoot-munching monstrosity.
But whilst the basic elements translate wells, my enthusiasm quickly evaporated as I got into the more difficult stages of the game. I couldn’t put my finger quite on it, but the platforming of this game just feels off. To start with, I found the controls, in some situations, rather unresponsive. Times I was sure I hit the jump button at the end of a ledge, and I’d just watch in despair as Crash just charged off the end. Later on, once I’d unlocked the double jump, it felt the situation got worse in a similar way - I’d frequently get the first jump off, but sometimes the second jump just didn’t register and I’d miss whatever I was going for. To make matters worse, it felt like all my momentum was lost during the double jump, making me repedatle feel like I was constantly not going to make the jumps I was going for. Much rage was had at a few of these levels - especially the space levels, which constantly throw already frustrating obstacles at you
But you can work around finicky controls - as I moved on through the game, I began to identify when these problems were going to arise and I could work around them. But the one thing I couldn’t work around was just how poor the game’s level design philosophy could be at times.
By that ‘level design philosophy’, I’m mostly referring to issues that come with making a purely 2D platformer. The core of the issue is just how zoomed in the game is; it ins incredibly, insanely difficult to avoid some of the threats coming at you in this game. With how fast threats come at you off screen, it can be incredibly hard to avoid getting killed the first time you encounter them; this, coupled with the fact that this game can be incredibly stingy when it comes to Aku AKu masks, makes a lot of these moments frustrating as all hell. The other big issue with the game’s zoomed in view is this game is absolutely chock-full of ‘leaps of faith’. Basically, platforming jumps where you genuinely have no idea where you are going to land, or what is going to be there. Even if the former problem is sometimes alleviated by a line of Wumpa fruits directing your leap, but this doesn’t help when there’s a line of TNT or, god forbid, Nitro waiting for you down there. I’m not sure how they could really deal with this; zooming out the game would help a little bit, but that could cause a myriad of other issues. This issue also arises in the ‘chase’ sequences, too - as much as I enjoyed them, it was genuinely very difficult to see what was coming, and once or twice I found myself stuck on a certain sequence of lighting walls or Nitro laying in my way. I’m not sure if zooming out the game would help these situations, but I’m not a game designer, or even an actual critic, so I don’t really have the answers.
With how frustrating the platforming could be at times, I was a little worried that the boss fights would suffer as a result, but they’re all fun enough and a great swap from the normal tried-and-true gameplay elements. They each feel fairly unique from one another, for the most part using entirely different gameplay styles to bring them down; Dingodile’s was the only one I wasn’t particularly hot on, since I didn’t really enjoy the underwater level style, and it’s just such a long fight since you’re mostly just waiting for Dingodile to be vulnerable. The others are all very active affairs, lots of dodging and whatnot, but you’re always just doing something - I don’t mind if a fight is hard, which the Tiny Tiger and Cortex fights can be, but as long as it isn’t boring. Honestly, I’ll even take bad over boring.
Crash Bandicoot was never really about the length for me - last year, I played through the entirety of the Crash Bandicoot trilogy, and pretty much all the games only took two or three sittings to get through, clocking in about four to five hours a piece. The Huge Adventure is significantly shorter then the console entries, which is to be expected; but if you’re good at this game, you’re looking at less then two hours of gameplay. And sure, like the originals, there’s the ‘endgame’ to play around in - getting the Time Trial relics and getting all the box gems, and that’s all fine and dandy, but the fact is when the game’s basic platforming elements are this jank, you just don’t feel good about running these levels again and again. Having to traverse an entire frustrating level for the relic, before failing right at the end because a double jump failed to register or you mistimed a particular leap of faith - I could see the fun in going for 100%, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. The core game was fine enough for me, giving me what is most likely the best way to experience Crash Bandicoot on an old-school handheld console.
There is something funny, though, considering how short this game, that it’s called The Huge Adventure. Just me finding that funny? Probably. Ah well.
Also, whilst this game’s story is practically non-existent, the concept and ideas behind it are funny as hell. Basically, Cortex shrinks the entire earth, and Crash heads off to collect the Crystals to stop that. But the fact is, Cortex could literally crush the earth, or -whatever- at literally any point, but nah, he just chills out the entire game, letting Crash do whatever he wants. At ANY POINT, Cortex could’ve won there and then; but I honestly think Cortex gets a jolly out of failing. Seriously, how is anyone incapable of doing… you know, the bare necessities!? How does someone SHRINK THE WORLD, and fail at winning!? I just don’t understand.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rant about Crash Bandicoot’s story of all things at length. I’ve got better things to do.
But it’s not all bad news! For a GBA title - especially coming from the beautiful, wonderfully aesthetic Crash Bandicoot trilogy on the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure looks genuinely great. It works well with it’s limitations, with it’s pixelly, somewhat hazy background and character sprites giving the game a wonderful sense of charm and, dare I say, aesthetic quality. The music is also rather delightful, having an almost ‘Crash-lite’ kind of feeling to it, each one leaving me toe-tapping unconsciously ever so slightly. Though, like the limited number of level designs in the game, this also leads to the songs feeling over so repetitive, but that’s far more of a nit-picking criticism then anything.
This is less of a audio/visual complaint, but I would’ve liked even one or two more level ‘biome’ designs, since there’s only a handful - you know, the classic space, jungle, sewer and snow levels are here in abundance, but I really would’ve liked to see some of the ones that were in Warped - like the motorcycle deserts, for an example. It’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but the game was feeling slightly repetitive, design-wise, as I neared the end of the game.
Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure doesn’t quite fit the definition of ‘demake’, but it’s easily one of the most impressive platform jumps on the GBA, shedding some fluff but providing us with a acceptable, if occasionally flimsy and frustrating, yet inherent ‘Crash’ Crash Bandicoot game. Bar none, this, and it’s sequel (we’ll take a look at that in the future!) are the closest you can get to a genuine Crash Bandicoot experience on the go. Besides… I guess, playing the Crash Bandicoot trilogy on switch. Or… Or Crash Bandicoot: It’s About Time on Switch… or… maybe I’ll just cut off this thought.
Basically, this game ain’t perfect, but with it’s brisk length and genuinely lovely aesthetic value, Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure is absoloutly worth your time, at least for a play or two, especially if you have a soft spot in your heart, like I do, for the loveable, neckless bandicoot.
Thanks so much for reading! I’m already beginning work on the next entry of the Game Boy Abyss, which should be Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers! I really need to get back to Hamtaro… I keep putting it off for some reason, but I really don’t know why. I can’t believe I’ve already done four of these things, it’s coming to me a lot more naturally then I hoped it would.
Let me know what you thought! You can take a look at my contact page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM at @Lemmy7003. Thanks again for reading!