Originally created 11/18/96

Video game scene: No fitter critter than Crash



I admit having had to look up what sort of an animal a bandicoot really is. Turns out, it's like a giant rat that's native to India and Australia and is known for its fondness for destroying fields and gardens. Even though real bandicoots sound like pesky little vermin, the furry star of Crash Bandicoot for Sony PlayStation is as great a video game hero as any I've seen.

So great, in fact, that there's talk of making Crash the unofficial mascot for PlayStation. The folks at Sony could do a lot worse. Created by Naughty Dog Entertainment in Universal City, Calif., Crash Bandicoot as a character has all the charm of Sonic or Mario. As a game he knocks them flat.

Keep in mind that this review was written before the release of Mario 64, but unless the dumpy little plumber offers a lot more than what I played at the electronics expo in May, Crash Bandicoot is, heading into the Christmas season, the platform game to beat.

That's because it's so weird. Crash can move in all directions within the playing field - left and right, of course, but also forward and backward on different planes. And he does it all in environments that look like they're straight out of a cartoon.

After just a few minutes of play, I found myself laughing so loud that my wife shut the door of the game room so I didn't drown out her phone conversation. It's hard not to laugh both at Crash and at the sheer fun of his game. Action varies almost as often as the perspective.

The dope on Crash is that he's the product of a mad scientist trying to produce an army of animal slaves. Crash was a reject and banished from the island of Dr. Neo Cortex - but not before a cute she-bandicoot caught his eye. That's right, a video game that is as much about true love as it is about running around in a witch doctor mask and dodging flesh-eating plants.

After several hours of play, I could find no fault with Crash Bandicoot except the relative scarcity of save points. In a game this pretty and this fun, repeating levels is hardly a chore, but crummy players like me appreciate more frequent opportunities to record progress.

Perhaps Crash will give a better name to all bandicoots.