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Crash Bandicoot (video game)

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Crash Bandicoot
Crash Bandicoot Cover.png
North American box art
Developer(s)Naughty Dog
Publisher(s)Sony Computer Entertainment
Director(s)Jason Rubin
Producer(s)David Siller
Programmer(s)Andy Gavin
Dave Baggett
Artist(s)Charles Zembillas
Joe Pearson
Bob Rafei
Composer(s)Josh Mancell
SeriesCrash Bandicoot
  • NA: September 9, 1996
  • EU: November 8, 1996

Crash Bandicoot is a 1996 platform video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation. It is the first installment in the Crash Bandicoot series, chronicling the creation of the title character at the hands of series antagonist Doctor Neo Cortex and henchman Doctor Nitrus Brio. The story follows Crash as he aims to prevent Brio and Cortex's plans for world domination, and rescue his girlfriend Tawna, a female bandicoot also evolved by Cortex and Brio.

Crash Bandicoot was released to generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the game's graphics and unique visual style, but criticized its controls and lack of innovation as a platform game. The game went on to sell over 6 million units, making it the eighth best-selling PlayStation game,[1] and the highest selling ranked on sales in the United States.[2] A remastered version, included in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy collection, was released for the PlayStation 4 in June 2017, and ported to other platforms the following year.


Crash comes across various crates throughout the game (pictured), many of which contain Wumpa Fruit. When 100 Wumpa Fruits are collected, the player earns an extra life.

Crash Bandicoot is a platform game in which players control the titular protagonist, Crash, as he traverses 32 levels in sequence in order to progress. Crash is able to defeat enemies by either jumping on them or using a spinning attack that launches them. Crash will lose a life if he is hit by an enemy or obstacle, or falls into a bottomless pit. Crash can protect himself by collecting Aku Aku masks, which protect Crash from a single hit from an enemy or obstacle (but not pits or other instant-death obstacles). Crash can hold onto two masks at a time and, upon collecting a third mask, will gain temporary invincibility. The game ends when the player runs out of lives, with more lives earned by finding extra life items or by collecting 100 Wumpa Fruits.[3]

Scattered throughout each level are various types of crates, most of which contain items such as Wumpa Fruit and Aku Aku masks, which can be broken by jumping on or spinning into them.[4] Other types of crate include checkpoint crates, which lets players resume their progress after losing a life, arrow crates which Crash can bounce on, and explosive TNT crates that explode upon being broken, or following a timer that activates by jumping on them. Certain crates, including steel platform crates, are invisible, requiring the player to hit an exclamation box to make them tangible.[5] If the player clears a level with all crates broken without dying, they will earn a gem.[6] Additional gems can be obtained through hidden levels or alternative routes, and some gems are required to access new areas. Collecting all gems in the game allows the player to reach its true ending.[7] If the player manages to collect enough bonus icons, they will be warped to a Bonus Stage which, upon completion, will allow the player to save their progress, either via memory card or password.[8]


In a southeast Australian archipelago, Dr. Neo Cortex and his assistant, Dr. Nitrus Brio, use a device called the "Evolvo-Ray" to mutate the various animals living on the islands into beasts with superhuman strength and high intelligence. Among their experiments is Crash, a peaceful bandicoot who Cortex intends to be the leader of an army of animal soldiers.[9][10] Despite Brio's warnings, Cortex subjects Crash to the untested Cortex Vortex in an attempt to control him.[11] The Vortex rejects Crash, allowing him to escape.[12][13][a] After Crash leaps out a window and falls to the ocean below, Cortex prepares a female bandicoot named Tawna to be used in Crash's place.[15] Having grown attached to Tawna during their time in captivity, Crash resolves to rescue her and defeat Cortex, aided by the spirit guardian Aku Aku, who wishes to drive Cortex from the island.[13]

From the beach of N. Sanity Island,[16] Crash traverses through the islands, defeating a hostile tribal chieftain named Papu Papu,[17] and taking down Cortex's minions, including the deranged kangaroo Ripper Roo,[18] the muscular Koala Kong,[19] and the gangster Pinstripe Potoroo.[20] Within Cortex's castle, Crash is confronted by Brio inside his laboratory. Brio drinks several chemicals to mutate himself into a monster. While Crash successfully defeats Brio, the castle laboratory catches on fire during the struggle. Crash escapes to Cortex's airship, where he confronts his creator as the castle burns.[21] Cortex attacks him with a plasma gun, but Crash deflects his own projectiles against him and sends Cortex falling out of the sky. Tawna embraces Crash as the two escape the burning castle on Cortex's airship.[22]


Gavin and Rubin co-created the concept for Crash Bandicoot during a cross-country trip from Boston to Los Angeles.


Before presenting Way of the Warrior to Mark Cerny of Universal Interactive Studios, Naughty Dog was signed on to the company for three additional games.[23] In August 1994, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin began their move from Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California.[24] Before leaving, Gavin and Rubin hired Dave Baggett, their first employee and a friend of Gavin's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Baggett would not start working full-time until January 1995. During the trip, Gavin and Rubin studied arcade games intensely and noticed that racing, fighting and shooting games had begun making a transition into full 3D rendering. Sensing opportunity, they turned to their favorite video game genre, the character-based action-platform game, and asked themselves what a three-dimensional version of such a game would be like.[25] Because the player would be forced to constantly look at the character's rear, the hypothetical game was jokingly called "Sonic's Ass Game".[23][25] The basic technology for the game and the Crash Bandicoot series as a whole was created somewhere near Gary, Indiana. The rough game theory was designed near Colorado. Soon afterward, Gavin and Rubin threw out their previous game design for Al O. Saurus and Dinestein, a side-scrolling video game based on time travel and scientists genetically merged with dinosaurs.[24]

In August 1994, Naughty Dog moved into their new Universal City, California offices and met with Mark Cerny.[23] The group unanimously liked the "Sonic's Ass Game" idea and debated on what video game system the game would be for. Deciding that the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, Atari Jaguar, Sega 32X, and Sega Saturn were unsatisfactory options due to poor sales and "clunky" development units, the team chose to develop the game for Sony's PlayStation due to the console's "sexy" nature[25] and the company's lack of an existing competing mascot character.[26] After signing a developer agreement with Sony, Naughty Dog paid $35,000 for a PlayStation development unit and received the unit in September 1994.[24][25] A development budget of $1.7 million was set for the game,[27][28] and former Sunsoft director David Siller was hired to be the producer.

Character and art design[edit]

Before the development of Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog wanted to do what Sega and Warner Bros. did while designing their respective characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and the Tasmanian Devil, and incorporate an animal that was "cute, real, and no one really knew about". The team purchased a field guide on Tasmanian mammals and selected the wombat, potoroo, and bandicoot as options. Gavin and Rubin went with "Willie the Wombat" as a temporary name for the starring character of the game. The name was never meant to be final due both to the name sounding "too dorky" and to the existence of a non-video game property of the same name. The character was effectively a bandicoot by October 1994, but was still referred to as "Willie the Wombat" as a final name had not been formulated yet. It was decided that the main character would be mute because past voices for video game characters were considered to be "lame, negative, and distracted from identification with them." The villain of the game was created while Gavin, Rubin, Baggett, and Cerny were eating "mediocre Italian" near the Universal Interactive Studios lot. Gavin idealized an "evil genius villain with a big head" who was "all about his attitude and his minions". Rubin, having become fond of the animated television series Pinky and the Brain, imagined a "more malevolent Brain" with minions resembling the weasel characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. After Gavin performed a "silly villain voice" depicting the attitude in mind for the character, the villain's name, Doctor Neo Cortex, was instantly formulated.[26]

To aid in the visual aspect of production, David Siller recruited Joe Pearson of Epoch Ink, who in turn recommended that Charles Zembillas of American Exitus be brought on board as well. Pearson and Zembillas would meet with Naughty Dog weekly to create the characters and environments of the game.[23][24] Because the main character was Tasmanian, it was decided that the game would take place on a mysterious island where every possible type of environment could be found, with the added reasoning that an evil genius like Doctor Neo Cortex would require an island stronghold.[26] On creating the levels for the game, Pearson first sketched each environment, designing and creating additional individual elements later. Pearson aimed for an organic, overgrown look to the game and worked to completely avoid straight lines and 90-degree corners. In January 1995, Rubin became concerned about the programmer-to-artist ratio and hired Bob Rafei and Taylor Kurosaki as additional artists.[23][24] A Naughty Dog artist sketched every single background object in the game before it was modeled. Naughty Dog's artists were tasked with making the best use of textures and reducing the amount of geometry. Dark and light elements were juxtaposed to create visual interest and separate geometry. The artists would squint when sketching, texturing, and playing the levels to make sure they could be played by light value alone. They ensured to use color correctly by choosing mutually accentuating colors as the theme for the "Lost City" and "Sunset Vista" levels. The interior of Cortex's castle was designed to reflect the inside of his mind.[29] According to Rubin, the artists worked on the visuals for eight months before any game code was written.[30]


The PlayStation had a 512 × 240 video mode which used up video memory that would normally be used for textures, but was effective in rendering shaded but untextured polygons at a sharper detail. Rubin pointed out that since the polygons on the characters were just a few pixels in size, shaded characters would look better than textured ones. Thus, polygons were emphasized over textures; this was advantageous in that it allowed the programmers more polygons to work with and allowed them to work around the PlayStation's lack of texture correction or polygon clipping. To give the game more of a resemblance to an animated cartoon, vertex animation was implemented rather than the standard skeletal animation with "one-joint" weighting; this allowed the programmers to use the more sophisticated three-to-four-joint weighting available in PowerAnimator. Because the PlayStation was unable to match this at runtime, the location of every vertex was stored in every frame at 30 frames a second. Gavin, Baggett, and Cerny attempted to invent assembly language vertex compressors for this manner of animation; Cerny's version was the most successful and the most complicated.[31]

To obtain the graphic details seen in the game, Rubin, Gavin, and Baggett researched visibility calculation in video games that followed Doom and concluded that extensive pre-calculation of visibility would allow the game to render a larger number of polygons. Following experimentation in free-roaming camera control, the team settled with a branching rail camera that would follow along next to, behind, or in front of the character, generally looking at him, moving on a "track" through the world. Because only 800 polygons could be visible on the screen at a time, parts of the game's landscape would be hidden from view using trees, cliffs, walls, and twists and turns in the environment. Because the production used an entirely Silicon Graphics and IRIX-based tool pipeline, the programmers used $100,000 Silicon Graphics workstations instead of the $3,000 personal computers that were the standard at the time. Gavin created an algorithmic texture packer that would deal with the fact that the 512 × 240 video mode left too little texture memory. Meanwhile, Baggett created bidirectional 10x compressors that would reduce the 128-megabyte levels down to 12 megabytes and allow them to be compatible with the PlayStation's 2-megabyte random access memory. The levels proved to be so large that the first test level created could not be loaded into Alias PowerAnimator and had to be cut up into 16 chunks. Each chunk took about 10 minutes to load even on a 256-megabyte machine. To remedy the situation, Baggett created the DLE, a level design tool where component parts of a level were entered into a text file, with a series of Adobe Photoshop layers indicating how the parts were combined.[31] To code the characters and gameplay of the game, Andy Gavin and Dave Baggett created the programming language "Game-Oriented Object LISP" (GOOL) using LISP syntax.[23][31]

Level design[edit]

The first two test levels created for the game did not ship in the final version for being too open and featuring too many polygons. During the summer of 1995, the team focused on creating levels that were functional as well as fun and used the Cortex factory levels to experiment on this goal; the mechanical setting allowed the team to forego the complex and organic forest designs and distill the two-axis gameplay in an attempt to make it fun. Their first two successful levels ("Heavy Machinery" and "Generator Room") utilized 2.5D gameplay and featured basic techniques previously used in Donkey Kong Country, such as steam vents, drop platforms, bouncy pads, heated pipes and enemy characters that would move back and forth, all of which would be arranged in progressively more difficult combinations as the level went on. "Willie"'s jumping, spinning and bonking mechanisms were refined in these two levels. The level "Cortex Power" incorporates the original "Sonic's ass" point of view (behind the character and over his shoulder) featured in the two test levels. After working on those three levels, the first successful jungle-themed level (later titled "Jungle Rollers") was created from pieces of the failed first test level arranged into a corridor between trees. From that point forward, two to three levels would be created for each level theme featured, with the first level featuring an introductory set of challenges and later levels adding new obstacles (such as dropping and moving platforms in the second jungle-themed level) to increase the difficulty.[32]

While playing the game during development, Rubin realized that there were many empty areas in the game due to the PlayStation's inability to process numerous on-screen enemy characters at the same time. Additionally, test players were solving the game's puzzles too fast. In an attempt to remedy this, the "Wumpa Fruit" pickup was created (the fruits themselves were rendered in 3D into a series of textures), but was not exciting enough on its own.[33] On a Saturday in January 1996, Gavin coded the "crates" while Rubin modeled a few basic crates and an exploding TNT crate and drew quick textures. The first few crates were placed in the game six hours later, and many more would be placed during the following days.[24][33] By February 1996 over 20 levels had been created which were in various stages of completion.[34]


In September 1995, Andy Gavin and Taylor Kurosaki took footage from the game and spent two days editing it into a two-minute "preview tape", which would be deliberately leaked to a friend at Sony Computer Entertainment so that the company may view it.[23][24][33] Due to management issues at Sony, it would not be until March 1996 that Sony would agree to publish the game, which went into the alpha stage in April 1996.[23][24][33] While preparing for the game's demonstration at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the team decided to finally rename the title character "Crash Bandicoot" (the particular name being credited to Dave Baggett and Taylor Kurosaki[35]), with his surname being based on his canonical species and his first name stemming from the visceral reaction to the character's destruction of boxes ("Dash", "Smash", and "Bash" were other potential names).[24][35] The name change was contested between Naughty Dog and marketing director Kelly Flaherty, who was discredited in postmortems by Gavin and Rubin.[35][36]

The music of Crash Bandicoot was a last-minute aspect added to the game before its showing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The producer of Universal Interactive proposed that rather than conventional music, an "urban chaotic symphony" would be created by Andy Gavin causing random sound effects (such as bird vocalizations, vehicle horns, grunts, and flatulence) to be randomly selected and combined. When this proposal was rejected, David Siller introduced the team to the music production company Mutato Muzika and its founder Mark Mothersbaugh.[35] Following this introduction, Mothersbaugh selected Josh Mancell to compose the music for the game based on his previous work on Johnny Mnemonic: The Interactive Movie. Mothersbaugh advised Mancell throughout the soundtrack's demo stages, after which all composition duties of Crash Bandicoot and Naughty Dog's subsequent six titles were delegated to Mancell. Mouse on Mars, A Guy Called Gerald, Aphex Twin and Juan Atkins served as influences on Mancell's "simple but kind of off-kilter" melodies.[37] Dave Baggett served as the soundtrack's producer.[35] The sound effects were created by Mike Gollom, Ron Horwitz and Kevin Spears of Universal Sound Studios.[38] The voices in the game were provided by actor Brendan O'Brien and the game's producer David Siller.[39][40]

In a continuing attempt by Universal Interactive to take credit for Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog was told that it was not "allowed" to go to the first Electronic Entertainment Expo. In addition, there were leaked copies of the temporary box cover and press materials for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, upon which the Naughty Dog logo was not found on the box art, in violation of the contract between Naughty Dog and Universal Interactive, was omitted. In response, Jason Rubin drafted and printed 1,000 copies of a document entitled "Naughty Dog, creator and developer of Crash Bandicoot" to hand out in front of the Crash Bandicoot display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Beforehand, Rubin passed out the flyers "for review" to Universal Interactive, angering its president.[35] Crash Bandicoot was first shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on May 1996 and was met with enthusiastic reactions.[23][24] The game was released on September 9, 1996.[41] This was followed by its European release on November 8, 1996.[42][43]

Japanese distribution[edit]

In preparation for presenting Crash Bandicoot to Sony's Japanese division, Gavin spent a month studying anime and manga, reading English-language books on the subject, watching Japanese films and observing competitive characters in video games. Upon Naughty Dog's first meeting with the executives of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, the executives handed Naughty Dog a document that compared Crash with Mario and Nights into Dreams. Although Crash was rated favorably in the graphics department, the main character and the game's non-Japanese "heritage" were seen as weak points. The renderings of the character made specifically for the meeting also proved unimpressive. During a break following the initial meeting, Gavin approached Charlotte Francis, the artist responsible for the renderings, and gave her fifteen minutes to adjust Crash's facial structures. Sony Japan bought Crash for Japanese distribution after being shown the modified printout. Pop-up text instructions given by Aku Aku were added for the Japanese version of the game.[33] The localization hid the game's American origins as much as possible, featuring no roman letters for instance.[44] Some of the game's music was also changed at the request of Sony's Japanese division who wanted more "video game-like" tracks for the boss fight sequences.[45] The Japanese version was released on December 9, 1996. It was later rereleased as part of The Best for Family range on May 28, 1998, with the PSOne Books release followed on October 12, 2001.[46]


Crash Bandicoot received generally favorable reviews from critics,[47] with much of the positive comments going to the graphics. Dave Halverson of GameFan referred to the visuals as "the best graphics that exist in a game" and the design and animations of the title character as "100% perfection".[54] Crispin Boyer of Electronic Gaming Monthly said it had the best graphics of any PlayStation game to date.[48] A Next Generation critic summarized that "it's bright and colorful, includes a lot of impressive graphic flourishes, controls well, and, in the strictest sense, uses a 3D environment to good effect without a hint of draw-in".[53] John Scalzo of Gaming Target described the environments as "colorful and detailed" and mentioned the snowy bridge and temple levels as his favorites. However, he noted that the boss characters appeared to be noticeably polygonal compared to the other characters due to their large size. He added that this flaw was excusable because of the game's age and that the game's graphics were near perfect otherwise.[52] A reviewer for Game Revolution singled out the scaling technology for praise and declared it to be "the new standard for Playstation action games the same way SGI did for 16-bitters after Donkey Kong Country". Additionally, he described the texture-mapping precision as "awesome", the shading as "almost too well done" (the reviewer claimed it made the game more difficult by making the pits appear to be shadows and vice versa), the polygon movements as "very smooth and fluid", the "quirky mannerisms" of the title character as "always refreshing" and the backgrounds as "breathtakingly beautiful (especially the waterfall stages)". However, the reviewer said that the ability to adjust the camera angle even slightly "would have been a definite plus (at times the ground itself is at 75 degree angle while Crash constantly moves at 90 degrees, putting a slight strain on the eyes)."[50] This echoed Tommy Glide of GamePro, who said "Trying to judge distances from the mostly static view behind Crash is the game's main flaw", while highly praising the scenery and effects.[55] A reviewer for IGN noted that "gorgeous backgrounds and silky smooth animation make this one of the best-looking titles available for the PlayStation".[51]

The gameplay received mixed responses. Both John Scalzo and the Game Revolution reviewer compared the gameplay to Donkey Kong Country, with Scalzo describing the game as having a "familiar, yet unique" quality that he attributed to Naughty Dog's design,[52] while the Game Revolution reviewer concluded that the game "fails to achieve anything really new or revolutionary" as a platform game,[50] and the Next Generation reviewer went so far as to call it "the single most derivative game to ever hit a console", adding that "anyone who's played even one side-scrolling action game could have come up with every single game element found in Crash."[53] Electronic Gaming Monthly's four reviewers, while having a more positive overall impression of the game, admitted that the gameplay is short on originality, with Shawn Smith summarizing, "It's like the original Mario with some 3-D effects thrown in." They also noted that the gameplay is not genuinely 3-D, though they praised the mixture of side scrolling, front scrolling, and back scrolling sections.[48] Tommy Glide remarked that the gameplay "lacks some of the diversity and innovative next-gen qualities found in Sega's Nights and Nintendo's Mario 64."[55] The IGN reviewer said that the game "isn't a revolution in platform game design. It's pretty much your standard platform game". However, he noted the game's "surprisingly deep" depth of field and use of different perspectives as exceptions to the platforming formula.[51] Jim Sterling of stated that the game has aged poorly since its initial release and cited the lack of support for DualShock thumbsticks, a poor camera as well as substandard jumping and spinning controls.[56]

Crash Bandicoot was a commercial hit. By late February 1998, its sales in Japan and Europe had reached 610,000 and 725,000 units, respectively. The United States accounted for 1.5 million units by that time.[57] Sales continued through 1998: PC Data tracked 771,809 domestic sales of Crash Bandicoot for the year, which drew $16 million in revenue and made it the United States' 10th-best-selling PlayStation release of the year.[58] At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, Crash Bandicoot took home a "Gold" prize for revenues above €17 million in the European Union during 1998.[59] By February 1999, 4.49 million copies of Crash Bandicoot had been shipped to retailers worldwide.[60] As of November 2003, Crash Bandicoot has sold over 6.8 million units worldwide, making it one of the best selling PlayStation video games of all time.[61] The game's success lead to its inclusion for the Sony Greatest Hits.[62] Crash Bandicoot was the first non-Japanese game to receive a "Gold Prize" in Japan for sales of over 500,000 units. The game spent nearly two years on the NPD TRSTS top 20 PlayStation sales charts before finally dropping off on September 1998.[24]


Following the release of Crash Bandicoot, Naughty Dog created two sequels, Cortex Strikes Back (1997) and Warped (1998), as well as a kart racing game titled Crash Team Racing (1999). Each installment was also made for the PlayStation, and CTR was the final Crash Bandicoot game the company developed before moving onto the Jak and Daxter series.[24] After Crash Team Racing, Eurocom developed the final Crash Bandicoot game for the PlayStation, the party game Crash Bash (2000).[63]


  1. ^ Via a retcon introduced in Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, it is revealed that the Cortex Vortex rejected Crash due to his future self accidentally destroying the Vortex's power source.[14]


  1. ^ Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2015 Ebook. Guinness World Records. November 6, 2014. p. 52.
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  14. ^ Toys for Bob (October 2, 2020). Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time (PlayStation 4, Xbox One). Activision. Level/area: The Past Unmasked. Doctor Neo Cortex: (on a TV monitor watched by Crash and Coco) We are closer than ever before. Quickly! Into the Vortex! / Doctor Nitrus Brio: But Doctor Cortex, the Vortex is not ready. We have no idea what it could do! (giggles nervously) / (Crash casually leans against a nearby "X" button, causing a lightbulb-like power source to pop out and smash on the ground. Coco sighs. A message reading "Bandicoot 1.0 REJECTED" plays on the monitor) / Doctor Neo Cortex: Failure again! / Coco: Explains a lot.
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