If there’s one word you can’t, or shouldn’t, use to describe a Crash Bandicoot game it’s easy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t play Crash to chill out – I play it when I’m in the mood to be on the edge of my seat, tensely gripping my controller, and hoping I don’t inevitably mess up for the hundredth time. High Road, I’m looking at you.
Yet that’s exactly how I’d describe Crash Bandicoot: On the Run, King’s latest mobile release. It sure looks the part, with its wonderful cartoon-y visuals whisking you back to the ’90s, and it sure feels it too. All of Crash’s signature moves are here, including jumping, spinning, sliding, and ground-stomping. Okay, maybe not all of his moves.
It feels like a joy though. You tap to spin, and swipe up to jump, down to slide, and left and right to switch lanes. Anyone who’s played an endless runner before will feel right at home. It doesn’t break the mold, but then it doesn’t really need to.
Except when it does. I’ve often felt that Crash is the perfect candidate for an endless runner. In many ways, it was the first one – if you’ve played a boulder level, or indeed any level where you can’t stop, it does serve as a convincing template for a runner.
And, indeed, when I first played On the Run you I was surprised by how much it feels like Crash. Sadly, it doesn’t last though, as it’s missing that quintessential crash ingredient: pure, unadulterated, phone-throwing rage.
It’s just too easy. Levels are split up into various different challenges, but the bread and butter are the boss battles and traditional endless runs. We’ll come onto the latter in a second, but it’s the boss battles that should prove the most challenging. However, they all amount to the same concept: run to boss, smash crates and enemies on the way, dodge boss attacks, maybe chuck a bomb or two, tap screen to throw a vial. Job done.
To enter a boss battle, you need to craft a vial in the first place, and you do so on your hub island. Here, you can switch costumes for both Coco and Crash, who are equally playable, participate in seasonal events (the first is live as we write), and build stuff. It looks like there’ll be a lot to do here as you progress and King pops out updates, but right now it’s a bit barebones.
2D sections would have been nice, to break up the play a bit
So, these vials. You need ingredients to craft them, which you can get from collection runs. These challenge you to run as long as you can, collecting a bunch of ingredients along the way. You can run in the various different islands and locations you unlock, and each provides you with different ingredients. These are finite though, so there will come a time each day where you can’t earn any more. Come back later, and they’ll reset.
A mode I do like in particular is Survival Runs. These allow up to three players to run at the same time (I haven’t determined if this is real-time or asynchronous yet) to collect trophies. You need to be in a team (a guild, basically) to participate, and the more trophies you collect, the higher you’ll climb on the leaderboard, earning rewards. Again, this mode only provides you with a finite number of runs per day.
Lastly, there are challenges to complete for each island, but I haven’t unlocked these just yet. At a glance, it looks like these will involve collecting Relics and Gems, which is a nice returning feature.
Aside from the lack of challenge, my biggest disappointment with On the Run is a lack of variety in gameplay. 2D sections would have been nice, to break up the play a bit, as well as boulder, bridge, jet ski, and any other type of signature Crash modes. It might well be that King introduces this stuff later, or that it’s hiding hundreds of hours away on another island, but I haven’t seen any just yet.
Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about On the Run. It gets the basics right, and provides enough to keep you coming back daily, but it’s definitely missing a few ingredients. Add these in and it’s the mobile Crash game we’ve always wanted.