There’s a level in the first Crash Bandicoot called Lights Out. Twenty years before the short film and movie of the same name, before I’d watched The Blair Witch Project, before I filled my brain with the nightmares of modern horror that lurk in the dark, Lights Out terrified me

If, after two decades, you don’t still have the worrying muscle memory to tap in the 24-symbol super password to unlock all levels and reach the Lights Out level immediately, let me explain its beautifully simple concept. Our favourite orange marsupial lands in a long castle corridor in almost darkness. An Aku Aku crate sits close by. Crash spins the crate and, as if by magic, the claustrophobic corridor ahead is flooded with light. Run though, it doesn’t stay that way for long. If you don’t manage to reach another crate in time, darkness falls once more, the light from Aku Aku shrinking to a mere spotlight.  

It’s perfect. The gently menacing music is peppered with whispers and hisses, there are platforms that fall if you stay on them too long and rats with glowing red eyes that scuttle forwards and require a speedy leap to avoid. I would play, eyes glued to the TV, unblinking as I attempted to make it to the next checkpoint where I would bathe in the light before holding my breath and attempting the next section. Looking at it now, this was the beginning of the end for my career in anything other than finding new ways to scare myself silly. Sorry, mum.  

I look at Lights Out now and I see an excellent concept and some good platforming, but back then I could feel the weight of the enormous silent castle around this one lone corridor. Hear the dragging feet in other perhaps identical floors above. I could feel watchful eyes on me in the dark. Nothing actually happened when the lights went off. Nothing grabbed you from the dark. You just had to attempt to fumble your way along to the next section without inevitably falling into a hole, but anything could have been out there. The potential for Crash meeting a previously unseen grisly end was apparently limitless. 

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