In an effort to create a bunch of anthropomorphic, hyper-intelligent animals to serve as an army to lead them to world domination, Dr. Neo Cortex and Dr. Nitrus Brio create the Evolv-O-Ray, a device that can mutate any animal into a super-strong, hyper-intelligent warrior, and the Cortex Vortex, a brain manipulation device that can make anyone and anything a blind follower of Cortex's orders. One of their first experiments with the Evolv-O-Ray is Crash, a bandicoot snatched from the local island wilderness and chosen to serve as the leader of Cortex's army. However, the Cortex Vortex fails on Crash, and he is discarded as a failed specimen while Cortex and Brio prepare to experiment on Crash's love interest, Tawna. The next day, Crash washes up on the shores of N. Sanity Beach and vows to defeat Cortex and rescue Tawna from his fortress, with the help of a native mask spirit named Aku Aku who wants Crash to take down Cortex so he'll stop polluting the islands.
This game contains examples of:
1-Up: Video Game Lives are provided by icons of Crash's mug, each accompanied by a *cha-ching* sound.
Back Tracking: Levels, like "N. Sanity Beach" and "Cortex Power", require backtracking if the player wants to break all boxes, and some levels can't be cleared of boxes at all without earning gems from later levels first.
Blackout Basement: Levels "Lights Out" and "Fumbling in the Dark" barely have any light in them. For extra challenge, Aku Aku masks act as temporary lighting in them and If the player gets hit, they really are stuck fumbling in the dark.
Bonus Stage: There are three kinds of bonus stages; The Tawna stages that are mostly easy and act as save points, Brio stages that are much harder but provide plenty of of one-ups, and Cortex stages that are even harder but require to be completed for 100% Completion.
Boss Arena Idiocy: Sure thing Ripper, just jump in that exact same pattern so we can blow up the TNT right next to you.
Button Mashing: Pressing Square (the spin attack) too rapidly causes Crash to stall and make an odd noise. You have to wait a couple seconds before you're able to spin again. This was presumably put in so players couldn't just spin their way through everything. This feature was also present in the next two sequels.
Difficulty By Region: The first boss, Papu Papu, has five hit points in the Japanese version (instead of three) and after the third hit, he starts attacking faster. Also, the password system was removed, forcing you to rely on saves (which were limited to the Tawna Bonus Rounds and after getting gems).
On the other hand, part of the level "The High Road" was removed, "Sunset Vista" was moved later in the game (switched with "Slippery Climb"), and Aku Aku sometimes gives you hints.
Aku Aku's hints also appear in the Japanese versions ofthesequels.
In the PAL version, Ripper Roo jumps more slowly, but "The Lab" has only one checkpoint instead of two.
Dummied Out: "Stormy Ascent", the harder version of "Slippery Climb", was taken out at the last minute for being too difficult. It still exists in a mostly complete form (everything but the bonus level) and can be played with a Gameshark code.
Man-Eating Plant: Encountered in the early jungle stages, river stages and in one secret underground path.
No Death Run: Frustratingly, the only way to earn a gem is to break all the crates and not lose a single life.
You can get the gem after dying in a level - as long as you don't respawn from a checkpoint. Still really irritating though.
Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: There are some seemingly bottomless pits that actually contain hidden crates, available after the proper colored gem is acquired. Frustratingly, you die if you fall into the pit without physically touching the gem platform, even after you have the gem.
Boulders: while Indy Escape is used in later games too, this is the only time where the reference to Indiana Jones is this clear.
Boulder Dash: aside from the aforementioned Indy Escape thing, the level's name isn't just a pun on "balderdash" by itself; the fact you're running away from a boulder makes it a reference to the actual Boulder Dash game, too.