"14-Year Anniversary of Crash Bandicoot Passes By Largely Unnoticed" is an Onion headline from 2010, and it's true: Naughty Dog's version of Sonic and Mario was an unofficial PlayStation mascot, but Crash Bandicoot didn't achieve the iconic status of his forebears. Still, when rumours of a Bandicoot reboot circulated in February, I was pumped. My siblings and I asked for consoles every year, even though our parents forbade video games. But on Christmas Eve 1999, my dad went rogue. Maybe he couldn't bear another year lying about how Mario Teaches Typing for PC is fun. Maybe he figured it was almost Y2k anyway, why not give us a taste of gaming before all our electronics frizzled in a millennium-induced power surge? Whatever his reasoning, when we finished opening the mum-sanctioned gifts, my dad told us to check what Santa had left behind our armchair. We found a new PlayStation with two games: Madden NFL 2000 and the first Crash Bandicoot.
I had just turned 13 and developed bacne. My best friend had just started dating a football player, so she was always at Taco Bell with him and the other girls with boyfriends. Not only did I have no one to hang out with, I couldn't even get a Taco Supreme because then I'd have to run into them. The only place to turn was the PlayStation. I wasn't about to play Madden while my friends were out with real life football players, it was too pathetic. So I turned to my new friend, a 'coot with a 'tude.
Assessing Crash Bandicoot as an adult, the character is so clearly an attempt to do 'edgy Sonic'. Co-creator Andy Gavin even admits the original concept was literally nicknamed "Sonic's Arse". Crash burps, he shouts, he does a double-thumbs up gesture. He wears denim capris. He's Poochy from The Simpsons with a dash of Bonkers from Bonkers.
The list of offences goes on: The original game's damsel-in-distress is a placid, shapely lady-bandicoot named Tawna. The villain is a balloon-headed mad scientist caricature. There's an inexplicable Tiki-themed witch doctor named Aku Aku, trapped inside a gibberish-spewing mask. But from my first whirl into a box of TNT, I was into it.
For me, Crash wasn't a knockoff. He lived in a dangerous tropical world, and he wasn't afraid to show his butt. He just wanted scientists to stop messing with nature, man. Instead of silently zooming around like Sonic, Crash yelled "Woah!" when he messed up. He wasn't pudgy like Mario. Crash was jacked.
The game wasn't particularly original, but it had plenty of merits. It looked like a Pixar movie. It was fun. I had zero social victories that December but felt a personal sense of achievement when I figured out how to move beyond N.Sanity Island. Inhabiting the colourful world of a fictional bandicoot was a psychic salve, no matter how try-hard his mohawk looked.
Crash is probably not coming back. But if my favourite pixellated marsupial does make a return, I hope it's the crazy-eyed dope from the original game in a classic platformer. I'm confident there will be plenty of other innovative gaming franchises in the future. There's room to bring back one corny game that helps tweens forget their standing dermatologist appointment.