With the Crash Bandicoot series seeing a resurgence following the launch of the N.Sane Trilogy back in 2016, it has followed in the footsteps of pretty much all popular gaming franchises and has received its own mobile spin-off. Crash: On the Run! Is an endless runner that strives to capture the look and feel of the orange marsupials main console titles, and it comes from Candy Crush developer King. The game is available now on Android and iOS platforms, and it can be downloaded and played for free.
Crash games haven't been exactly known for their storytelling prowess, but On the Run's narrative feels especially thin, as the plot synopsis is all that is really available to offer you an inkling into what is going on. Within the story, Dr. Neo Cortex is up to no good once again and he has summoned all of the villains under his control to try and take over many different dimensions. Playing as Crash and his sister Coco, it's up to you to stop these enemies in their tracks and banish them back to the dimensions where they originally came from.
Crash: On the Run! plays like your typical endless runner as you have no control over Crash's movement speed and you can only change his direction by swiping left or right. There are three different lanes that Crash can move between and these are filled with obstacles like boxes and enemies you'll need to spin and pits you'll need to jump over. The controls here are actually really easy to grasp, and the game doesn't feel too punishing as there are checkpoint crates like in the main series that enable you to maintain your progress.
The gameplay here is really split into three different sections. These see you fighting against enemies and bosses, crafting new items, and going on supply runs to gather new material. To be able to progress, you'll need to defeat a series of bosses and all of their henchmen, but before you're able to do that, you'll need to have the right weapons in your inventory. Each enemy and boss has their own requirement of weapons that you'll need and these items can be forged using materials that you will have gathered on special supply runs.
The boss battles have more of an action focus, as you'll need to switch lanes to dodge their attacks and sling collectible bombs at them to whittle down their health bar. Series favourites like Dingodile, Fake Crash, and Nitrus Brio make an appearance here, and there are even more obscure enemies that you can face like Lab Assistants from Crash 1 and the elemental masks from Wrath of Cortex. These encounters, whilst enjoyable at first, I found to get repetitive pretty quickly. You always inflict damage in the same way each time and bosses and enemies are frequently repeated with just slight variations to their moves and design.
Whilst I found the gameplay to be addictive, progression does feel painfully slow unless you're prepared to part with some hard-earned cash. Weapons that you forge can take up to 20 minutes at a time, and the materials that you require ramp up later on into the game. Due to this, progress can feel stagnant and it can take more than an hour in the later stretches to even take on an enemy. After reaching the sixth boss in the game, my patience completely faded and I lost interest in having to keep logging in to prepare materials.
Criticising a free-to-play mobile game on its microtransactions might seem a little unfair, but they have been implemented here in a way here where you feel disadvantaged if you don't pay up. By using the purchasable currency of purple crystals, there appears to be a shortcut for pretty much everything. For example, these crystals can be used to pick up right where you left off after dying or to unlock any items that you are lacking when it comes to crafting weapons. These microtransactions and deals are also really intrusive and are flashed in your face pretty much every time you complete a run and return back to the map screen.
Something that I really appreciated though was how faithful On the Run! felt to the main series. The levels that you run throughout share motifs seen with Crash's classic adventures and many classic music tracks make their return. The purchasable skins here also span across the entirety of the series with Biker Crash from Warped and Blue Hyena Crash from Nitro-Fuelled being my two personal favourites. Essentially, the game doesn't feel like a lazy cash grab in this regard, and it was fun to see so many little call-backs to older titles.
I can also honestly say that it was one of the best looking mobile games I have ever played
(I played it on a Sony Xperia 5 II). The visuals are brought to life by many bright colours and the shadows and lighting effects look really impressive for a mobile title. Sure, it's not going to compare to Crash's recent outings like It's About Time and The N. Sane Trilogy, but at the same time, it's not a hugely jarring leap in quality when moving between these games.
It might be dedicated to its source material, but Crash: On the Run! feels too bogged down with microtransactions and repetitive gameplay to be truly worth your while. Without paying up, it felt like I was at a severe disadvantage, and the grind to gather items and craft them into weapons just felt a little too tedious. It does, however, show some fleeting glimpses of potential, as its graphics are impressive for a mobile game, and it has clearly been crafted by fans of the series, but it sadly pales in comparison to many of Crash's latest outings.
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