Crash is coming back with a new console game, Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, but that’s not the only new appearance from the long-dormant wacky mascot. Crash Bandicoot: On the Run is a mobile runner that adapts the familiar platformer gameplay into a mobile runner from King.
The announcement notes that this Crash game adds elements like crafting and base-building, with plenty of references to classic environments, characters, and bosses. The story revolves around Dr. Neo Cortex taking control of the multiverse, allowing for classic stages like Temple Ruins, Turtle Woods, and Bear It.
The game is coming to iOS and Android devices, but in the meantime you can pre-register through the official site to unlock a Blue Hyena skin from Crash Team Racing: Nitro Refueled.
GameSpot spoke with Stephen Jarrett, creative lead of Crash Bandicoot: On The Run, about how the studio stayed true to Crash’s legacy and its plans to support it long term.
GameSpot: Crash Bandicoot was always a runner. But now you’re coming into this established “runner” genre. What was that transition like?
Jarrett: Whenever I was first thinking of this game, we had an early prototype, which was a way to elevate the runner. And that was like to have something that wasn’t an endless runner, but could have a lot of depth and height in the environments and see how far we could really push it, and to also have a strong sense of progression.
So when I found out that could be a possibility to work with a Crash game, it just fit like a jigsaw piece together. One of the things that I really like about Crash Bandicoot: On The Run is that, besides being a new adventure, you unlock all these lands from the past 20 years of Crash’s history. And every single land has completely new mechanics and new enemies and bosses. And that’s something that I think that Crash is famous for, is just all those different mechanics as you progress through the game.
I think it’s starting to feel like almost like the Crashiest Crash game ever, in a way, because we’re drawing from 20 full years of Crash games. And as the story is about all these multiverses and Doctor Neo Cortex is pulling through all these bosses. We’re able to pull through all these enemies and all these bosses that definitely existed in any Crash game before us.
What were your goals in elevating the runner genre? What did you see as the shortcomings of the genre that you wanted to improve on?
So there’s a few things. I think one is just having different mechanics, different feelings, as you go through as if you’re running through different lands. That was always really important for us. So it felt like the more you play the runner, the more that you unlock and experience new things.
And instead of having an endless run, there are these lands that you can actually explore. So making those decisions like, “Oh, I’m going to go left because I know that item is down there.” Or, “Oh, I’m going to go through the cave. And then through the secret path on the right because I know that’s where I can find these special items.” We want you to have this sense of exploration that has never been seen in runners.
That’s interesting, runners aren’t usually known for having a sense of place where you can make a mental map in your head.
I’d love to players to be able to share that information. So if something new appears in the land, you’ll be able to say, “Oh, [this secret] is past the giant bear statue.” If you go and see that giant statue, and you’ll know exactly where that is because you started learning that land. So socially you’ll be able to chat about areas and where secrets are turning up.
The trailer showed more variety of moves than I would have expected from a runner. How do you approach having that level of finesse, but also keep the controls simple and easy to pick up?
We’re making sure it runs at 60 FPS. I think it has to, in order to make it feel smooth. The different moves that he has, I mean, you can play Crash and Coco at any time in the game, which I think is really cool. Both of them have belly flops, they can spin. Crash has such a nice pace and a nice rhythm to him as he goes.
It’s thinking of ways about how the player can chain those moves together to do really fun things. And then our animator, who’s incredible, he puts these nice little touches in. So if you just let Crash just run without touching the screen and you’re running for a while, he’ll turn back and wipe his brow. Or when he jumped on the mushroom, he’ll just look back at you and just smile. So it has all these little tweaks to kind of really get over his crazy and but goofy, mischievous personality.
The trailer mentioned weapon crafting as well. Can you share more details on how that works?
I think in the trailer, you’ll see that he’s got a bazooka. But one of the things that we’ve done in Crash Bandicoot: On The Run is to have a base to the game. And that’s an area of raw progression and it’s where Coco is using scavenged Neo Cortex tech to create machines. And she uses these machines to make things, weapons. And it’s these weapons that her and Crash use to bash these bosses back to different dimensions.
And so how the game plays is that you play Crash or Coco, you run around these lands, collecting the ingredients, that are then used at the base to kind of craft these weapons. The other cool thing about the base is you can actually unlock new areas of the base as you progress through the game. You’ll start to see there’s kind of little clues in there of things that you can build that will take you to kind of classic Crash adventures and classic Crash game play. But it’s also a place to show off your trophies.
How many bosses from the old Crash games are we going to see?
Oh man, so we are pulling really deep. One of my favorite ones is that in, I believe it was 1998, there was a Tiger Electronics 99X handheld. And that has a boss on it called Mr. Crumb. This is probably a bit cheeky of us, but he’s kind of a fan favorite. People were petitioning to get into a Crash game. So we thought, “Oh man, we have to have him in our game.” That’s quite a deep lost boss that is going to appear in our game.
And then because of themes of portals, we can bring in a lot of old bosses and fan favorites as we actually create the game. When you create the mobile game, it has to last for years, right? Releasing it is when you really start working on the game because then you’re writing seasons. Having all this Crash history to pull from is just like it’s great.
So you’ll be adding more bosses and more seasons. How is that going to work? And can you talk at all about how monetization will work?
Yeah, it’s absolutely free to play. It would have been really easy to monetize Crash through lives, right? I mean, that’s a common thing in free-to-play games. But we decided not to do that in this game, mainly because dying in Crash is kind of fun. He has all these great death animations. And also as a runner, and based on Crash, you want to take risks to get certain items. And I didn’t like the idea of you being punished for dying for taking those risks. So if you die in our game, you are not penalized at all. You keep everything you’ve collected and we encourage you to take crazy gameplay risks to kind of do things.
We’re looking at adding battle passes for the game. And we’re hoping players will invest in the game through customization of Crash and Coco. But we’re still working on monetization at the moment. We’re definitely not planning to do the obvious, which is to put energy in the game or to monetize through lives.
And how will new seasons work?
The current plan is to, as the game gets past launch, we’re releasing some steady theme seasons with new stories and new kind of crazy plans from Cortex and various other characters. And there’ll be battle passes attached to that with customization.
A lot of games that have ongoing content need to offer new things to the players who are most invested and most experienced at it, so it gets harder and harder. How do you look to appease the players who are Crash masters while also keeping a nice onboarding process for new players?
One of the things that we have at the moment [is] challenge runs. These runs are for hardcore Crash platformers, right? You unlock time trials, you unlock challenge runs. These are there for the more diehard players. So I would say the core of the game is for everyone, and then there’s these really cool challenge runs for the more daring players.
This is sort of coming out during a resurgence of Crash. There’s a new Crash console game coming. Has there been any cross-pollination in terms of story tie-ins or art assets?
We exist in the timeline where every other Crash game exists in our timeline. In the future, we might have some sort of cross-pollination. And I think altogether, it’s just so great to work in and play in this Crash world.
What makes now the time for Crash? We had a slow build up with fan demands and the cameo in Uncharted. Why now?
I mean, I think he’s a loved character. I think he’s this crazy, like a goofy, mischievous, yet heroic danger-loving hero. And then you’ve got Coco, who’s highly intelligent and she’s just as heroic as Crash as his younger sister. I think they’re just really beloved. I mean, I know everyone on my team. We all played these games 20 years ago. And when we announced to the team that we were working on Crash, a lot of us felt a kind of heritage of this game. Sometimes the right kind of game genre comes along and the right kind of prototype comes along and it just fits perfectly.