Hey there, readers! Guess what, if you’re over the age of 20, I found something to make you feel old! It’s the fact there hasn’t been a Crash Bandicoot game since 2008 and modern gamers may not even know who he is. I know, it’s sad in more ways than one, but to counter act this realisation, let’s cling to some nostalgia and take a look at one of my favourite childhood games; Crash Team Racing.
For those of you who don’t know, Crash Team Racing was essentially Naughty Dog’s answer to Mario Kart. It starred Crash Bandicoot, a highly evolved bandicoot with a penchant for jumping on things, and a full cast of his friends such as Coco, Polar and Dr. Cortex, among others. The story goes that Crash and his friends were about to enter a kart racing tournament when suddenly an evil alien called Nitrous Oxide shows up, claiming that he’s the fastest racer in the galaxy. Nitrous challenges Crash and Co. to a race between their fastest racer and himself, and if Nitrous wins, the entire earth will be enslaved. The earths fate rests on a kart racing bandicoot, what more do you need to know?!
At the time Crash Team Racing released, I was 5 years old, though I probably didn’t start playing until 6 or 7. In true ‘little girl gamer’ fashion, I defaulted to playing Crash’s little sister character, Coco Bandicoot, with her little pink kart and a delightfully evil giggle every time she managed to hit someone with a trap. I loved that character! I used to imitate her laugh, which in retrospect explains so much about the person I’ve become. I think literally the only times when I didn’t pick Coco, I’d be picking her cute little pet tiger Pura or the adorable polar bear, aptly named Polar, thus proving that no matter how tomboyish your daughter is, she will still rush for the adorable characters if given half a chance.
I used to spend hours doing the single player campaign of this game, but the main thing I always remember is playing against my brother. We had a fairly typical sibling relationship, basically he was a dumb dumb older brother and I refused to be beaten by him. So every time we played, whether it started out as friendly or not, I would accuse him of cheating when he beat me and refuse to play thereafter. This kept up for years, on every family holiday, every christmas, every school break I’d be trying to get my brother and the rest of my family to play, because I really just clung to the idea that racing would be more fun with rockets. What more could a little girl with a maniacal laugh and a serial killer stare ask for, am I right?!
Okay, so considering it’s been maybe about 10 years since I’ve played this game, and about 3 generations of consoles have passed since then, the only way for me to play this now is on emulator. I also recognise that with 10 years of down time, and the fact that I outright suck at Mario Kart, I’m pretty terrible at this game. I can’t aim bombs, I can’t power slide the corners, and I’d be damn surprised if I could do some of the sky tracks without falling off immediately. But I can still enjoy myself, immersing myself in the pretty colours, crazy characters and cheerful soundtrack. Not to mention the little jokes I would have completely missed as a kid, such as Coco creating an internet dating company in her ending. I also see the very clever subliminal message that since you have to collect ‘wumpa fruit’ to make your kart go faster, I may have been tricked into thinking fruit was good for me as a child. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but either way, thanks Naughty Dog!
The most striking thing for me is the reminder of what Naughty Dog used to be. We’re all fairly familiar with Naughty Dog’s recent titles like The Last of Us and Uncharted, both of them being somewhat gritty realistic games. So looking back and seeing that they made such a colorful, crazy, off-the-walls franchise like Crash Bandicoot is actually pretty weird. It’s true everyone has to start somewhere, but think about if Crash were released today. It’d probably barely make it out of the indie market by today’s standards! But the company that made that is responsible for practically an oceans worth of gamers tears. They’re heralded as creative geniuses with half the gaming community hinging on what they do next. It’s a pretty mind boggling reminder that great things start off in small places.