Mutants Over Crash
The years when gamers chose their preferred console based on its mascot have long since passed. However, even two generations ago mascots still played a fairly large role with companies attempting to brand each console with a likeable and recognizable face for gamers to associate with them.
With the PS1, or the Playstation as it was called prior to its successor’s arrival, Crash Bandicoot was clearly championed as Sony’s mascot for their first console. Fast-forward several years, and mascots just don’t matter like they once did. While Mario still manages to remain synonymous with Nintendo and its hardware, Sonic and Crash have found themselves traveling to any and all consoles that will have them. It has become a fairly sad state of affairs for longtime fans, especially as both of these former mascots struggle to recapture some sort of identity and purpose.
In Crash’s case specifically, this falling out with fans has resulted from losing his exclusive Sony mascot status as much as the gradually degrading quality of his outings. I myself was a fairly big Crash fan through his second game and have spared myself the pain of playing through most of his more recent adventures. Luckily, with last year’s Crash of the Titans game, everyone’s favorite bandicoot seemed to be moving back in the right direction, at least as far as quality is concerned. However, this trend may only be applicable to his console titles.
Crash: Mind Over Mutant for the DS has some good things going for it but mostly comes off as a fairly generic platforming game with some very prevalent issues that keep it from being a completely enjoyable experience. One of the biggest problems with the game is it just doesn’t really feel like a Crash game. Besides the game’s opening scene, which is full of noticeably repetitive animations and sound effects, there is absolutely no storyline or personality to speak of. Cortex has created some sort of all-in-one tech-helmet that also controls the mind of its wearer. This somehow results in Crash needing to run, jump, and fight his way through many 2D levels with no further story or explanation to put an end to Cortex’s evil scheme of turning everyone into his brainwashed servants.
Once you get into the game itself, you quickly realize that, besides navigating a few difficult jumps, playing as Crash is almost completely pointless. As countless reused enemies constantly get in your way, taking them out with your limited light and heavy attacks just doesn’t cut it. Instead, players will have to rely on five different controllable mutants, one found in each world, to get the job done. To acquire a mutant, players must best them in combat and then press the A button to ride them. Once ridden, the mutant is yours to use as you see fit, whether it be for much stronger attacks, solving puzzles, or defeating bosses that require their use, having a much larger life bar, or just pocketing it with a press of the touch screen for later use. Since there are a ton of benefits for using these mutants and virtually no reason to just use Crash by himself, the game becomes more about slogging through levels on the back of these beasts and punching everything that moves instead of actually enjoying the platforming action typically associated with the game’s main character.
Platforming as Crash also has some problems, mostly stemming from the game’s controls. As with most platformers, pressing B will allow you to jump and pressing it again once airborne provides you with a double jump. This allows Crash to reach higher platforms and jump larger gaps than would otherwise be possible, or at least it should. Trying to perform a double jump in Mind Over Mutant is sketchy at best, sometimes working like it is supposed to, while other times it feels like the game just completely ignores your second button press. Since much of this game requires precisely timed and executed double jumps, the fact that the game’s inability to register these necessary button presses causes you to fail becomes insanely frustrating.
Also falling into the frustrating category are the game’s treasure platforms and boss battles. Players will likely find treasure platforms while exploring levels, each transporting Crash to a timed run for a chance at an extra outfit. These outfits not only change Crash’s look but can also affect gameplay by providing bonuses such as quicker attacks and higher jumps when worn. However, due to their extreme difficulty and the game’s constant double jumping issues, many are next to impossible to finish within their time limits. Boss battles don’t fare much better, as they typically require you to use the most recently found mutant’s special ability to succeed. If your mutant happens to die before you are victorious, you will likely end up dead and need to replay through earlier levels to grab another mutant before giving it another go. Oh, and did I mention that the bosses are often cheap and typically deal massive amounts of damage with each attack.
For a DS title, Mind Over Mutant does an admirable job graphically. Similar to the style found in New Super Mario Bros., the game is a 2D platformer with fully polygonal character models. The mutants, Crash, and his many foes all look good even though their animations are extremely repetitive. Unfortunately, the choice to go with 3D characters frequently results in the game chugging a bit when there are a few on screen, which can also contribute to making jumps and attacks all the more impossible to time properly.
All these problems detract greatly from what would otherwise be a fairly enjoyable platformer. Most of the game’s levels are well designed, with plenty of hidden routes, treasures, and shortcuts to be found. The game even includes a few tacked on mini-games that are somewhat entertaining distractions and can be played with up to three friends, provided they all have a copy of the game as well. But in the end, Mind Over Mutant gets more wrong than it gets right, leaving anyone who picks up the game with nothing more than the aching feeling of buyer’s remorse. While I want Crash to recapture his glory days as much as any fan, his latest DS outing feels more like a missed opportunity than a return to form. If you like Crash, I would suggest avoiding this portable version and checking out Mind Over Mutant on a console instead.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
While the polygonal character models look good, the game slows down when there are more than three on the screen at the same time, which happens frequently. 2.0 Control
In a game that requires very precisely timed jumps, it is unforgivable having your double jump work maybe half the time. 1.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Expect to hear the same few sound effects and voice clips more times than you’ll care to count. 2.4
There are a lot of levels and hidden things to find throughout that will make you want to keep playing, but the botched jumping controls, clumsy combat, and repetitive nature of the game manage to ensure that you won’t.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.