Hidden Gem: Crash N Tense (fan-made game)

Developer: Metalsonic3 aka Jargonfox
Publisher: Sonic Fan Games HQ

This probably won’t be old news to some people of the Crash Bandicoot fan base, but for others, you need to see this.

There’s an extraordinary amount of love for the orange marsupial. He was the first of the Sony craze to be reviatalized after the glory days of the late 90’s and 00’s. Ever since then there’s been repeated amounts of tries to keep him in the relevant light, but sadly the good attempts were cancelled, and the bad ones were published.

The fans, however, had plans to help him prosper. Go, and look for Crash fan games, and you’ll find so many. The fans have discovered why the unique formula of Crash Bandicoot worked for its time, but didn’t age well. 3D Platforming is a beast. I hate being one of those writers that claims to have never made a game, which is why I tried my hand at programming before giving in to my passions. Making a game that takes off is a combination of luck, and vision.

The most notable platformers of all time would be the Jak and Daxter series, and Mario. It’s impossible to say which of the previous two are better, because they are apples and oranges. Jak and Daxter is platforming with a story. Mario is platforming with gameplay. Both are fun, but serve two different purposes. Jak creating a functioning world, and Mario is for being the pinnacle of platform gaming.

All that to say, Crash is the weird middle experiment between a cohesive world, and pure platforming. It succeeded in the world of 3D by being a 2D game shifted so left and right became forward and back. It would become its own niche, and wear out quickly as the minds of Naughtydog saw, we fans saw with Wrath of Cortex. That’s why Twinsanity, and the Titan series, changed direction.

Twinsanity did show fans that an open world Crash game with a cohesive world is possible. It is a natural evolution, platforming is seamless, and the challenge is an adequate ascension.

Unlike Jak and Daxter, and Mario, getting around in Twinsanity is, most of the time, a one-way street.

Twinsanity is a precursor for a solid foundation of 3D Crash to work from. Lots of fan projects have used it as a template for that fact alone. But one fan game in particular decided to take two steps back, and bring Crash into a highly successful light that may take Crash Bandicoot further than 3D.

Crash N Tense went to 2D and slapped hand drawn art all over it to make Huge Adventure, and N-Tranced blush.

I played through all three levels of their demo and was amazed by the attention to detail. The crouching while holding on to the bars, the little faces he gives jumping, and hanging, and the way Crash and Coco behave during each and every breath is more love than I think the original developers made.

The controls are nearly perfect. In my opinion, the stop mechanics of Crash 2 were crisp, and clean, and Crash 1 had sluggish handling. The controls for N Tense did not hinder the game-play at all, so if they were the final product, it would be an excellent final product.
However jumping gaps as Coco in her kart is a nightmare. The box was extremely small and hard to find to make it perfectly across large and small gaps. I had the most failures there.

Obviously there are many things still in the works so I have no other critiques. Years ago, the games frame rate was colossal slow, and the animations were basic, Metalsonic3 cranked out more blood and sweat and made a flawless cartoon-ish Crash that rivals any Crash conception, and longer level layouts than the original trilogy themselves.

Best of all, this game is free, and it doesn’t take a good laptop to run.

In conclusion I make this same argument for Yooka-Laylee. It was fine as 3D, but the choices made and transition have proven that side-scrolling works in favor, overall. Mario works well in 3D because of how much toil went into making it work. Twinsanity proves Crash can work in 3D, but it only scratched the surface. Linear 3D like the crash trilogy is just side-scrolling from behind. The 2.5D with the trilogy might have been better for Crash, save the running, biking, flying, wave riding levels. This fanmade Crash game is proving just that. 2D Crash is better because of what more it can do. A modern 2D cartoon Crash Bandicoot works exponentially better than a classic Sonic.