Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy for PS4 Review

When Crash Bandicoot hit the scene in the ’90s, it didn’t take long for him to become the de facto PlayStation mascot. He didn’t reach the same level of popularity as Mario or Sonic, but the original Crash games were charming platformers that resonated with audiences thanks to expressive characters and diverse environments. And unlike his peers, Crash was born in 3D; Mario and Sonic merely adopted it.

With the arrival of the N. Sane Trilogy collection, we now have the chance to revisit the first three Crash games in style, and while they look better than ever, they’re otherwise direct replicas of the original games. Developed by Vicarious Visions, the N. Sane Trilogy collection features remastered versions of Crash Bandicoot, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and Crash Bandicoot: Warped. Gone are the rudimentary character models in favor of more realistic-looking creatures and environments, and a new lighting system bakes a measure of realism into the otherwise cartoonish world, giving the games a quality similar to 3D cartoons from the likes of Pixar or Dreamworks.

tải xuống (1)

While it’s easy to look at these games and appreciate the care that’s gone into their presentation, actually playing them stirs up conflicting emotions. There’s no way around it: they remain dated despite their fresh look. Enemies rarely react to you, preferring instead to follow pre-determined paths and animation loops. And many obstacles are needlessly discouraging; Razor-thin tolerances for success and one-hit deaths make for a frustrating pairing. You can control Crash using an analog stick now, but smoother pivots and jumps don’t alleviate the otherwise stiff gameplay lurking behind Crash’s goofy exterior.

Not all levels are out to get you, however, and for the most part the N. Sane Trilogy offers a modest challenge that’s perfectly suited for casual enjoyment. The ease at which you can fly through some stages allows you to experience a wide range of scenarios as well: you will carefully navigate the electrified waters of an eel infested sewer one minute and ride on the back of a tiger through a gauntlet of angry locals atop the Great Wall of China the next. There are also a handful of levels that allow you to reenact the famous boulder sequence from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, though you may be running from a massive polar bear instead of a boulder depending on the particular game in question.


This is all to say that Crash is what it’s always been: a charming collection of platforming challenges that shift gears from one stage to the next. By putting three games next to each other, the N. Sane Trilogy overflows with nostalgia. The warm and fuzzy feeling you get from seeing familiar Crash levels presented in a way that mirrors what you held in your imagination is undeniable. But so too is the reality that Crash games aren’t timeless. No amount of lighting or funny animations can make up for the rudimentary 3D platforming on display. You could even say that the look of these games belies their true nature.

The culprit behind Crash’s dated feel is the passage of time. Vicarious Visions, for its part, succeeded in revitalizing Crash from an artistic perspective while preserving the charm that made him appealing when he first showed up, but years have passed since the original PlayStation was relevant, and we are well past the formative years of 3D gaming. It’s easy to imagine how a dyed-in-the-wool Crash fan will fall in love all over again via the N. Sane Trilogy, but if you’re experiencing Crash for the first time–or the first time in a while–it might pain you to realize that Crash’s original adventures aren’t as inventive or surprising as they were 20 years ago.

Cosmic Star Heroine PS4 Review

Cosmic Star Heroine Review

Cosmic Star Heroine makes a great first impression. Its introductory hours are all synths and saxes, flashy sci-fi espionage, and daring escapades lit by suffusions of neon and moonlight. There’s no mistaking it for some imported decades-old classic, but it still managed to give me flashbacks of loading up untranslated PC Engine games and gawking at the interstitial artwork.

Agent Alyssa L’Salle is a beret-wearing, bo-wielding covert ops specialist for the government who spends much of the game unraveling a large-scale conspiracy. Within minutes of being introduced, she’s defusing bombs, hacking computers, and getting into harrowing fights with flying drones while clambering up the side of a skyscraper. She’s almost cartoonishly cool and competent, as are her companions. It may seem a little over the top at first glance, but it’s part of what cements the game’s vibe as a pulpy, joyously unfettered throwback. Pop stars, tech experts, monk-like gunslingers, and literal dancing machines–Cosmic Star Heroine is far from shy about letting its cast shine every bit as brightly as its lead.

The game is also a little more than standard turn-based RPG fare. Each character’s abilities can only be used once, with the exception of a handful. While the majority can be restored by using a character’s recharging/guard move, certain powerful abilities, as well as equipped items, can only be used once per battle.


Added to this are Style and Hyper Points. Style accumulates over time and offers a boost to allies and enemies alike, so the longer a battle takes, the more devastating each strike becomes. Hyper Points, meanwhile, are accumulated with each turn and are represented as little pips under a character’s health bar. Fill in the requisite number of pips and the character unlocks the damage-doubling Hyper Mode for their turn.

That’s a lot to take in at first, but the end result is that combat has an extra layer of strategy beyond what you might initially expect. If an enemy is weak to water, for instance, there’s a massive advantage to saving one of Alyssa’s water abilities until she’s in Hyper Mode to get the most out of it, especially if a few turns have already passed and she’s had a chance to accumulate some Style as well.

In general, this system encourages good habits and thoughtful fighting. This is especially true in Hyper Mode, which encourages you to be a lot more diligent about considering your entire repertoire of moves and making big, flashy strikes really count. At lower difficulty levels, these mechanics have little chance to shine, but since the difficulty can be adjusted at any point in the game, it’s easy to experiment and find the exact level of challenge that suits your play style.


No matter what difficulty is selected, Cosmic Star Heroine clearly doesn’t want to be a grind. Alyssa moves from dystopian city to alien planet to swanky mob banquet with plenty of fighting in between–but plenty of direction and purpose, too. The handful of alternate paths, hidden areas, and optional bosses seldom take her too far from the action or distract too much from the core objective, and they typically yield high-quality gear for her or her companions.

As a result, you never feel like you’re dragging your heels in any one location for long–but it also makes the individual events feel oddly abbreviated at times. Plots sometimes pivot and settings shift before you get a good sense of either. If the game dealt purely in tropes, this wouldn’t matter, but Cosmic Star Heroine presents its own individual world, its own uniquely interesting characters, and its own blend of technology and the supernatural–and then provides you with almost no space to acclimate to any of it. Fast-paced action and intrigue can and should still allow for moments of downtime, flavor, or world-building. Even within the confines of short scenes, moments that could use a little time to breathe are awkwardly clipped. Hacking is instantaneous, as is subway transportation. These just happen, immediately and without fanfare–at its worst, it can feel like watching a movie at 1.5 times the normal speed.

This is true even when it comes to the writing, which usually strikes a decent balance with its cheesiness. But every now and then Cosmic Star Heroine offers up a joke dampened by its own preemptive flop sweat. The style of its tone-setting minimalistic animated cutscenes is another case of the usually great being undermined by the occasionally awkward. Three-dimensional rendered models of ships and structures are sometimes slipped in alongside the hand-drawn elements, which has the effect of cheapening and fracturing an otherwise cohesive visual style.

You will also find that Cosmic Star Heroine is peppered with slightly pettier annoyances as well. The biggest of these is the fact that there’s no option to load the game from the system menu, so any time you want to test a different strategy or replay a section on a different difficulty setting, you have to close and restart the game. And strangely, some boss fights instantly resolve themselves under certain difficulty settings, but not always. Sometimes, one or two of the enemies would simply flee and reduce the opposing team’s numbers, and sometimes a boss would simply concede before even a single turn passed.

The dialogue trigger also seems to be incredibly sensitive, so even if you take extra care to press the button as lightly as possible, you may end up trapped in a loop of the same few lines from an NPC, unintentionally triggering the same text three or four times before breaking loose–an unfortunate and regular occurrence.

With all of that said, Cosmic Star Heroine is still an enjoyable sci-fi RPG with a classical spirit. It’s shameless in its celebration of its inspirations, and the soundtrack goes a long way to sell every moment. Though it has more than its fair share of flaws, none of that stops this game from being exactly what it sets out to be.

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Review

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Review

If ever a game deserved a second chance, it’s Bulletstorm. Though the original debuted just six years ago, the game went largely unnoticed at the time. So now, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is bringing it back to life by revamping the visuals and adding new content.

On its face, Bulletstorm is an outrageously macho first-person shooter that careens through a gauntlet of linear corridors and over-the-top set pieces in a testosterone-induced frenzy. But beneath this bro-y veneer, it quietly shapeshifts into a clever, challenging puzzle game thanks to the addition of skillshots.

Rather than simply shooting everyone to death, Bulletstorm challenges you to off your enemies in increasingly imaginative and elaborate ways: kick them into fountains full of flesh-eating fish, lasso them into overgrown cacti, flatten them by bringing elevator cars down on their heads, and so on. There are well over 100 unique options in total, many of which indeed require serious skill to pull off.


For your efforts, you’re rewarded with points–the more creative the kill, the higher the point value. These points can be redeemed for weapon and ability upgrades at pods that punctuate the game’s various sections, but the skillshots are plenty rewarding in and of themselves. Seeing the “new” tag pop up next to a skillshot name after something cool happens on screen evokes the same giddy excitement of nailing a “gap” in the old Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. There’s a sense of discovery and accomplishment that’s refreshed with every new skillshot you uncover.

Skilled players can even check the skillshot menu and deliberately attempt to tick every box on the list, a challenge that transforms the entire game. Enemies are no longer threats as much as they are opportunities–each one could be the canvas for another skillshot masterwork. It’s an incredibly novel and gratifying hook, one that fundamentally elevates the standard shooter formula to something transcendently arcadey.

And this is all in addition to the fact that Bulletstorm stands as a strong shooter even without its point system. The core aiming and movement feel tight, and added mechanics like the “instinct leash”–which allows crass hero Grayson Hunt to grab enemies across great distances and yank them in closer–along with the Titanfall-esque slide-and-shoot maneuver keep the action feeling fast and dynamic.

Bulletstorm’s campaign also enjoys excellent pacing and variety. Recalling the gloriously ridiculous guns of ’90s shooters like Quake and Turok, weapons range from relatively standard to utterly outlandish: you can fire spinning drill bits into your foes, chase them with manually-guided sniper bullets, or just vaporize them with a quad-barrel shotgun. Your arsenal gradually grows as you progress, ensuring there are always new skillshots to try.

You also encounter new enemy types as you barrel through the campaign–some charge at you wielding explosives, others evade your leash with unexpected agility, but all offer some slight variation that helps keep the action from feeling too predictable. And of course, with every new environment come new hazards; it’s always fun figuring out that yes, you can kick enemies into that nearby turbine/chasm/hotdog cart.

Some elements of Bulletstorm’s campaign do feel stale, however. You’ll periodically encounter quick-time events, scripted set pieces, and on-rails shooter sections, and while none of these moments are bad, per se, they are design hallmarks of a game some years out of date. The campaign’s final chapters also become a bit of a predictable slog, diminishing your ability to be creative by hurling more and more obstacles at you.

Even with these highs and lows, the campaign holds up well–after all, its inventive skillshot system is a timeless idea. The story, on the other hand, remains an acquired taste. The script–which was almost certainly written entirely in all-caps–contains torrents of gratuitous swearing and some of the most painfully sophomoric humor ever to appear in a game. You may think you have an unlimited tolerance for dick jokes, but the only way to truly be sure is to play Bulletstorm.

3217167-20170405124914_1A quick look at Full Clip Edition’s video options on PC.

What’s especially weird about all the cartoonish machismo is the fact that it comes wrapped in a relatively serious storyline about war crimes, personal responsibility, and moving beyond self-loathing in order to help those you care about. That juxtaposition is jarring, but in a weird way, it works. It’s a bit like The Fast and the Furious: if you’re willing to turn off your brain and accept the fact that you’ve signed up for a spectacularly stupid thrillride, you might just enjoy yourself (even if you cringe a few times along the way).

While the contents of the story and campaign have not changed since the original release, the multiplayer and visuals have both been updated. Even in 2011, Bulletstorm was a good-looking game awash in color, each area soaked in brilliant hues, perhaps as a reaction to Epic’s notoriously brown shooter, Gears of War. It’s no surprise, then, that Full Clip Edition also looks excellent.

Though it can’t compete with the splendor of current-gen titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, it by no means looks out of place on modern hardware. The colors are as vibrant as ever, textures appear crisp and detailed (until you zoom the camera all the way in on an object, at least), draw distances prove impressive, and the frame rate holds solid on both PC and PS4. I encountered a small handful of glitches–mainly dead bodies ragdolling through walls–but overall, this is a technically sound update. PS4 Pro and PC players can even enjoy the game in 4K.

The updates to multiplayer are less impressive. Full Clip Edition adds six brand new maps to the solo, score-driven Echoes mode and also includes the four additional Echoes maps, three cooperative Anarchy mode maps, and an objective-driven version of Echoes called Ultimate Echoes that were added as DLC following Bulletstorm’s original release.

Echoes mode in general isn’t all that exciting since each map is just an isolated snippet of the campaign–your score can earn you a spot on a leaderboard, but the gameplay, down the very last enemy, remains identical to how the section played out in the campaign. Consequently, the mode provides a convenient option for those who want a streamlined experience, but it doesn’t add much to the overall package. Full Clip Edition’s six new maps don’t change that.

The cooperative horde mode Anarchy is a far more engaging option, especially since each round forces you to exceed a preset score threshold. Often the only way to achieve the requisite score in later rounds is to successfully perform team-based skillshots, a mechanic that sets Bulletstorm’s horde mode apart from the rest of the…er, horde. Maps prove especially important in Anarchy since unique environmental hazards frequently provide the highest score boosts, so Full Clip’s inclusion of the old DLC maps was a smart move.

Finally, Full Clip adds two major pieces of fan service: first a “new game plus” option called Overkill Mode, which enables all weapons and skillshots from the beginning of the campaign. Annoyingly, you must beat the campaign before unlocking Overkill–a move that will surely irk returning fans looking to dive right in–but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.


Hail to the king, baby!

More interestingly, fans who preordered Full Clip Edition (or who shell out an additional five dollars) can play through the entire campaign as the king himself, Duke Nukem. In practice, Duke’s character model replaces Hunt’s in every cutscene and longtime Duke voice actor Jon St. John reworks many of the original lines to better suit his character.

But the rest of the content, including the other character’s reactions and responses, remains unchanged. Your AI companion Ishi even uses Hunt’s name on several occasions. It is, of course, kind of hilarious to see and hear Duke in this new context, but his presence doesn’t meaningfully impact the story, let alone the gameplay.

For longtime fans, Full Clip Edition doesn’t offer much to be excited about. Additions like Overkill Mode and the upgraded visuals are certainly welcome, but fundamentally, this is the same game they already played in 2011. That said, the experience absolutely holds up: the skillshot system remains wildly fun and inventive, the weapons are still a gruesome joy, and the writing…well, it’s as distinctive as ever. If you missed Bulletstorm when it originally released–and based on sales numbers, you probably did–now’s the time to treat yourself to a clever if cringe-worthy blockbuster.