Is it a box, is it a block? No, it’s blatantly a lopsided Crate spinning around at a nice jaunty angle. That’s not a Crate, you might be thinking, it’s clearly not made out of lumber. Where are the cleats, the skids and the sheathing? Hush. This is the Mushroom Kingdom, and flashy question mark Crates are exactly how they roll over there. Like all good Crates, they hold precious cargo. Besides, if they were too sturdy, like their wooden colleagues, they would cause extensive damage to both Kart and driver upon impact. It’s important to consider safety, as these karts are going at over thirty miles an hour.
The race organisers in Mario Kart admirably go to the trouble of meticulously filling their Crates with an abundance of advantageous items. One of Mario Kart’s most famous power-ups is the one where you’re given a Crate of exactly the same dimensions as the one you broke to get the item in the first place, only more evil. Wait a second, you might be thinking, it’s physically impossible to store an item in an item of the same mass and volume. Look, it’s the Mushroom Kingdom, OK?
The two are often lumped together, but it’s already been established that a Crate is not a Barrel. The latter object is famous for being very good at exploding, often when shot. That’s exactly how the less bad-mannered Barrel likes it. The Crate, on the other hand, spends most of its time standing still, tall and proud, reciting its mantra of being a noble container waiting to deliver ammo and health to valiant heroes. But the Crate sometimes thinks about alternative career options, such as in Crash Bandicoot when it took on the exploding Barrel at its own game. These Crates are notable for being extremely polite, informing of their imminent self-destructions with a 3 second countdown. Let’s be honest, no Barrel would ever do that.
There are plenty of other Crates to be seen in Crash Bandicoot, including mean ones that are green and full of acid, special ones that hold copy after copy of Wumpa Island’s benevolent witch doctor Aku Aku and trusty regular ones which reduce themselves into piles of wooden shards at a moment’s notice. Smash all the crates in a level and you’re even rewarded with a crystal so shiny it must be worth an absolute fortune. It’s a tough world, but it is all part of a Crate’s life.
Crates were obviously famous before Half-Life, but their popularity peaked in 1998 when developer juggernaut Valve took a break from not releasing any games to show the world a little title called Half-Life. The game is so obsessed with Crates there’s even a puzzle where you have to jump across some giant ones in the very first chapter. The invading alien armies of the game were well aware of the mass popularity of the enduring wooden boxes, and would often hide nearby to catch unsuspecting health-and-ammo gatherers in their moments of greatest need. Pure evil.
Black Mesa’s workforce were so obsessed with Crates that they’d leave them absolutely everywhere, often to remind themselves of all the good things they were working towards. They’d also requisition a Crate for absolutely anything, usually hiding a trifling handful of ammo in each. Not to mention the zillions scattered about the place containing nothing whatsoever. Black Mesa’s last annual report before the Resonance Cascade revealed that 83% of the facility’s expenses were Crate based. Rest in peace, Black Mesa.
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