Crash Bandicoot: On The Run is a free-to-play on-rails runner that aims to bring the beloved 90s platformer to mobile. Featuring a story that sees Crash and friends taking on Doctor Neo Cortex once again, you’ll find yourself facing a number of iconic bosses from the series across several recognisable areas.
On paper, it’s the perfect mobile game for any die-hard Crash Bandicoot fan. Unfortunately, the reality is different.
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Crash As You Know It, Kind Of
On The Run plays like a hybrid of classic Crash Bandicoot and Temple Run. Each level has three lanes for you to run between. Crash must jump, slide and dodge his way out of danger, facing many obstacles, enemies and bosses along the way. If there’s one thing On The Run does really nail, it’s the feeling of controlling Crash. Considering this is a character we’ve always directed using a controller, it’s surprising how well the team behind it has translated that to a touch screen.
The basic gameplay loop in On The Run goes like this: collect enough materials to fight bosses, fight bosses. Material collection forms the basic structure of the game’s economy, and in order to progress, you’ll either need to collect loads of items or pay. There are collection levels that you can play, but they are time-limited. Collect all the items in a level and you'll have to wait to refill.
It may look and play similar to classic Crash Bandicoot, but On The Run misses one vital element of that classic formula - difficulty. Now I’m not stupid, I know why On The Run is easy, but the need to keep players engaged feels like it disrespects what made the game so popular. Fortunately, one area in the game provides that classic crash feeling.
Challenge Mode breaks away from the open nature of the On The Run’s main levels. Each level is tougher, with more enemies and obstacles, and there’s usually only one correct route per level. Challenge mode is the closest On The Run comes to feeling like a Crash Bandicoot.
A Series Of Adverts
When On The Run isn’t being a Crash game, it mostly feels like watching one big series of adverts, one after the other. The developers geared everything in this game towards the economy, spending money and watching adverts. There are adverts for content inside the game, there are adverts that promote other games, and you can even watch adverts to double your number of items collected.
If it’s not an advert, On The Run persistently attempts to sell you gems. Gems are an in-game currency that enable players to skip waiting times. For each boss, you’ll need to craft potions made from collected items. As I’ve already stated, there’s a waiting time for item replenishment on islands, and there’s also a waiting time to create the potions you’ll need to fight bosses. On The Run uses waiting as an incentive for players to buy gems and skip those waiting times.
There is one area of the game in which I found myself having a lot of fun, and that’s On The Run’s survival mode. You are pitted against two other players and must survive for as long as possible. It’s a simple concept, but one that works surprisingly well. Watching two other players scramble to survive alongside you really amps up the pressure. The only downside is that it can be quite hard to find human players, as many of my runs involved bots.
In isolation and with reasonable balancing, I don’t mind free-to-play systems that expect players to wait. Similar, less aggressive systems have been used to great effect in other mobile titles. There’s just something about the way On The Run mixes its economy, advertising and waiting system which really rubs me the wrong way. It might be the fact that a beloved video game icon is tied up in this corporate cash grab, or maybe I’m just tired of watching the same adverts repeatedly.
Crash Bandicoot: On The Run is a fun, but overly simple mobile rendition of one of gaming’s greatest mascots. Overly aggressive advertising and an in-game economy that doesn’t respect players’ time sour what could have been a memorable endless runner.
It’s less 'On The Run', and more endlessly waiting around.
Reviewed on iOS
Review access provided by the publisher