The Secret History of Crash Bandicoot
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Ever since he first appeared on the Sony PlayStation in 1996, this manic marsupial has thrilled fans across the world from his home of the Wumpa Islands, deep in the southern hemisphere. Mutated into an anthropomorphized biped creature, complete with bright blue shorts, red shoes and demented gaze, Crash has since then continually foiled the despicable plans of his arch-nemesis, Doctor Neo Cortex. With the release today of Crash Team Racing update Nitro-Fueled, Antstream takes a look back at the secret history of this fantastic series. Bring on the crates!
Despite its reputation as the console that pushed gaming into the homes of twenty-somethings, complete with a new world-wide acceptance of the medium as a more mature pursuit, the PlayStation still needed its cartoon heroes. Taking inspiration from a variety of sources such as Donkey Kong and Sonic The Hedgehog, Naughty Dog devised the concept of a diminutive bandicoot, forced to defend his home from the evil (and very Moreau-esque) Doctor Neo Cortex, and rescue his friend, Tawna. Tearing through the island jungles with ferocious pace, Crash can jump, smash crates, pounce and spin, all of which are needed should he hope to succeed. While primarily platform in nature, the addition of vehicles and fellow creatures to ride adds variation, as do the Wumpa fruit collectibles and a range of crates, each boasting individual features. Bright, colourful and frantic, the original Crash Bandicoot was a PlayStation exclusive, and kick-started this fabulous series with a bang, a wallop and, yes, a CRASH!
Buoyed by its success, Naughty Dog began work on a sequel, introducing new characters and pitching its star into a desperate scramble to retrieve the pink power crystals that can help save the planet Earth from a cataclysmic solar flux. In fact a dastardly plan to brainwash the world by Crash’s archenemy, Dr. Cortex, aided by his new assistant, Dr. N. Gin, Crash teams up with his sister, Coco, to destroy the deadly Cortex Vortex and defeat the megalomaniac once more. With its shallow nod to open world, the warp room, and continuation of the gameplay that made the first game so popular, Cortex Strikes Back was another hit. A year later, Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped followed on directly, with the Cortex Vortex crashing on Earth and unleashing powerful demons, who are soon in league with Dr. Cortex to try and enslave the world once more. Replacing the warp room hub is the Time-Twisting machine, which leads to five different areas. Within each of these lay several levels which contain the magical crystals that Crash and Coco must collect in order to stop Cortex and his nefarious chums. As the name of the hub suggests, the game takes place over several time zones, expanding the story from the present-day jungle to prehistoric and medieval times, complete with cute dinosaurs and stone castles.
The next game in the Crash Bandicoot story was to be Naughty Dog’s last, and a change of direction that has inspired the marsupial’s latest adventure. Crash Team Racing (1999) taps into the popular kart racing genre, mixing in plenty of the wacky humour with which the series had already become associated with. Most of the characters from the earlier games are present, from the steady all-rounder Crash himself, to his sister Coco (improved acceleration) and enemies such as Dingodile, who boast fast, yet unwieldy karts. The chief opponent is an alien named Nitros Oxide, the galaxy’s modestly self-proclaimed king of racing, and he must be defeated if Earth is to avoid being turned into a parking lot. With its substantial choice of modes and tracks, Crash Team Racing is another solid outing for the loveable furry hero, albeit one that slightly disappointed those expecting another platform adventure. Having shifted focus to its new series, Jak and Daxster, Naughty Dog gave way to Eurocom for Crash’s next game, and another fresh direction for the series. Moving into the world of multiplayer party gaming, in Crash Bash up to four players can compete against in a series of frenzied mini-games. From the Pong-inspired Ballistix arena to Crate Crush (where each player hurls, erm, crates, at each other) and Tank Wars (think Atari’s Combat, but with Crash Bandicoot characters), each game is chaotic fun, especially when played with friends.
Crashing into the 21st Century came Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath Of Cortex, released on the next generation of consoles in 2001. Sticking to the spirit of the first three games, this sixth entry pitches the hero once more against the heinous Dr. Cortex. Able to play as either Crash or Coco, there’s a familiar central axis (this time dubbed the ‘VR Hub System’) as our heroes take on multiple chambers, collecting crystals and Wumpa fruit (again), battling the forces of Dr. Cortex (again) and smashing crates (again…). Yes, as you may have guessed, Wrath Of Cortex is stoically more of the same, something picked up on by critics of the time. But the fans lapped it up, especially on the PlayStation 2, and the game was a massive hit, ensuring further entries of this feverish series.
Skipping swiftly past the 2002 and 2003 Game Boy Advance spin offs, The Huge Adventure and N-Tranced, both of which advanced (groan) the main Crash story to popular acclaim, and Crash Nitro Kart, which extended the racing action of Crash Team Racing on the Advance, PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox, the next game appeared in 2004. Traveller’s Tales’ Twinsanity introduces a considerably wider open world aesthetic to Crash Bandicoot, and is regarded by many fans as the best of the latter games. Pervaded with the usual humour, action and fun, Twinsanity represents a necessary diversion from the linear levels that have dominated the series in the past, as Crash teams up with Cortex to defeat a pair of evil parrots. Yes, parrots.
The third Crash racing game, Crash Tag Team Racing, followed in 2005 before Crash Bash got its own update in the form of the Nintendo DS game Crash Boom Bang a year later. Then, in 2007, the loveable red-furred mammal made his last-gen debut with Crash Of The Titans, officially number fourteen in the series, with Dr. Cortex firmly re-installed as the main antagonist, having kidnapped Coco and determined to take over Wumpa by turning its inhabitants into the eponymous titans. Leaning heavily towards combat, with the platforming taking a back seat, Crash Of The Titans is another strong Crash adventure relying on individual and boss battles. Developed by Radical Entertainment, it spawned 2008’s Mind Over Mutant, a more story-based game than its predecessor, yet still focused on individual combat between Crash and his opponents, the minions of Drs. Neo Cortex and Nitrus Brio.
Until today, Mind Over Mutant is the last original Crash story, although 2017 and 2018 brought us a revitalised Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped to the PlayStation 4, PC, Switch and Xbox One, housed within the N. Sane compilation. Published by Activision and developed by Beenox, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled now looks set to continue the enduring tale of everyone’s favourite red-furred, overexcited and mutated marsupial.
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