Following the release of Mind Over Mutant, Radical Entertainment started working on their next game. 2009 went by without a mention of Crash's next big adventure, but the near future would have been very promising... had the division behind the next game not been laid off. Kept under wraps during the entirety of its development, Crash Landed was cancelled before it had a chance to be officially revealed. Luckily, quite a few concepts, images, and videos have surfaced since then, giving us a sizable impression of how it was intended to be like.
Radical Entertainment spent a lot of time coming up with new ideas and deciding what would give Crash his old flare again. The team settled on a reboot of Crash's universe and story, featuring stunning cartoony graphics and a new visual style. Crash himself was planned to show a lot more emotions than the frozen grin he gained a few years prior. Some exaggerated features such as the bushy eyebrows and wacky facial expressions were reminiscent of the old days.
Unlike Crash of the Titans and Mind Over Mutant, development began on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and it was going to be ported to the Wii afterwards. This conversion process was being handled with unique attention to ensure that the Wii version suffered the least downgrades possible.
A DS version was also being planned, and pitches were being accepted from studios that wished to develop it. One of these studios was Renegade Kid, which produced a playable demo with 3D gameplay. WayForward was another contender, and fittingly enough, their pitch became the basis for Galactic Taz Ball after the game was cancelled.
The game went by at least 2 names during development: Crash Landed and I Am Crash Bandicoot. It is unknown which name was used last, but the second one parodies I Am Legend, which is not too surprising given Radical's penchant for having fun with movie titles.
The game was cancelled after 2 years in development. During the production of Mind Over Mutant, Activision acquired Sierra and all of its subsidiaries, which included Radical Entertainment. During a massive layoff spree in 2010, Activision shut down the Radical division in charge of Crash Landed. Activision's decision to not pass the project to a different studio suddenly halted its progress forever.
One factor that contributed to this decision was a certain lack of tangible results — despite the numerous concepts, animations, and an impressive graphics engine for its time, Radical reportedly had little to show in terms of gameplay, leading Activision to decide the project was not financially viable.
Story and Setting
Crash Landed was an origin story, and it was going to be a fresh, new start that retold how Crash came to be the bumbling hero we all know and love. After being mutated by Cortex, he would have gotten entangled with the task of rescuing his fellow bandicoots. Unlike Crash, these bandicoots weren't evolved by scientific contraptions, so they were still small, defenseless critters. They were internally referred to as "bandicutes", and some of the concept art shows that they would sometimes get trapped in dangerous areas until Crash freed them.
Besides Cortex, Dingodile was going to be a major villain in the game, harassing the local bandicoots by shooting them out of a cannon and using his trusty flamethrower. Notably, some entirely new enemies were going to try and stop Crash on his tracks, such as a vicious Land Shark and the queen of a colossal firefly hive (neither of which was an evolved character, just like the bandicoots).
One of the main innovations in the game was an invention system. By finding items and combining them together, you would be able to craft some rudimentary yet imaginative and effective tools. For example, sticking a frog inside a plastic bottle (dubbed the Frogzooka) would let you use its tongue to eat enemies and reel in objects out of reach, or launch Crash with the use of catapults. If you had a couple of extra bottles, you could fill them with fireflies and tie them together with a rope and some sticks to create a Jetpack. Also planned were a hang glider and the ability to ride a wild warthog, just like in the very first game.
Like in the more recent games in the series, Crash was going to have an upgradable health bar. This was coupled with the humorous detail of Crash losing his pants after taking too much damage (ala Ghosts 'n Goblins). Along with some of Crash's iconic moves, he would have retained the ability to climb up certain walls from Mind Over Mutant.
Levels were going to be semi-open, akin to Twinsanity, with linear paths to follow and optional areas to explore. Despite the presence of Wumpa fruits in the concept art, Crash would collect purple pick-up items (most likely Mojo, as seen in Crash of the Titans and Mind Over Mutant).
There were also going to be random weather effects (such as rain) and day/night cycles. While it's unknown if the weather had any effect on the gameplay, the concept art suggests that Crash would encounter much bigger, tougher enemies at night. Other environmental effects included Crash getting mud all over him or waddling through thick grass.
There were several islands planned for Crash to visit. The first one was Black Rock Island (referred to as Wumpa Island in an unreleased Press Kit). Though lacking ruins and monuments, it bore some resemblance to the second island from the original Crash Bandicoot, featuring a giant tree and some lava caves. Speaking of caves, there was also going to be a firefly nest, where Crash would be forced to fight the hive queen to rescue his fellow, captive bandicoots. Further ahead, Crash would meet (and presumably fight) Dingodile, and along the way, he would create the Frogzooka and the Firefly Jetpack.
The second island was a desert wasteland with a bunch of canyons and a giant oil refinery built around it. Some level geometry was built for it, but no other details have been found. A third island by the name of Crocodile Island is seen in the concept art, featuring a lush jungle ripe with swamps. The final known area was a laboratory where Cortex experimented with animals (both traditional mutations and hybrids like Dingodile). Since this was the place where Crash was created, it's presumed that he would escape Cortex before the game began and wound up on a different island, much like in the first game. Alternatively, the game could have begun in Cortex's lab for some brief moments.
The music was going to be composed by Gabriel Mann and Rebecca Kneubuhl, best known by Crash fans as members of Spiralmouth, the band behind Crash Twinsanity's musical score. The main theme was different in style from other Crash games by evoking the Golden Age of US Animation:
Despite the game's cancellation, the Ansell Creative Group, a creative agency in Canada, was working on a Press Kit. It was meant to include a Special Collector's Edition DVD in a fancy case. It would have featured a demo version of the game and a map of Wumpa Island, showing several details about its features as well as the places you could visit in the demo. Not only that, but there was also an idea for the map to include a McDonald's discount for a hypothetical tie-in McWumpa Burger, showing that a valuable effort was taking place to make Crash a relevant icon again.
Crash Landed was going to be accompanied by a directly related spin-off — a racing game with the (likely provisory) name of Crash Team Racing (not to be confused with the 1999 game). Developed by High Impact Games, it would have featured Crash Landed's visual style, its characters, and even some of its items.