Crash Bandicoot Is The Ultimate Rhythm Game

Most video games can be beaten with brute force. You just need to git gud, and gitting gud means doing it over and over again while getting progressively less bad at it. People are usually talking about Soulslikes when they say git gud, but I’ve always thought it applies more to platformers. They rely on the mechanics of muscle memory, especially the linear ones like Crash Bandicoot. You need to know what you’re about to do three moves before you do it, and before long, it’s like a song that gets stuck in your head. Platformers need you to harmonise with the internal melody, all while maintaining the tempo, and that’s what makes Crash Bandicoot the ultimate rhythm game.

There are some songs that I’ve heard so much, the opening chord says it all. All I need is the first few bars, and my mind is instantly flooded with the entire song. I feel that way about Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower, Frank Ocean’s Forrest Gump, and – just so you know I’m not lying to seem cool – Taylor Swift’s All Too Well. It’s deeper than just memorising the words or the sounds; these songs become so etched in our brains that remembering them is no more a conscious task than remembering to breathe in then breathe out. Many levels in Crash Bandicoot function the same way.

When I say Crash Bandicoot, I don’t just mean the first game, but the original trilogy, since that was all designed with this philosophy in mind. From the first couple of steps of Castle Machinery, Piston It Away, or Tomb Wader, I know exactly when I need to slide, when to jump, when to spin, and when to stop. I know the hazards before they appear on screen, and I know when to dash through a section and when it pays to be more meticulous. I don’t remember these levels, I know them, in the same way I know All Too Well.

But it’s not just a case of knowing the levels. It’s understanding the way they play, and the speed you must approach them with. If someone did a heavy metal cover of All Too Well, it would throw me off completely, because it’s not just the words that matter, it’s every single element. The pace of Crash is a huge part of what makes it great, and that’s why it feels like the ultimate rhythm game. It’s like playing in a band, live. Most rhythm games, either the actual rhythm games or the Soulslike rhythms, have you reacting to something external, like a button prompt or a boss. In Crash, you set your own pace, but once you’ve got it down pat you need to keep to that pace every time. You can’t take a minute to collect your thoughts before going onto the next section; the band doesn’t take a break before the guitar solo, they crescendo into it. Taking it slow may seem like a good idea, but it actually throws off your momentum completely.

That’s why, even though I love the N.Sane Trilogy remaster, it sometimes feels off the beat. To make the game more accessible for newcomers, all three games used the same jump mechanics – the mechanic from Warped. However, the first game in particular had a very different jump style; it was higher and slower, but could not double jump. Replaying the first game in the N.Sane Trilogy felt like my guitar had been tuned down slightly, or like there was a half second delay on the percussion track in my ear. The rhythm was off, and it only served to prove how important this rhythm is.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time isn’t in the N.Sane heights, but it does enough to consider itself a worthy sequel to the originals. It understands that the key to a good Crash game is finding the groove, so it makes sure each level follows rhythmic beats. The hazards and enemies move in sync like clockwork, so once you figure out a way around them, you know you can always rely on it time and time again – so long as you stick to your tempo.

Spyro, Crash’s long time compatriot, feels more like freestyle jazz. Do whatever you want in whatever order you want, so long as you have fun. There’s a brilliance in that, especially when the format was perfected with Spyro the Dragon 2, but it doesn’t demand rhythm in the way Crash Bandicoot does. Crash is like JK Simmons in Whiplash, and you better not be rushing or dragging.

Next: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time Nintendo Switch Review – That’ll Do Bandicoot, That’ll Do

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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey

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