8 Maddeningly Difficult ‘Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy’ Moments

Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy reminded us what we loved about our childhood – a time when games didn’t take themselves seriously and when the main character felt like it came straight from a Warner Bros cartoon. It reminded us of a time when games were so much more straightforward, with no long, complex narratives, just a simple goal of getting from point A to point B, beat a boss, repeat.

The problem is, N. Sane Trilogy also reminded us of the maddening difficulty games had back then. So, here are the eight most infuriating moments in N. Sane Trilogy that left us yelling words at the screen that our innocent younger selves wouldn’t have even known existed when we first played.

Adapting to Native Fortress

Native Fortress.

There are levels much harder in the first Crash Bandicoot than Native Fortress (we’re looking at you, Slippery Climb), but what makes Native Fortress so rough is the steep difficulty climb. Up until that point, most levels haven’t been too challenging, and the first boss, Papu Papu, was also pathetically easy. Then Native Fortress hits the player with its ridiculous flaming bowels, natives pushing Crash off the cliff, and spikes that punish players who dare jump at the wrong moment.

Now, it is possible right at the end of the level to jump behind the wall and avoid much of the last segment, but it punishes any player who thought they were in for an easy ride. Adapting to this is one of the most infuriating moments of the Trilogy.

Getting the Red Gem on Slippery Climb

Slippery Climb.
Don't be fooled - this is before it gets hard.

In the original game, Naughty Dog made a level that was super difficult and fun for them to play but it was so hard that they decided to hide it from play. Recently, Vicarious Visions brought Stormy Ascent back as an extra for any player brave or stupid enough to try the maddening challenge (seriously, it took me 60 lives).

But just because Stormy Ascent is extremely hard doesn’t mean Slippery Climb’s retracting stairs, clumsy bird jumping, moving platforms, and dangerous lab assistants aren’t still very hard. Worse, Slippery Climb has the red gem, which requires you to not only break every box in the level and its bonus round but to not lose a single life. Good luck avoiding every trap this level has to offer to do that.

Backtracking for Crash 2 Gems

Bee-Having backtracking.
You will have to go through this route, walk back through another, to break all boxes.

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back probably has the best balance of the three games. Most of the challenges in Cortex Strikes Back are a lot better than the first game, because they feel much fairer. A death feels more like your own fault than the fault of the game’s design.

That is, with one key exception. Levels like Diggin’ It, The Pits and Piston It Away split off into two routes, and require the player to finish one route, backtrack through it, and finish another to break all the boxes. This is infuriating as the camera doesn’t adjust when you’re walking back, so unlike boulder run levels, it gives you too little room to view what dangers or pits you may be running into. Made worse is when a second route is a death route, so if you lose a life backtracking and make that death route inaccessible, have fun restarting the level, or no clear gem for you.

Controlling Crash on Ice

Cold Hard Crash on ice behind caves.
Sometimes you can't even see the ice you're slipping on.

Another challenge in Crash 2 which will be the bane of any players aiming for 100% is Cold Hard Crash. The ice physics for this level make Crash ridiculously hard to control.

To get 100% on Cold Hard Crash, it involves controlling Crash sliding through ridiculous traps, deadly penguins, and worst of all, nitro crates – and going through this path more than once. In fact, some sequences of nitro crates feel like Naughty Dog just expected you to have Aku Aku mask on or die. At least the soundtrack is amazing.

Getting Clear Gems with the Warped Motorcycle

Area 51
Enjoy dodging the UFOs. If you can't do it, good luck breaking the boxes.

While there is debate around whether Crash Bandicoot: Warped is the best in the trilogy, there’s not much debate about its difficulty: it’s by far the easiest of the three. By the time this game came out, Naughty Dog had gotten a lot better at level design, so all the challenges seemed fairer than before. What’s more, the most frustrating challenges are hidden in bonus levels.

However, while players can’t die on the motorcycle levels, they’re still frustrating to beat when hitting the cars once or falling into a single trap may doom the whole run. It’s far worse when trying to aim to break all boxes for a gem, because of the precision required to hit them, and the fact Crash can’t drive back and hit any he missed. Nope, if you missed a box, you have to exit the level and try from the beginning. Now try doing it in the hidden Area 51? with UFOs instead of cars.

Beating Time Trial in Hot Coco

Hot Coco

The other really infuriating moment in Warped is in the hidden level, Hot Coco. Access to the level is through hitting a secret alien sign (curious that the sign doesn’t take Crash to Area 51? instead though). This is a different Coco water ski level as it’s open ended rather than linear in which nitro crates lock the exit and the Time Trial’s challenge is in reaching it quickly enough while breaking enough time freeze boxes along the way.

What makes it annoying is that the developers have (accidentally?) made the jet ski control a little different from the original game. It’s much harder to steer and break now, meaning that players need to be very precise when hitting the crates. Oh, and it feels easier to hit the larger bombs now, meaning you’ll have to break or slow down several times to avoid death, which isn’t ideal when trying to speed-run a level. If this takes you several tries to get the gold relic (required for the platinum trophy), you’re not alone.

Beating Time Trials in Crash 1 or 2

Coco running from a boulder.

Time Trials were not added in the first two games, and that’s apparent because they don’t unlock anything. The fun of Time Trials is in trying to beat your own time or challenge friends to beat yours, and gives a totally new way to approach every level. It’s fun to figure out how best to cut corners and time your movement. Of course, Vicarious Visions just had to be pure evil and require us to get a gold relic on every level of the first two games to get a platinum trophy.

And the levels in Crash 1 and 2 were very obviously not designed with Time Trials in mind. Crash 1 in particular often rewards patience and precision and punishes players who aim to rush through the level. While the developers did allow players to sprint through levels in Crash 2, they weren’t designed for players to speed-run them. They also unlock nothing other than a trophy, which may serve as the barrier to getting a platinum.

Jumping in the High Road

The High Road.
Anyone else have nightmares about this level?

I saved the worst until last. If you didn’t hate this level, you’re a liar. Road to Nowhere is already stupidly hard, requiring insanely precise jumps over parts of a broken bridge – often jumping off the edge of a bridge to barely make the next part – clumsy jumping on turtles, or trying carefully to jump on the rope and cheat your way through. The High Road takes this challenge to the next level, with jumps disgustingly hard to make.

The problem is The High Road is even harder in the remake as Crash controls slightly differently than before. With the jumping mechanics designed for Warped applied to the first game, fans of the old game may find it tricky to adjust. Also, a lot of jumps that look straightforward in PSOne graphics look extremely awkward in the remake. This will likely scare many players into misjudging their jumps.

At least with Stormy Ascent, you go in expecting an impossible challenge. With The High Road, it’s thrown at you just when you think you’re close to finishing Crash 1 and moving onto the actually good games of the trilogy (shots fired).

I've been gaming since playing Crash Bandicoot: Warped at 6 years old, and my favorite game of all time is now Metal Gear Solid 3, while my favorite series is Final Fantasy. I've also been wiki-ing since a long time, so you'll find me writing and coding throughout the site.
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