|System: DS, PSP, X360, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Radical Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision / Blizzard||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Crash Bandicoot is one of the most recognizable characters in gaming, but he has somewhat of a sordid past. Many gamers were a little nervous about last year's Crash Bandicoot title, Crash of the Titans. It was the first real platforming outing for Crash Bandicoot since the series was passed from original developer Naughty Dog into the hands of Radical Entertainment, and the game was met with mixed reviews. However, developer Radical Entertainment has promised this year's Crash Bandicoot title is going to be bigger and better than ever. It will feature completely new gameplay elements while still maintaining the Crash Bandicoot signature style.
The story this time around follows the same routine as every other Crash Bandicoot title, and will involve the world domination efforts of series regular and super-villain Neo Cortex. Cortex has developed a very trendy device that has something to do with texting, and he is now using this device to control the minds of the gadget-happy masses. But as always, Crash Bandicoot is there to thwart Cortex's evil plan. According to the development team, the plot and dialogue will focus a lot on satire, poking fun at the culture of consumerism. You can bet that there will probably be plenty of humorous situations involving obligatory pop culture references and icons.
Gameplay is still going to focus on the trademark platforming style that has always been the series' hallmark. However, the game will feature several new elements. First up is the inclusion of two-player co-op. Players will have the option of playing with a friend as Coco Bandicoot, Crash's sister. Coco will come with her own moves and abilities, including a very helpful "treasure hunt" ability.
The main focus of Crash's abilities remains unchanged. You'll still be trouncing around levels hijacking different monsters and borrowing their powers. This will be the main focus of the platform gameplay, but now players will have the option to store monsters in their pockets for later use. Since levels generally require the use of a monster's specific powers, this is extremely helpful because you won't be required to keep the monsters active for a long time. Instead you will be able to use the monster of your choice only when they are needed. And if you really take a liking to a monster or two, you have the option to give them a permanent spot in your pocket and upgrade them to unlock special abilities. These options may seem fairly miniscule, but it is easy to get the sense that the Crash Bandicoot series is taking steps towards becoming more modern.
Another improvement in Crash Bandicoot: Mind over Mutant is the opening of the gameplay environment. One of the most striking things about the series' early days was its completely linear 3-D environments. The original Crash Bandicoot structure may have been innovative for its time, but it is fairly obvious that this type of linear gameplay does not stand up next to modern platforming titles. The developers promise that the gameplay environment this time around will have a "free romping "design that will give you a considerable amount of freedom when you are exploring different levels.
Because the release is massively multiplatform, the visuals will vary widely depending on which version you settle down with. The Wii and PS2 screenshots are looking fairly good, but you can expect some more detailed graphics from the Xbox 360 version. The game has some pretty interesting stages, each with a distinctive color palate. It looks like the developers really wanted to include a large variety of locales this time. You will be able to explore desert environments, the rainforest, and even caves. The overall style of the game is still very familiar, however, and has a very vibrant cartoon feel to it.
In addition to the graphical upgrade, it looks like the sound in the game will also be getting an upgrade. There will be plenty of talent on-hand to do the voice acting, and believe it or not Mark Hamill has actually signed on to voice a character. It is unknown exactly who (or what) he will voice, but his involvement in the project sounds like it has some serious "cool" potential.
Even though Crash Bandicoot series has been around for quite some time, the gameplay has not really changed that much in the last few years. But it looks like Crash Bandicoot: Mind Over Mutant is taking some major steps towards becoming a truly modern series. The inclusion of co-op modes, a more open world, and some new gameplay elements will bring this classic series up to date. So if you're crazy for Crash, you'll be able to get your fix this October on most major platforms.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer