Men's Journal

CRASH IS KING

- By Matt Tuthill

With the launch of his new mobile game, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run, one

of the biggest names in gaming history is now fully unleashed on mobile—and out to prove he’s still got the speed and skills to capture the world’s attention. Just don’t call it a comeback. He’s been here for years.

Maybe choosing Top of the Rock for Crash Bandicoot’s Men’s Journal cover shoot wasn’t the smartest choice logistical­ly speaking. It’s cramped up here. The photograph­er’s assistants are wrestling with

lights and a reflective umbrella, looking like they might puke any minute,

nauseated by the dizzying height. But the famed photograph­er insisted this New York landmark wasn’t just a

great option, it was the only one.

“Crash Bandicoot is larger than

life,” she says matter-of-factly. ´You

don’t capture the hugeness of his

persona, his influence, or his place in

gaming lore by taking his portrait in a

studio. For a quarter of a century, the

world has been at his feet. And that’s

exactly what we’re here to portray.”

Her subject—that affable marsupial—is draped comfortabl­y in a director’s chair, munching a Wumpa fruit as a hair stylist fluffs up his shiny

orange coat.

´Not too much, darling,” the photograph­er warns. ´Neat is fine,

but this bandicoot is a creature of

raw, untamed energy.”

A smile cracks across his face. It’s typical for Crash to let his action do the talking since he burst onto the scene in 1996 in the original Crash Bandicoot for Playstatio­n One. A smash

hit, Crash’s first game redefined the

platformin­g genre for the 3D realm.

Two sequels followed, then Crash showed off his versatilit­y, branching

out into racing and party games.

The pure shot of adrenaline Crash delivered to players around the world soon proved too big to be contained

as a Sony exclusive. Once his rookie

contract expired in 2000, Crash was everywhere, appearing on virtually every

console and gaming device in a wide variety of genres over the next 20 years.

But the world changed. Smart phones became the gaming device of

the new millennium, and runners— which simplified gaming mechanics for

touch screens so players didn’t need to push their character through the environmen­t—exploded in popularity. Suddenly, the settings, aesthetics, and hallmark chaotic speed that Crash made

famous were now everywhere, but sapped of their heart and soul, lacking an it factor that couldn’t be replicated. In short: They simply weren’t Crash.

Luckily, fans won’t have to settle for imitations much longer. On March 25,

Crash will launch the 22nd game of his

storied career: a new mobile adventure,

Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! While the game fits neatly into the runner category, it’s so much more, offering a deep,

character-driven experience that marries the very best elements of runners and platformer­s.

Players will get a chance to guide

Crash on treacherou­sly complex runs, smashing crates, destroying enemies with TNT, and chomping down Wumpa

fruit in unique environmen­ts—from tropical jungles to snowcapped mountains to dangerous laboratori­es. Along

the way, they’ll engage in epic boss

battles against the creations of Crash’s

longtime nemesis, 'r. Neo Cortex.

´Look, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I assure you that’s

how Crash sees any game that apes his

style,” says Coco, Crash’s younger sister who will also be a playable character in the new game. “All of those games owe a creative debt to my big brother. Crash never felt a need to step forward

and say, ‘Hey! I can do that, too!’ It’s

always been self-evident. He made this game because he had something brand

new to offer fans and, trust me, it’s going to blow them away.”

Indeed, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!

appears set to revolution­ize the runner category, just as the original Crash Bandicoot changed platformin­g forever in 1996. The game is at once visually gorgeous, easy to learn, difficult to master and, befitting the times, social—players can cooperate and compete with one another. Moreover, no two Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! experience­s will ever be the same; Crash Points earned in-game make it endlessly customizab­le, putting myriad snappy character mods in the hands of the player.

Meanwhile, the cover shoot still

hasn’t begun thanks to the tight quarters; a large pile of wooden crates in the corner will have to move before the photograph­er has enough space to frame her subject. Crash notices the assistants struggling to lift them and

clears his throat to get their attention, then makes an ´Outta my way” motion

with his hand.

In the blink of an eye, Crash runs and jumps toward the top crate, spinning as he descends, annihilati­ng the

entire stack. Then he saunters over to

his mark near the edge of the roof, the

glorious New York City skyline behind him. He folds his arms and strikes a

pose, and she begins snapping photos in rapid fire.

´See?! What did I tell you?!” the

photograph­er shouts to the crew. “A

creature of pure energy! He wastes no time! He wastes no words! All action! I love it!”

Cover shoots typically last hours as photograph­ers goad their subjects into

dozens of poses and outfits, but after five minutes she reviews the images on the monitor and announces, ´When you know, you know. I’ve got my cover. Let’s get out of here.”

Next stop: Chelsea Piers sports complex on the Hudson River. Everyone piles into the photograph­er’s 1960 Volkswagen Bus—all except for Crash

who will, naturally, run.

quads. ´The wind in your fur, the bugs in your eyes...”

Keeping in peak physical condition has been essential as Crash gears up for the release of Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! which, for completion­ists, promises over 100 hours of gameplay. Crash lost track of how many miles he logged

in preparatio­n, Coco says.

´Oh, is this the part where I detail my routine?” Crash chimes in. ´Some

celebs think 20 seconds of bear crawls

is hard. Ha, try Bandicoot spins for five.”

As for food?

“Plant-based diets are all the rage

right now, but I’ve been ahead of the curve for years—wumpa fruit is all a Bandicoot body needs. Anyway, smell ya later!”

In a flash, he’s gone.

“He could run those 100 hours

straight through,” Coco says, watching

her brother disappear down the street.

´The running isn’t the issue. Again,

this isn’t your typical mobile game. It

has layers players aren’t expecting, but

will love all the same. The challenge

lies in the boss battles, maneuverin­g through tight and dangerous places, discoverin­g every secret, and finding hidden pathways.”

And with that comment, Coco

touches on something much deeper:

Consumers are drowning in choice,

and they don’t like it very much. By

the latest count from Statista, there are 957,390 games on the App Store. In such an oversatura­ted marketplac­e,

even casual gamers become jaded. Everyone thinks they’ve seen it all and no one wants more choices—they just

“SOME CELEBS THINK 20 SECONDS OF BEAR CRAWLS IS HARD. HA, TRY BANDICOOT SPINS FOR FIVE.”

want one choice that makes them feel great about never giving the other million a chance.

Gamers don’t just want fun. They want sustenance. And all signs point to the fact that Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! is going to be just the game to provide it. This might not be the answer to

humankind’s search for meaning, but

it will be the answer to the search for meaningful in-game progressio­n.

“Progressio­n is a very big part of

the new game,” Coco confirms. ´'r.

Neo Cortex—the mad scientist who’s responsibl­e for mutating me and my

brother, and gifting us with speech— well, he’s out to destroy us; and he’s

using power crystals to activate multiverse gateways and unleash a brandnew slew of enemies in our direction. Players are going to have to commit to continual improvemen­t…but we’ve made it so fun and progressiv­e, I think

they’ll do just fine.”

Coco pauses, gazing out the window.

´It’s Crash I worry about,” she

continues. “He’s so fearless, and it costs him sometimes. I’ve seen him get smooshed, shot, electrocut­ed, and blown up by so many precarious­ly placed TNT crates over the years. He’s always bounced back, but

this new game«it’s just so big.”

Coco’s uncharacte­ristic apprehensi­on is cut short as we arrive at the pier. We hop out and the assistants begin unloading. Inside, Crash is already waiting, having easily beaten us on foot. In the end, the photograph­er decides to leave most of her gear behind, reasoning, “Oh to hell with the lights. Let’s capture this animal in his

element!”

But as she says this, it suddenly seems like it might not be possible. Someone either intentiona­lly leaked our location or simply got too careless. As a result, a throng of fans is now pressed up against the front door and clamoring for Crash’s attention.

´We love you Crash!” screams one

fan who’s holding a sign that reads,

´C5ASH IS .IN*!”

Crash greets the crowd, showing off

his signature spin move as he signs

autographs and poses for selfies with

blinding speed. Somehow, everyone in attendance gets a piece of the action. They explode in applause—half thankful, half in awe of the otherworld­ly feat they’ve just witnessed.

When the hullabaloo dies down, the photograph­er asserts control. “Ready

when you are, darling,” she says. ´-ust do your thing.”

Crash hits the turf running at top

speed, spins, then vaults off the wall

until he’s hanging from the rafters,

some 50 feet off the ground. She snaps away as he effortless­ly parkours to

the far side of the room. He drops to the ground, then runs straight back at us, somersault­ing over the other athletes in his way, his

tongue carelessly flapping in the

breeze.

´Marvelous!” she shouts. ´Absolutely marvelous!”

This goes on for another 20 minutes, and it’s breathtaki­ng how easy he makes it all look.

´I’m not showing off,” Crash says. “Well, I’m not just showing off. The

more moves you’ve got in my new game, the more resources you’ll collect, then you can build an absolutely sick home base.”

This catches the attention of several folks who’ve stopped to admire the scene. Their eyes go wide in surprise.

´Oh yeah,” Crash continues. ´The

base is where you’ll mount each run from—and store your weapon arsenal. I can’t say much more than that for

now.”

The photograph­er reviews her monitor. ´3erfect. -ust perfect. We’re done here.”

Crash says thanks to the crew by way of a wink and a knowing smile, then runs for the door. Outside, he

shows off for the crowd one more time before flying down the street.

´I’m sorry,” Coco says. ´You didn’t

even get a chance to ask a question,

did you?”

She’s right, but it doesn’t matter. He told quite a story without saying much, just as he’s done in every game for the past 25 years.

Besides, murmurs from the crowd

fill in any gaps. The nervous anticipati­on for Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!

has electrifie­d this city—and the world.

One teenage fan, -ack, is wearing

a T-shirt with Crash’s portrait that reads “UNLEASHED on MOBILE,

March 25.”

He scolds his friend Thomas. “What do you mean you didn’t download it

yet?” -ack grabs his friend’s phone, and

after a few quick taps, hands it back.

“Done…seriously, though, what’s

wrong with you?”

Thomas looks thoroughly embarrasse­d as he mutters, “I don’t know…i guess I just forgot. Thanks for making me come down here today. Crash is one of the biggest gaming icons of the 90s.”

-ack stops dead in his tracks. ´Nineties?” he scoffs. ´No, no,

no dude. One of the biggest gaming

icons ever.”

And in just a matter of days—as Crash invades every phone on the planet—there won’t be any Thomases left to doubt it. ■

“PLANT-BASED DIETS ARE ALL THE RAGE RIGHT NOW, BUT I’VE BEEN AHEAD OF THE CURVE FOR YEARS—WUMPA FRUIT IS ALL A BANDICOOT BODY NEEDS. ANYWAY, SMELL YA LATER!”

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