This past summer I was lucky enough to get my hands on an old PlayStation 1 copy of Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped. I’m a life-long fan of Crash games. While Crash 2 remains my favorite, I believe Warped to be the best of the trilogy in terms of design, variety, and quality. But that’s not quite what I want to talk about.
Playing all this Crash Bandicoot got me thinking about the nature of replayability in games like Crash. They’re pretty straightforward on the surface. There is no open world in early Crash, unlike in contemporaries such as Super Mario 64. There aren’t hundreds of stars for you to collect. Instead, it’s very much a game of going from point A to point B, playing through level after inventive level. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it leads to the question of why this game is so fun. I wonder why I come back to it time and time again.
Although Crash games are fairly short and straightforward, the depth of the game doesn’t lie in simply getting from the first level to the last level. The depth is in scouring every level for all of the game’s hidden treasures. Sometimes you have to hunt down a secret path in a given level. Sometimes you have to find a hidden path in one level to find another in a completely different level.
In Warped, a big part of getting collectibles is just speed-running levels for relics. Therefore, you need to know each one inside and out. I think this is the beauty of Crash Bandicoot. Sure, it can be a great game for people who don’t play video games a lot. But within it lies a spectacular challenge: completing everything the game has to offer. That’s why I think this game is a perfect example to use for talking about completionism.
“Completionism” isn’t a very well-known term yet, but it’s a gaming term coined by Jirard Khalil, nicknamed The Completionist, whose YouTube channel is dedicated to beating every possible challenge in various games and making videos breaking down the games and the challenge of tackling everything they have to offer. Everything from Chester Cheetah to Skyrim is fair game.
The fact that he’s able to do this with any kind of regularity is extremely impressive by itself, but what intrigues me is that at the end of every review, he gives a rating of whether to play it, finish it, or complete it 100%. Games don’t always get the “complete it” rating for various reasons, but the most common reason is that total completion of a game is a hassle, except over a very long period of time.
Crash Bandicoot games, meanwhile, beg for 100% completion. They use creativity to make a limited number of assets go a long way. Gems are often hidden behind unconventional solutions and secrets, and time trials test your reflexes and skills to the core. As a result, the game encourages players to beat it multiple times, and makes it possible to get a lot of mileage out of playing the same game for the promise of a secret ending, bragging rights, and satisfaction. That goes to show that a game’s appeal and longevity don’t have to come from an open world or hundreds of levels to finish. This is the meaning of depth in a game.
In fact, one of my favorite things about Crash 2 and Crash 3 specifically is that they fall into a rare breed of games where it’s possible to get over 100% completion. For example, in Crash 3, the maximum completion possible is 105%. You obtain this completion by beating every level, obtaining every crystal, and finding every gem. This means finding every box and secret paths, and obtaining every gold relic obtained from time trials. You also can’t forget the five extra levels and the two secret levels hidden within other stages. Even then, it’s possible to go for platinum relics on every stage, which basically require perfect time trial runs.
The amount of stuff you can challenge yourself with in Crash games is inspiring. Games like these, where you can literally push past the boundary of 100% through your own wit and skill, are uniquely rewarding.
The original Crash trilogy is being remastered by Vicarious Visions and is going to be released in 2017. This is massive news not only because it’s af treat for the fanbase, but could also lead to a revival of the franchise. I truly hope that these remasters remain faithful to the series legacy of short-but-deep level design. If not, I think it will be a shame, because the development of Crash Bandicoot is an incredible story of repeatedly making something out of nothing.
Andy Gavin, co-founder of Naughty Dog and Crash Bandicoot creator, tells the full story of development on his website, and it’s an awesome read that I recommend you check out if you want to get into game design!